It was in those days when my father had shifted to a foreign land in hope for a better career for him and a better life for all of us. My brother and I along with our mom joined him once he was able to accommodate us financially. Along came the decision to get admission in a new school in a new country. Until we were at Ahmedabad, we were in Gujarati medium throughout and suddenly a transition to foreign faces , foreign land , unknown languages both the local language at Thailand viz. Thai and though an official language for communication at India, still foreign for us , English. It was a culture shock for us and going to school was a daily nightmare for me. The usual teasing, slow acceptance amongst classmates and difficulty to understand academics followed. It is there that I was introduced to our chemistry teacher Mr. Felix Nathan. His way of explaining, simplifying concepts whether of the subject or of childhood problems at school and with friends amazed me. My interest in the subject naturally grew and so did my fondness for Felix sir. I began to work the hardest for chemistry and always scored the maximum. In one of such class tests, I scored 19.5 on 20 as I had forgotten to label one item in a diagram. With pure childish immaturity, I went to the staffroom and argued saying I had “forgotten” to label the diagram but “deserved” the 0.5 since I “knew the answer in my mind”. He asked me a simple question, “Bijli (thats his nick name for me) if it was someone else in your place, do you think she should get the marks too?” midst the tears I said “No Sir” and left the staffroom with a lesson for a lifetime that learning and being fair is more important than marks. All through my school years, there were many such small but important incidences, caring gestures and life lessons with Mr. Felix, not only for me but for many of us.
Years passed and it was the final day of school. All of us were getting our slam books filled by teachers and friends. Mr. Felix filled whole 08 pages for me upon request to write as much as he could. The last few lines read “Bijli, take a piece of charcoal in your palm, close the palm, open it and throw the charcoal away. What do you see? Your hand still has black on it. So is the case with friends and important life decisions. No matter how long or short a time friends stay with you , they will leave impressions on you, and a decision once taken, will have consequences for the future. So wherever you go in life, choose your friends carefully and take important decisions wisely”.
I am in the teaching profession today and carefully ensure that I am fair to all learners and yet able to keep a connect in a way that a student is comfortable enough to discuss his problems with me but has enough respect to appreciate my decisions on academic matters. I may know a lot of people now, but the ones I call “friends” are carefully chosen pieces of precious diamonds (charcoal) that I take pride to hold in the palm of my heart.
Thank you Felix Sir, for the seeds of self confidence, humanity, accountability, care and respect that you have sown in me. Happy Teacher’s Day with love and fondest regards.
Dr. Bijal Mehta