Shhhh! Silence in the Library!

library

‘No bookmark, no book,’ she would say in an impervious tone and that would wreck my entire week. That was Ms B our library teacher in school.

She’d stand their one eyebrow raised in a silent dare – challenging me to challenge her. Torn between my fear of her and my love for reading – it was fear that always won. And I would have to make do with re-reading an old book or borrowing from friends.

Books were my sole entertainment back then. We were allowed three books each week – each of them a treasured treat. We had a wonderful library – not the few cupboards at the back of the class that double up as libraries these days. Rows of tables were flanked by glass cupboards full of rows upon rows of the most enticing books. Enid Blytons, Nancy Drews, Hardy Boys all sat there along with Victoria Holt, Jean Plaidy, Georgette Heyer, and scores of other authors. Within the pages of those books lay the most exciting times my young self had ever seen.

However between the most exciting times of my life and me stood Ms B, a bit like Cerberus. She had an acerbic tongue and a short temper and she wouldn’t let anyone pass unless they showed her a book-cover and a book-mark. And woe betide anyone who forgot to get their books on the assigned day! They were condemned to a book-less week. No allowances, no concessions.

Not just that, she took it upon herself to discipline us on almost anything that caught her eye. ‘Put your plaits back, who do you think you are, Rekha?’, ‘Don’t slouch’, ‘Don’t shuffle your feet when you walk’ or ‘Why must you always wear black?’ (we didn’t have a uniform in class 11 and 12). Those days teachers wielded pure dictatorship. Yet we emerged unscathed with no permanent psychological damage. Instead, we came away with a bunch of good habits that we carry with us even today.

Despite such ‘ill-treatment’, on Teacher’s Day today, the first one who comes to mind is Ms B. While she didn’t teach me any subject nor was she directly responsible for kindling a love for reading she did teach me some very valuable lessons.

She taught me to respect and love books. That’s a habit that has stayed obstinately on. It drives me crazy when I see anyone manhandling books, folding pages, scribbling in the margins (use a pencil for goodness sake if you just have to), turning down corners.. aaargh!

She taught me to widen my reading horizon. But for that raised eyebrow I would be stuck onto fairy tales forever. After she gave me one of those ‘looks’ I was forced to look at other genres and developed an eclectic taste. (I have to confess though, that I still pick up a fairy tale somedays).

She taught me essential library etiquette. I learnt to keep quiet – not a mean feat for a 12 year old. I learnt to shut out the world and lose myself in a book as also to not disturb a person engrossed in one.

She taught me discipline and punctuality – a useful lesson even outside the library.

So tell me who is that one teacher that comes to mind when you think of school?

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33 thoughts on “Shhhh! Silence in the Library!

  1. Zephyr

    You are so right! We were scolded by our teachers and taught values that still stand us in good stead. And there were no doting parents pulling them up for disciplining their children. There were some really wonderful teachers in my school life who have left an indelible mark on me with their dedication to their vocation and sincerity of purpose. Sadly both are largely missing today among teachers.

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    1. Beat About the Book

      Thank you Zephyr for dropping by. You’re absolutely right about parents interfering a bit too much in the business of school. And perhaps that is why children cannot give them the unconditional love and respect that we had for our teachers.

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  2. Vinay Leo R.

    You took me on a trip down memory lane. 🙂 Introvert that I was, and in a way still am, the library was my favorite place. Though my librarian didn’t have a bookmark rule, she would give us a book-less week if we dog-eared it or damaged it in any way. And like Irma Pince, she definitely would lose her temper if she saw chocolate in the library! I am grateful to her for the same four reasons you’ve mentioned, in particular the first two. 😀

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    1. Beat About the Book

      We couldn’t even think of bringing food in the library – such sacrilege. Even my grand mum would forbid us from eating while we were reading – she’d say it was disrespect to both the food and the book – annapurna and saraswati. Amazing how a librarian and an illiterate woman echoed the same thought, isn’t it?

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  3. Moushmi Radhanpara

    School days were definitely incredible and the most cherished days of my life. It is all because of my teachers that I have learnt so much and I am who I am today. Their marks wouldn’t go.
    But honestly I miss those library days where one could actually borrow and lend books, unlike the times of ‘E-books’.
    I do not regret any of my late submissions of the books for those were the times when my teacher and I started an accidental discussion on the fined book.

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      1. Moushmi Radhanpara

        Yes, you would. But then you would have been as sad as when he resigned.
        well, I would also request you to stop by my blog whenever seems fit. I am new to writing here but would surely like some reviews.

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  4. Tarang Sinha

    Even I don’t like writing in books (I did that recently :), but that was different)

    I was surprised to see a picture (online) where someone is sitting on the pile of books, keeping his/her feet on the book! ‘This is how you show your love and respect for book?!’ Couldn’t help thinking.
    My music teacher comes to my mind when I think of school. And, when it comes to reading, I feel thankful to my grandparents (Avid readers!)

