As one’s mind goes back and forth, scanning one’s entire existence, for discrepancies- these days, one becomes more acutely aware of what an irreplaceable role one’s teachers have played in getting one through the tough times. Since one’s memory is terrible, one only remembers the one’s who made one feel-safer and saner. My first standard teacher-Mrs Dasgupta, who helped a painfully shy student, to adjust shifting from DPS to CJM.
Sheel Aunty, who not only gave me tuitions but helped me deal with the angst of growing up in a rather irregular environment. For being a parent and guardian angel to me, one will never be able to thank her enough. The parents stopped the tuitions because one not only found strength and hope, in a woman who could barely walk (due to polio) yet provided stability and wings to all the kids who went to her but due to the fact that one kind of thought of her as the parent . ‘You took her away because I loved her!’ one would throw a fit in the teenage years, when no one could control me and they tried with all their might to calm me down.
Till of course Anupam came along and that became the turning point. There’s an experiment that was done by Dr Emoto’s with three jars of rice, water and words. The rice which was thanked and appreciated fermented, the one which was assaulted verbally, was covered in black mould and the one that was ignored turned even darker. Trust me, the experiment works. Whenever the story of one’s life is recalled, an entire chapter is dedicated to a boy who was just six or seven years older, who came in and played teacher and part therapist. Everyday, my father would come back home sozzled, telling me how I would never be anything in life- I was just too dumb and everyday to counter that, he would sit and tell me ‘you can!’. In those few years that he taught me, my life turned around. I did better in school, came first in editing and even got recommended for my first photography job by the iconic Mr O.P Sharma, who taught me photography. Anupam taught me how to be a student, how to trust someone enough to take their advice and gave me key insights into my personality- one competed/flourished well around men and one required a cheerleader to counter the father’s voice in one’s head. I wish my mum had someone who would have done that for her. Those ten thousand ‘you cans’, still continue to motivate me on days when I think I can’t go on and I still remember his fascination for numerology-‘ you’re a number 9 and you’re ruled by Mars -uncontrolled the number is self destructive but learn to control it and you’ll be unstoppable!’
During the same time, I was seeing a boy and though traditionally, I wouldn’t call his father -O.P Sehgal and his sister Shallay- teachers, they taught me a lot about seeing and doing, about creativity and craft and most of all, what loving families look like. Someday, when I grow my babies from my heart, I would want to emulate the love they shower on each other.
Then came the creme da la creme- Greg. The first time, his boss and the head of ICPP, saw my portfolio, he said to me that the teacher who was going to arrive, would like my work and he did so one became student and even assistant, at times. The most sensitive man I’ve met in my life, his gaze could pierce right through anyone. He saw something in everybody, that no one else saw. He was not just a photography teacher to us- he was more like a guru, life coach and co traveller. Every decent image of mine is thanks to him and someday when one ceases to exist, I hope my works reach him.
Last but not the least, Sunil. I think of him as a friend and not so much a mentor because of his openness and friendly nature. We’re about twenty five apart but we have a rollicking time together. He’s introduced me to the LGBTQ community, taught me about using art as a means for activism and has exposed me to his wonderful life.
So, though one doesn’t recall school life one remembers one’s wonderful teachers throughout one’s lifetime. Without them one would have been the worst version of one’s self and that’s why at my lowest I always say, I need a teacher not a therapist. Cheers to them, for making me want to be better, for making me believe that I can fall down seven times and get up eight, for seeing the best in me when everyone saw the worst and most of all for making me believe that I get through it. The ‘chip on my shoulder’, that people find insufferable because that makes one hard to manipulate and control comes from all those who walked into my life and made me believe, I was worthy and I could do whatever I set my mind to!