A Great Teacher
Sri. C. Srnivasa Ayyangar was my English teacher in Form IV in P.S. High School during the academic year 1949-50. My elder brother Lakshmipathi (now Dr. Lakshmipathi, a leading cardiologist practicing in Coimbatore) was his student earlier in Forms IV and V during the academic years 1946-47 and 1947-48. So I was well aware of what a great teacher he was and how gentle and kind he was with the students. It was a well-known reputation of his in the School. So we in Form IV Section E were delighted when we learnt that he would be taking English for us. The initial proposal was that Sri. Srinivasa Ayyangar would be taking only the texts for "non-detailed study", and another teacher would be taking the detailed prose and poetry texts. But early in the year the other teacher fell sick and so Sri Srinivasa Ayyangar took the entire English lessons for us.
The text for "non-detailed study" was Alexander Dumas's The Three Musketeers. As Sri. Srinivasa Ayyangar read out from the text and explained to us the daring escapades of D' Artegnan and Athos, Porthos and Aramis, our heroes came live before our eyes. He went far out of the way and told us also the entire stories of the three sequels that Dumas wrote -- Ten Years Later, Twenty Years After and The Man in the Iron Mask. His story-telling used to hold the class spell-bound. As luck would have it, MGM's film version of The Three Musketeers starring Gene Kelly in the role of D' Artegnan was released at that time, and Sri Srinivasa Ayyangar encouraged us all to go and see the film. Gene Kelly's D' Artegnan was exactly what we had in our mental picture as described by our teacher.
For detailed study, our English text book was one titled Pathways to Prose and Poetry. It was a collection of writings by English and Indian writers. Among the writings of Indian authors there was a poem by Sarojini Naidu, a short story by Rabindranath Tagore and a short chapter from Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography My Experiments With Truth. Sri. Srinivasa Ayyangar would tell us about these great sons and daughters of India before starting the study of the text. I remember how well he explained to us the significance of the title used by Gandhiji for telling the story of his life.
Very often these days, memories of Sri. Srinivasa Ayyangar and of the other great teachers we had in P.S. High School come rushing to my mind. The other night I was watching on TV the movie The Man in the Iron Mask starring Leonordo di Caprio. I could almost hear Sri Srinivasa Ayyangar's voice telling the tale of the young villainous King Louise and the suffering inflicted on his twin brother in the Bastille prison.
Sri. Srinivasa Ayyangar was just past 40 years of age at the time I was his student. He used to be always dressed in a pure white dhoti worn with a katcham, a full-sleeved shirt, have bright namam on his forehead and walk with a spring in his gait. As far as I know he never raised a hand to strike a student. He was one of the best loved teachers in the School.
G.Ram Mohan (The author was a student of C.Srinivasan. He studied in P.S.High School from 1946 to 1952. He got his B.E. degree and joined the Indian Railway Service of Engineers (IRSE) and worked all over India. . Later he joined the Commission of Railway Safety (under Ministry of Civil Aviation) and retired as Commissioner of Railway Safety.)
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