His walked like a leopard.
When he turned his back, we used to call him the Ogre, because he looked like one. He was a tall and burly man with hands as big as his hard-bound rock-like notebook. His face resembled that of a cold-blooded criminal, steely and unforgiving. If “looks could kill” literally, his would have slaughtered millions. Hee also sported a moustache that curled most splendidly upwards as though it had a permanent wave put into it. The only way he could have achieved this curling effect, we boys decided, was by prolonged upward brushing with a hard toothbrush in front of the mirror every morning. It gave him the look of a circus strongman instead of a Maths teacher but his dexterity in mathematics was not to be doubted. He solved any difficult mathematical problem in a blink, as if he had memorized the solution earlier. That man not only loved but he also worshipped the subject. He would say,” Those who do not love Mathematics do not have the right to live!”
At my school he was feared by all, even by the most disobedient senior students. His classes augmented my hatred for Maths, a subject in which I was not much of a prodigy. So I had to face his wrath.
One day I was not paying attention in class and he caught me. Our conversation went on somewhat like this:
Sir: What is the matter, young man?
Me: Nothing, sir.
Sir: Then why were you not paying attention?
Me: I got distracted, sir.
Sir: An important lesson is being taught, young man, you better pay attention in class, or else…
Me: It won’t happen next time, sir.
Sir: You seem to have a habit of getting distracted; it must be cured; after the class is over, come and see me in my study.
After class walking on my toes and trembling terribly, I passed through the green baize and entered the sacred precincts of the teacher’s study; mastering all my courage I knocked his door.
”Enter!” He roared. I turned the knob and walked in. He said, “your punishment for not paying attention in class is four strokes of the cane.” He rose from his desk and crossed over to the corner-cupboard on the opposite side of the study. He picked up from the top of it three very thin yellow canes, each with a bent-over handle at one end. He examined the canes, chose one and kept the other two back in their place.
”Bend over”, he said. I shut my eyes and bit my lower lip; with impeccable speed and accuracy he delivered four blows. I will never forget that day, since then I began to fear him even more and was always attentive in his classes. I started practicing Maths more sincerely.
As I started taking Maths more seriously, I got better at it. After noticing this improvement, the Math teacher too developed a liking for me. Sometimes he even praised me in class. Eventually I overcame this fear of Maths and started taking interest. While earlier I used to just hate number-crunching, now I seemed to rather enjoy it. I aced all the Math tests and got full marks in the examinations. When this news reached the Maths teacher he congratulated me heartily. For the first time ever I saw a glint of compassion in his cold, unforgiving eyes.
I realized that though he was very strict and despised students who were not good in Maths, he had a soft spot for his students. He may not have expressed it but he loved all of us like a strict father who molded his students to success. Had it not been him, I would perhaps never have pushed myself to excel in the subject. After all, “What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches.”