My Teacher, Father Wilzbacher, S.J.: A tribute

Author: 
Baljit Ahluwalia

Baljit Ahluwalia is a veteran trainer with over 25 years of experience with the Indian Air Force and the corporate world. Leadership and management were his transfer skills with the Air Force middle level and senior level officers. He continued to train the senior officers in similar skills in the corporate world as well. But the context was especially designed to the ‘felt' needs of the private sector. As a motivator Baljit honed the personality traits of the participants with the theoretical aspects woven into their application at work place.

Baljit is a pioneer of training in BPO/KPO industry, having published several papers and case studies which are used widely. He relates to his trainees easily and addresses his audience at their threshold level. Baljit is a popular speaker and a panelist in discussion forums.

We all have our role models whom we look up to. By and large, role models get defined during our school days. I am no different.

While studying in Class X and XI at St. Xaviers School, Jaipur in 1966-67, we had Father Wilzbacher as our Class teacher and English teacher. He went on to become my role model as well. Amongst ourselves we used to call him by his short name Wilzy. (I am not sure whether he was aware of this.)

Father Wilzbacher hailed from Ireland and was part of the missionary group that had been assigned a teaching and social assignment in India. He joined St. Xaviers in the early sixties and took upon himself the mantle of teaching English to senior classes and spearheading a few social engagements.

 
Father Wilzbacher S.J.

Father Wilzbacher, S.J. at St. Xaviers School, Jaipur

 

When we moved to Class X in January 1966, we had the pleasure of getting our first insight into Father Wilzbacher. Our syllabi of English Literature included the coverage of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare and Sonnets written by Shakespeare.

 
Class photo with Father Wilzbacher

Class photo with Father Wilzbacher

 

I don't think any other teacher could have done greater justice to these authors and their works. What came as a good learning was the switching of style while discussing the Shakespearean play as different from Dickens' prose.

In the two years that he engaged the 31 of us, he gauged the threshold level of each student individually. This simple technique enabled him to quickly identify the laggards from the rest of the class.

Unobtrusively, he paid closer attention to their learning and encouraged them to catch up with the rest of the classmates. I liked the way he did it. He made sure that all of us were on the same page and level in understanding and learning.

I picked up this trait from him and very successfully deployed this technique while taking sessions for the Officers in the Air Force and Managers in the corporate world.
 
More than that, our grounding in understanding the English Language and speaking it with the right diction happened during these two years. Most of us still remember the key dialogues of Antonio, Portia, Bassanio and Shylock from the Shakespearean play and vivid details of Miss Havisham, Pip, Estella and Joe from the beautifully written Great Expectations.

Father Wilzbacher firmly believed that we need to enhance our learning beyond the prescribed text books, hence he scheduled a few library hours for us to do varied reading. We had to write book reviews of some of the books read by us.

There was a tradition in our school that Class X students enacted a play to be staged in the school for the students and staff. Our batch lived up to that tradition. Under the guidance of Father Grace, the class of 1967 enacted a three-act play named Poisoned by Kindness. The play’s original name was Arsenic and Old Lace, written by an American playwright, Joseph Kesselring.

 
Arsenic and Old Lace by Joseph Kesselring

Arsenic and Old Lace, a play by Joseph Kesselring

A lot of hard work was put in by the actors and the support staff to put up a grand show. Our play was a stupendous success and we were invited to enact the play once again on a public platform at Ravindra Manch, a cultural centre in Jaipur.

 
Poisoned by Kindness play by 1967 batch of St. Xaviers School, Jaipur

The brochure of the play Poisoned by Kindness enacted by Class X students of St. Xaviers School, Jaipur at Ravindra Manch on March 9 and 10, 1967.

 
 
Poisoned by Kindness play by 1967 batch of St. Xaviers School, Jaipur

Another dramatic scene from the play Poisoned by Kindness.

 

For me personally, Father Wilzbacher imbibed two personal characteristics. He got me out of my shell and pushed me into elocution and debate contests. My success as a good public speaker in school and college, and subsequently in the Indan Air Force (IAF) and the corporate world is a living testimony of Father Wilzbacher’s contribution in honing some of my personality traits.

Besides studies, I used to accompany him in distributing clothes and food products to the needy in Hathroi Fort area. That instilled in me the habit of serving humanity and interacting with the needy from close quarters.

In short, Father Wilzbacher had a profound influence on me in my growing years and helped me define my overall personality. That I continued to visit him during my college years and after I joined the IAF speaks volumes of my respect and love for him. I thoroughly enjoyed these conversations and always emerged a lot wiser after every interaction.

I learnt later that he had passed away at a ripe old age. I have very fond memories of our association. I am sure God would have given a special place to him.

Come 25-26 December 2017, it was time to get back to St. Xavier's School to celebrate the Golden Jubilee. Batch mates from all over the country and USA joined in the fun and frolic. A record number of 70 of us including spouses had a gala time.

 
Class reunion at St. Xavier's School, Jaipur

The 1967 batch celebrates its Golden Jubilee at a class reunion at St. Xavier's School, Jaipur on December 25-26, 2017

 

All of us were felicitated by the school authorities and we had several informal get-togethers to celebrate the Reunion. Memories flew in thick and fast. A lot of discussions revolved around our teachers and Father Wilzbacher was remembered by one and all. Bonhomie and camaraderie was in full flow.

We promised to stay in touch and keep the connect alive. And we do!

 
St. Xavier's School, Jaipur at night
 

Editor's Note:
Baljit Ahluwalia's success in the corporate world, detailed here in his case study titled Doubting Thomas, is a different kind of tribute to Father Wilzbacher. Another influence on Baljit's life was A Benevolent Stranger who made it a point not to keep in touch.

Here are some more memories from the alumni of St. Xavier's School, Jaipur. Xavierites are welcome to keep contributing!

Comments

Happy to read! Would like to reproduce it on indiaofthepast.org.

A pleasure Subodh.
I owe you a write up on Sam Bahadur

Rev. Fr. Wilzbacher was Principal of this school in 1950's

Very well written ! Excellent job Baljit !🙋‍♂️👍🙏👏👏

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