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  5. Rachna

    This is such a beautiful post. You know, Tulika, I also think of things that my teachers did, some of them would not pass our standards today. Even our parents, they didn’t mollycoddle us nor did they sit down and talk to us as often. And yet we did not turn out fragile or scarred. We have picked up some solid discipline just by imbibing. As far as teachers are concerned, I can think of so many. My English teacher in school struck fear in our hearts. She did not shy away from insulting us for the most minor of errors. I owe my love for English and my methodical approach to it to her. Though I hated her back then. 🙂 Then my Maths Sir who loved me to bits. I was his 6 star student. I used to regularly score full marks in Maths and his motivation just egged me to keep doing better. So many beautiful memories you kindled with this post.

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    1. Beat About the Book

      6 star math student? I am completely awed!! And great at English too – that’s a rare combination. We had a wonderful English teacher too but she’ll make up a whole post. She used to give us some of the most innovative punishments.

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      1. Rachna

        I was the class topper and a pet of most teachers. 🙂 Oh I dug Maths. I really did love Maths, Sciences and the languages, aceing both Hindi and English. Such amazing days those were. And of course the teachers who laid the foundation for the passions in the subjects.

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  6. Shilpa Gupte

    Well, I wasn’t really fond of school, but I was very fond of my drawing class and my drawing teacher. He was a jolly man who would entertain us as well as admonish us if we submitted trashy work. Drawing being one of my favourite subjects, I would pour my heart in my drawing. It would turn out pretty neat and then my teacher would show my book to everyone in the class. I still remember those few episodes when he made me feel on top of the world, although, frankly my drawing wasn’t really all that great. It made my day and that’s what has stayed with me all these years. He disliked it when we used pencils that had grown tiny after a lot of sharpening and threw them out of the window – an act that has stayed in my mind till date and prompts me to do the same each time I find my nephew using a tiny pencil!

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    1. Beat About the Book

      Ha ha – my kids love those tiny pencils as much as a dislike them. How can you write well when there’s no grip? It’s a regular battle between us. I can quite believe why your art teacher loved you – I’ve seen proof :-).

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  7. Lata Sunil

    We were so scared of our teachers back then but none of us were emotionally wrecks. We survived. We had a terrible library in School, just a few shelves. Our College was not encouraging us to use the library. I missed the pleasure of libraries.

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  8. inquisitivegeet

    Why do all the librarians in the world have to be strict? Mine too was a strict one. She always stared me and kept an eye on me, waiting for me to utter a word so that she could scold me! Ahh! Old school days!

    But sure your librarian taught you good deal of stuff and I’m glad you learnt good enough!

    Cheers
    Geets

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  9. Shailaja V

    I LOVE this post for so many reasons but let me focus on this one: “We emerged unscathed with no permanent psychological damage. Instead, we came away with a bunch of good habits that we carry with us even today.” What is it with kids today that a sharp tone or a bit of sternness makes them dissolve in tears?! I think we need some tough love every now and then to make them understand these things better. Way to go, Ms. B and thank you for letting us take a glimpse into your past, Tulika.

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    1. Beat About the Book

      You got exactly what I wanted to say in that post Shailaja – that the toughest teachers stay on in our minds and hearts. I maintain our parents had a lot to do with it. I probably disliked her then yet I strove for her approval. Which in turn implies that I did see her point at some sub-conscious level, that I didn’t reject what she was trying to inculcate in all of us. School days were my happiest times.

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  10. Shilpa Garg

    Aah! Ms B reminded me of our library teacher in school, Sister A. I think they must be soul sisters! Despite her terror, library was my favourite place to be in school too. I think we cannot thank them enough for letting us take a dive in the amazing worlds of books!

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  11. Uma Srinivasan

    It took me on a beautiful trip down memory lane. I can vividly recall my English teachers Mr George and Mr Ernest. Mr G was very particular about pronunciation and enunciation. He made us practice writing in 4 lined notebooks in grade 11 because he thought we didn’t know even the basics of strokes. He taught us poetry. If my speaking skills and handwriting are any good, it is thanks to him.
    Mr Ernest taught us romance…yeah you got it right. His reading of Far from the Madding Crowd in the classroom was the highlight of the English classes. His beautiful intonation of the novel still is fresh in my mind.
    Loved the part where you say…. we came away with a bunch of good habits that we carry with us even today.Thank you teachers…

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    1. Beat About the Book

      You make me want to go back to school and listen to your teacher reading out romance. Have you seen the film 36, Chourangee Lane with Jennifer Kapoor? She is an English teacher and her portrayal is absolutely marvellous.

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  12. Me Otherwise

    Have a similar memory about my school librarian who would be absolutely strict about us folding the corner of the pages of books. Tonthe wxtent shw would tell us to get the pages ironed if we ever did such an act 😉.

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  13. Shantala

    This teacher one yours reminds me of my English Com. Professor – so many similarities. And mine was a Grammar Nazi too. But I am not complaining. She was/is my favorite Nazi.

    This post took me on a nostalgic trip down memory lane, and kindled so many fond memories. Thank you so much for that. 🙂

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