- Reshma Shaikh Miss, was the most beautiful teacher of my crescent life. She was graceful, elegant, distinguished person. Everything about her was royal, her long hair, her dresses, usually full sleeve Punjabi dresses, rich in the gamut of colors. And to top all of this, she had a disarming smile, and she oozed positivity as she walked into the class.
In many ways, she seemed an accidental teacher. She was well educated with fine English, and probably had taken a job at Crescent as a temporary fill up, She was probably there for just a couple of years, after which I never saw her.
She taught us English, and her style was her own, keeping her in stark contrast with other English teachers. Firstly, she was very soft spoken, never harsh, and this style flowed into her teaching. Where a Amrit Dang, would slice you in multiple pieces if your punctuation went wrong, Reshma Shaikh was very forgiving. This is evident in the marks she would give for exam papers, red circling all grammatical mistakes, still giving high marks, if the tone and tenor of the answer was good enough. For her, ideas mattered, a typical English chapter’s rote reading would be done in the first 15 minutes, and the remainder would be on ideas expressed in the chapter. The larger point, moot idea that the author wants to convey was important for her.
Her other particular focus was on writing essays. She must have made us write more essays in an academic year than any other teacher. Other times, essay writing was confined as a homework task, for her it was classroom activity. She would plant a seed for first 5 mins of a lecture, and then let us have a crack at it.
My special memory with her, is with an essay she asked us to write. It was afternoon, she gave us an idea to write an autobiography, of a book or something, as usual took her 5 minutes to give us a rough structure and then dived into it. That day I was on a roll, I just wrote and wrote, for no reason, letters were just flowing, and wallah! in next 10 minutes my essay was done. For the whole 10 minutes I was just looking at my book, and then I raised by neck to browse around, and everyone else was still writing. Since I had no watch, there was no way for me to know how much time had passed, I thought I had taken a good 20 minutes, usual time, and I was just waiting for others to complete.
Just then Ma’am spotted me sitting idle, and just called me out, ‘Have you finished?’. I just nodded, she said, ‘come here with your book’. I took my notebook, to her, and stood in front of her, as she read the entire essay. After reading she looked at me ” Good one, now read it in front of class… attention every one, He is going to read his essay”
I took my book, and with a smirk on my face, glanced at my poorly gifted fellow students, began reading my great essay, to show them how it is done. My voice, loud and clear, so all 70+ students could hear me..
and by the third line, my voice started to stutter. I realized, I had a horrible handwriting, it was not that readable. Then I realized that there is a problem in the neural connections from my brain to my hand. In my brain, I had thought of a sentence to write, I was convinced that the same sentence was written by me on paper, and I moved to the next sentence, but to my shock, my hand had written something else. There were unnecessary capitalization’s, articles were missing left and right, a leisurely two line gap was there between paragraphs, and still for some reason the bottom corner of the page was crammed with letters, trying to utilize every cm of the page. I realized what a horror it must be to read my papers, I decided that need to re-read my answers before submitting them for checking, an admirably thought, though it got implement only that year, because from next year I found myself utilizing every minute of exam time to write answers, all through my college years. There are only handful of instances where I have finished my paper before time, and by handful, measured only by fingers of one hand. Other wise I just used to digress while writing, and ended up utilizing every bit of paper and time.
However, in this the most amazing thing was, Ma’am was prompting me whenever I got stuck. It was my essay, my handwriting, she had read it for just 2-3 mins, yet she was prompting me, correcting me on the go. By the end of it, my balloon had been diffused, and I had climbed down from my high horse, and was meekly standing on ground.
But then, after my reading, She stood up, patted me on my back, ‘Well done, nice essay, few, small mistakes are there, pay attention to them next time, good work’
That encouragement made my day! To this day, I am just putting my ideas, rough, spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, most of my writing, in my own second reading, seems odd to me, yet ‘they are small mistakes, overall it is a nice essay’
I never knew what happened of her then on, but her encouragement and kindness stayed with me. Her smile, her grace, soft spoken nature, all kept me in awe. Secretly I wished I had a Mavashi (mother’s sister) like her, to whom I could run to and hear stories, and get that dose of positive thinking all the time.