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An Ode to My Favorite Teacher on “World Teachers’ Day”!

An Ode to My Favorite Teacher on “World Teachers’ Day”!

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Indira Mukherjee

On the occasion of World Teachers’ Day, a student pays homage to his recently departed favourite teacher and reflects on how her kindness and dedication touched him and other fellow students in shaping themselves

By Subhash Chandra Ghosal

It was the 14th of April, 2020. It was also Pôila Boishakh, the Bengali New Year.

Yet the roads were deserted as India had imposed one of the world’s most stringent lockdowns to safeguard its population from the dreaded Covid-19 pandemic. The few people who ventured out of their home were being mercilessly manhandled or chided by policemen.

These were difficult and unusual times. A time, when family members of many people who passed away were struggling to find anyone ready to accompany the dead to the crematorium.

But around 4.15 pm, a particular locality in Dhanbad was abuzz with a number of people thronging near an apartment. Someone had passed away and all of them had come to pay respect and bid their adieu.

No…. the deceased was not a politician or a prominent businessman, nor someone from the rich, the powerful or the glamorous world.

The departed soul was a teacher who had lived a humble life, while devoting a disproportionate amount of her lifetime to her students.

Teachers, it is often said, are like God, who guides us in every situation, but their efforts often do not get the attention they deserve.

On the World Teachers’ Day, celebrated on October 5, i.e. just one month after the celebration of Teachers’ Day in India, I feel a humble pride in myself to pay homage to my favourite teacher Late Mrs. Indira Mukherjee.

While doing so, I extend the same to all the other teachers of the world who give so much and so unconditionally, but often remain largely unsung during their lifetime.

About my favourite teacher

Indira Mukherjee (September 22, 1956 – April 14, 2020) was born in Saraikela, Odisha, and brought up in Purulia, West Bengal. She was a meritorious student herself, and during her school days was consistently the “Best Girl” of her class every year.

She did her B.A. from Nistarini College, Purulia, becoming the district topper. After doing her B.Ed., she got married to Swapan Kumar Mukherjee in 1981 and shifted to Dhanbad (then in Bihar, now in Jharkahand).

In 1984, she started her career as an English teacher in Coal Field School in Bhuli, in the outskirts of Dhanbad. She joined Pisto Devi Vidya Bhawan in Dhanbad in 2000 where she worked till 2014.

Within a very short period, her acumen and skill turned her a much sought-after English teacher, and many students and their parents started approaching her for English tuitions.

Despite taking early retirement, Indira Ma’am continued her tuition batches. Between 2003 and 2020, she taught multiple batches of students of Class 10th and 12th.

I consider myself lucky to have found Goddess in Indira Ma’am. She was a pious, kind, gentle and generous woman. She loved every student like her own children, and in return, her platter too brimmed over with a lot of love and respect from her students.

Her reputation as an English teacher made the students flock to her. For those hailing from the Hindi heartland, and myself being one, the importance of gaining flair in written and spoken English for a stable future career could easily be understood, specially for those who were weak in this language.

In addition to being a great English teacher, Indira Ma’am possessed an extremely endearing personality. The best part of it was manifest through her solutions for simple everyday problems. Each of her answers  always had an underlying meaning about life.

When I first started attending her tuitions, I used to be scared of grammar. I thought I could never successfully apply them, and thus tried to avoid the subject.

Late Mrs. Indira Mukherjee with Subhas and other students
Late Mrs. Indira Mukherjee with Subhas and her other students

Within a week, she sensed my apprehension and told me that the key to overcome any type of fear in life is to step forward and fight it head on. Practice alone, she told me, can help me get confidence and skill in grammar.

Her advice saw me spending one hour everyday practising grammar ; within a few months,  it was a miracle and all my fears were behind me.

Indira Ma’am’s command over language and vocabulary was awesome, often leaving us mesmerized. I began dreaming to become a great speaker like her . She would only smile at me whenever I told her this, and would ask me to practise in front of the mirror.

In addition to being a great English teacher, Indira Ma’am possessed an extremely endearing personality. The best part of it was manifest through her solutions for simple everyday problems. Each of her answers always had an underlying meaning about life.

Zealously punctual about herself in her daily routine, Ma’am imbibed in us the importance of time in our lives and referred to the power of the clock. If we bow to this eternal power symbolized by the clock, it would give us our rightful dues in turn.

Being a deeply religious person, Indira Devi used to devote around four and a half hours worshipping God and visiting the temple.

Late Mrs. Indira Mukherjee with her elder daughter Somali
Late Mrs. Indira Mukherjee with her elder daughter Somali

“ My mother was very meticulous about preparing herself everyday  for the class,” her daughters Somali and Poushali recalled, “she would spend hours, evaluating students’ work till late in the night.”

“ She would even wake us up middle of the night sometimes, much to our irritation,  to share something new she had learnt.”

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Indira Ma’am left a deep impression among all her students. “She was selfless and sympathetic to everyone. Not with standing the difficulties in her own life, she always tried to help others. Teaching for her was not a profession , but a passion,” said Deeplata, an ex-student.

However, students had one grudge; she would hardly grant them holidays! “She was more concerned about our performance in examinations than us,” quipped Kalyani, another ex-student.

A large heart

Ma’am was unwell for a while and we all knew she was born with a large heart, both literally and figuratively. But it was too late when she was diagnosed with a failing heart  in 2019 and was struggling ever since.

Very soon, she stopped  taking our classes as she was intermittently in the hospital. But that did not deter her from inquiring how we were faring in the exams.

Late Mrs. Indira Mukherjee with her student Subhas
Late Mrs. Indira Mukherjee with her student Subhas

On April 14, 2020,just two days after she was released from the hospital, I heard she was no more. I was shocked. A deep sense of void and loss welled within my heart and I struggled to control tears.

A large number of students braved the pandemic  to reach her place to pay their last respect. And everybody was keen to be there at the funeral. But finally, the administration relented to our request and allowed 25 people.

When the 12th standard results were declared in July last, I found I obtained 85 marks in English out of 100;  I never expected this.

I felt like running to her place to share this moment of happiness with her, but then consoled myself. I went to a corner in my room, prayed for her and dedicated my humble achievement to Indira Devi without whom I could have never been what I am today.


Subhas Ghoshal

Subhas GhoshalSubhas lives in Dhanbad and is a Medical aspirant. He loves playing as well as watching cricket. He is a big fan of Virat Kohli, and loves to watch him bat.

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