THE unacceptable behaviour of an Uttar Pradesh schoolteacher, who targeted a Muslim student in her class, has highlighted a discredited dictum, ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’. But even during the olden days, corporal punishment, though devoid of hate owing to anyone’s faith, was considered inhuman by many.
Our village school had a teacher who used to beat his students as if it were a pastime for him. Whenever he found any student not doing well in mathematics (his favourite subject) in particular, he would pounce upon the child like a beast. Perhaps the teacher thought that it was none of his concern if the child began to suffer from school phobia and joined the ranks of the dropouts.
A dreaded scene from the past came to my mind recently when I met one of my classmates from the days spent in my village. The student, now a retired UP government employee, was a regular sufferer at the hands of the maths teacher.
My old classmate, however, laughed it off when I told him that I could not forget the scene when this teacher, Qadeer Maulvi sahib, was hitting him with a stick so mercilessly on his palms that we feared he would not remain in one piece. The injured child found respite when a naughty student gathered courage and came to tell the teacher that his cows, left grazing in a nearby jungle, had strayed to a faraway place. The teacher’s attention got diverted and the victim of his fury was free to walk back to his seat.
One day, the teacher lost his temper at me too and hit me here and there with the stick he would always carry. The reason was that I was not diligent enough in carrying out his order to find out where his cows were. I could not answer his questions properly and this was enough to make him pounce upon me.
Soon, school hours were over and I came back home sobbing uncontrollably. When I saw my grandmother, my sobbing increased considerably as I was her favourite child. When I told her what had happened to me, she took me along and ran towards the school like a wounded tigress.
The school was not far from our house. When my grandma saw the teacher coming back from school, she accosted him and told him in an angry tone, ‘Have you forgotten the days when this child’s grandfather was alive? You can imagine what could have been the result of your hateful behaviour.’
The teacher knew her very well because both were from the same village. He did not mind her words and told her smilingly, ‘Children are beaten up in school when they make mistakes. My intention is to safeguard their career prospects.’
She retorted, ‘But children should not be thrashed for refusing to take care of your cows, Qadeer bhai.’ The teacher was still smiling and the matter ended there. Yet, it remains etched in my memory.
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