Looking back and reflecting I have had school and college education for over twenty years. In this eventful learning phase in my life the teachers have had a major influence in shaping my personality and my approach to life. There have been good teachers and some not so good. But one has been most inspiring and worthy of emulation.
When he stepped into on day one in my eighth standard (1968-69), he impressed with spotless white cassock and a flashing smile. Good Morning, My name is Bro.Montford; Thomas Montford for you. (I felt it was the signature statement James Bond made in many of his movies – My name is Bond, James Bond.) But the similarity stopped there. He was no Bond but he bonded with the students well. I am going to be your class teacher and we will be learning English language and Maths. The emphasis on togetherness and learning was something new to us.
Just into our teens we were bundle of energy and curiosity. Conscious of that he channelized our strength towards spoken and written English. Thanks to him my stage fright vanished soon thereafter. He polished our writing skills with best use of adjectives and adverbs. Impromptu speech and essay competitions made us eager to excel. Many of us detested maths. It was Bro.Montford who made it simple. “Look it is elementary, Manohar”, he would say, a la Sherlock Holmes and lead us to find the answer. From then on it was never looking back. There were many centum in the class.
‘It was not all work and no play’. He coached us in football, table tennis and ball badminton. “Fitness first” was his mantra. So much so, our school won several cups in the inter school competitions. I have an array of cups, medals and certificates to boast, thanks to him. He was also an accomplished violinist and formed a choir in school. His high octane energy and infectious enthusiasm rubbed on us. Precisely we grew laterally as well.
He could tell a story with telling effect. His moral instructions, anecdotes and values have made good human beings whatever profession and walk of life we pursued. The following incident has stayed etched in my memory till date.
The visit of the Pilot pen factory one fine morning was part of a planned excursion. The supervisor of the factory explained in detail on the manufacturing process. We were amazed at the sheer variety on display. One of us had pocketed the show piece on display and the manager brought it to the notice of Bro.Montford. Without being agitated, he lined us up and checked the pockets of each one of us. He located it midway through, but still continued the exercise to the last student. Till date I do not know who the culprit was. I am sure he would have counseled him in private though he didn’t want him to be shamed before his fellow students.
We moved into class ninth next year. Lo behold! He too moved in with us too! It was continuation of the previous year and we grew from strength to strength.
In one of the inter class table tennis tournaments I lost the match to my classmate. I was angry, ashamed and felt knocked out. I started to cry. Bro.Montford’s words still ring in my ears “Manohar, playing a match is not all winning, but playing well. You did play well. You failed this time but you are not a failure. There is always a next game. Cheer up and be a sport”. He made me congratulate the winner thereafter. These were life’s lessons learnt very early.
Thereafter we finished our schooling and graduated out of college and settled in life as well. He would religiously wish us on our birthday every year. Still ‘out of sight, out of our mind as well’ or so it seemed, until I visited him when he was recuperating after a minor heart surgery.
“The doctors have discovered that I have a heart man” he said flashing his radiant smile. I could not hold back my tears. I recalled our school days and the joyful moments with him. Though it was more than forty years, they were still fresh in my memory. He had impacted us. It was he who had shaped us and our destiny as well.
The words of Alexander the Great on his teacher Aristotle “I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well”, came flashing in my mind.