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Monday, December 27, 2004

A Memento to the Mentors

Dr.Fuad shares with me the letter he wrote to his teachers, on visiting his childhood school after a long gap of 30 years. A literary marvel, brewed out of meticulously crafted gems of language, which he acknowledges his teachers for. I am sure the multitude of books he reads also need an acknowledgement.

My dear Sr. Gregory and Margaret teacher,

During my long bygone story-reading days, I have read and heard about time machines ( popularized by HG Wells). Back in those days the concept had fascinated me. But last fortnight I had the rare and wonderful privilege of having travelled in one.

Guided by you, I travelled back in time some 30 years; into another world, another age. And there I saw the child I was. I saw me with now long-lost friends; playing, quarrelling and studying with them. I also saw me queuing for dinner, sleeping in my dorm, and bathing in the open. I saw my teachers too, being taught by them, and occasionally, being caned too, for poor arithmetic or misspellings. I saw me being consoled by them too after my separation from parents.

The whole experience was definitely not just a dream. It was indeed Childhood Revisited. Not at all often in life does one get to undergo such an experience. In a way I am glad it happened thirty years too late. Had it come about earlier, I may not have enjoyed the depth of the experience as much.

And yet I am ashamed at my own insensitivity, nay callousness, at not visiting my alma mater in over a quarter of a century. Geographically speaking, I lived almost next door to my school all these years, and that admittedly makes my insensitivity border on the criminal.

I came back from the time machine experience with a couple of firm resolutions. God willing I shall visit my 'childhood home' again and bring along my child too, that she too may get a glimpse into my childhood. God willing I hope to track down at least a couple of my long-lost friends, teachers and my guardians in the boarding. God help me fulfill these small desires. May I, before concluding this long overdue letter, come to the crux of it.

I can at this point in life look back, and with utmost humility but with legitimate pride say that whatever little I may have accomplished so far, I owe entirely to the education I have received. And had it not been for the strong foundation that was laid at St.Roch's and by you, I may not have enjoyed the long process of learning as much as I have. And yet it took me thirty years to make that Pilgrimage to the most Hallowed of grounds. But what a Pilgrimage it was! While not making any attempt to hide my guilt, allow me to express my indebtedness, no matter how belatedly, to you and to the institution which had been so much to me and which will forever be part of me. May I hasten to add that it is not just I, but my parents too who certainly continue to be grateful for the surrogate parenthood played by my school, my teachers and my nurses way back in those days of their parental anxiety and long years of parental separation.

Though I have undergone education in many institutions right up to the time of obtaining a medical degree, I doubt if any institution could have been as crucial in life as the one in which I learned my ABCs and 123s. I hope you will be gracious enough to accept this letter as a very small memento of my happiness in having been able to come back, but more importantly having been able to see you and be guided by you back into the past.
I make no attempt to express my gratitude to you or to my school. That would be fruitless . I only continue to pray as I have been taught at school, and as I always have, for my teachers of yester years, wherever they be and however they be. God be with you always and with our school too.
I remain yours most obediently, nay, yours most lovingly,

24th August2002.

P.S. this letter may not be a literary masterpiece. But I hope you will be happy and proud that the grammar, punctuation and vocabulary you taught me thirty years ago has stood me in good stead ever since. This letter is the culmination of two weeks of planning, writing and rewriting. But single-handed and unaided effort I promise.

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