The Great Teachers of My Life

Homer Mathew

Homer Mathew was born in Kerala and brought up in Gujarat. He studied in a Hindi medium school run by Rajasthan Seva Samiti, Ahmedabad. He graduated from Gujarat University in 1982 in the Commerce stream. He joined the Department of Customs and Central Excise in 1985. At present he is a Superintendent of Central Excise and Customs. He knows six languages including Hindi and Gujarati.

Whenever I think of great teachers, in my mind, first and foremost that comes my own mother, who was a teacher in her own sense. A gritty and strong lady, she was born in the early 1940’s in a good family and did her matriculation. Her father was an Ayurveda medical practitioner.

Normally, girls were not being given higher education at that time as they were married off at an early age. As financial condition of our family was not very good, she took part time teaching profession after completing her daily chores. Along with me and my brother and sisters she used to teach about 10 to 15 students from neighbourhood, at our home. Some of them were from poor family to whom she never charged, but who could afford, she charged reasonably. Otherwise she was fair in her dealings. She used to tutor children of some wealthy people at their homes and to save money by walking 10-15 km everyday to these tuitions. These savings gave the family extra income. By taking classes she also contributed to the society by imparting education to the poor free of cost. Therefore my mother is my first and great teacher of my life.

My father was not an educated person, had high technical skills. Though by profession he was a tailor, however he knew how electricity generates, how wind/tidal generators work, how dynamo works etc. Give him any machinery, he could repair it. He prompted me to develop these skills.I could learn these skills to some extent.

Every child when they go to the primary level school, they have great affinity with their class teacher, not because they teach well, but the way they behave, how they look, how they dress-up, how they talk etc. That fact has been portrayed by Raj Kapoor in his film “Mera Naam Joker”. My wife, a great teacher to her students, also confesses the same. Ms. Draupadi was my favourite teacher when I was in primary section. I liked the way she dressed, she talked, her behaviour etc. I adored her. The most striking was she used to sing very well.

In my secondary level two teachers who influenced me most was Ms. Urmila Shah, my social studies teacher and Mr. S. M. Thakur, my English teacher. Ms. Urmila was a very strict teacher. In her class nobody could whisper. Everybody needed to give 100% attention. While teaching she used to ask question to the students, what she had taught. She used to ask all students to prepare in advance, at home, about the topic she was to take in the next class. She would never open the book while teaching. She knew which students had come prepared, and would not ask anything from them. She asked to them when nobody else could answer. She knew that in History / Geography / Social studies, she could get correct answers, always, from three students and I was one of them. Her narration of topic flew like music in our ears, so beautifully constructed words. All students adored her and used to wait for her classs, except a few who didn’t do well in humanity subjects.

Mr. Thakur, our English language teacher, had a terrific personality. Huge, fair, broad moustache, curly hair and smart spectacles, always in white trouser and shirt, black shiny shoes, husky and loud voice. He looked like Charles Bronson. He was very particular that we all should converse in English in his class, very difficult for us being Hindi medium school students. However we used to manage in broken English. Sometime, it was so hilarious, but he insisted that we should carry on with English. Thanks to his great efforts that, we student of Hindi medium could manage to write, if not excellently but in workable English.

My wife, I consider her a great teacher. She is already a great teacher to her students in real life. I learned how to cope with difficult times. She is very honest and modest that made her adorable. Whenever I had a chance to visit her school I found her always surrounded by her students. Whenever, in some public or private functions, I have seen that whenever any of her students ran into her, they ran to her and fell at her feet. Even some parents informed that once a student passes out of her class, they cry for some days to be back in her class.

For me a teacher means someone not limited to school and college. I consider some of my seniors and colleagues as my “Guru”. There are many such gurus, but few are / were very close to my heart. One of them was Mr. V. U. Chhutani. When I joined the department in 1985, he was my colleague Inspector though senior by 20 years. He was very knowledgeable, a living encyclopaedia of Central Excise & Customs matters. I was attached with him on classification matters. He taught me how a product was to be classified, the correct interpretations of notification and how to evaluate the goods as per their chemical/mechanical characteristic and the enduse of the goods.

In the Indian Army such gurus are called “Ustad” and these “Ustads” are normally from the ranks. There were few senior officers whom consider as my “Gurus”, prominent among them being Shri Subhash Mathur and Shri Anil Taneja. They were very great administrators of their times. I have learnt administrative skills working under them. Even my own batch mate Shri G. P. Thomas whom I consider as my “Guru” and learnt many things from him. I fondly call him “Sirjee” because of his great knowledge of legal issue.

Even we are our own “Gurus”. We learn from our experiences and mistakes. I sometime feel that I have changed myself from what I was some 20 years ago. I also learnt from my mistakes and experiences and always tried to be a better person, helping my family, friends and the society at large.


"nd to save money by walking 10-15 km everyday to these tuitions." That's just unbelievable!

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