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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Informal Introduction of our CEO - An Article Peeping in his School Days



Remembering Father Gilson (1968)

 Jawhar Sircar[1]


The year was 1967. I joined the Pre-Senior Cambridge class, which was equivalent to Class X, in the Humanities Section, with an enviable track record of standing last or second last in every class from VI onward. The crowning glory was my failure to pass Class VIII, followed by my close shaves in my second year in the same class -- as well as in the next class, when I studied Science in the ‘Higher Secondary’ stream. Till date, I have never been able to figure out how I landed up in the ‘Senior Cambridge’ group in Class X, after my abysmally-poor performance in Class IX of the ‘Higher Secondary’ group. The other feathers in my cap were the several warnings received for ‘poor conduct’, mischief and misbehaviour.  In other words, I was an ideal bad student when I joined, not without trepidation, the first day in my new class.
 Everything was strange -- the room, the boys, the subjects -- no physics, chemistry or maths, only silly subjects like history, geography and literature.  But the strangest was the class teacher --  Father P.Y. Gilson. I had seen this strange padre in the corridors and had always wondered how this placid Belgian missionary, with such a peculiar accent and without any noticeable chin, survived the heat of India and the turmoil of unruly boys. I would like to flatter myself into believing that he had heard of me as the quintessential problem child.


Even if he did, he seemed to take no notice of it  -- in spite of my fight with an overgrown Parsi boy right on the first day and its evidence so prominent all over my dress. He asked me to move up to the first bench, which was outrageous. And he proceeded straight into the lessons, little realising that I could hardly understand anything, as I had not studied the basics of these subjects in Class IX. Be that as it may I was unconsciously drawn into the stories (which child can resist a good story?) that this Father seemed to weave with his magical voice. His narrative was so life-like that I listened spell-bound, and gently stepped on a magic carpet which carried me over fantasy-lands. His quips had a rare touch of Gallic humour and, for the first time in my life, I was not bored in the class-room. When the period ended, I could not believe myself  -- I had actually enjoyed literature!


More wonders were to follow as more stories came out of this magician's hat and very soon, I actually started looking forward to his classes. Perhaps the greatest transformation that Fr. Gilson induced in me was not only a friendly attitude to his subjects -- but towards studies per se. And that was only the beginning. As class teacher, he was in overall charge of my scholastic welfare.  Between classes and after classes, he would encourage me to meet him for extra lessons to make up for the whole year's study that I had missed at the class IX stage. The special care that he seemed to heap upon me had a soothing influence not only upon my attitude to studies, but to the world at large. No more was it a hostile jungle where only bookworms studied and sissies came first in class.


But, my reverie was soon shattered by the reality of the class tests.  The dread and horror with which I had viewed this ‘Inquisition’ was reinforced by the sinking feeling that I was condemned to stand last in this class as well, in spite of my brief flirtation with academics. “English Essay” was the first test and I distinctly remember the choking voice with which I told Fr. Gilson that I had never scored well and that I was always at a loss with words. His encouragement could hardly stop the streams of sweat that flowed endlessly during the exam, as I groped for the right expression and the appropriate word.


But when the results came out you could knock me down with a feather. I had stood fourth in class! My parents were overjoyed, my friends pinched me  -- but nobody realised what it did to my confidence.  The next surprise was a ‘first’ in Arithmetic. Coming from the Science stream to Humanities it was not so difficult to score ¾ and I had learnt to dream. History, Geography and others followed, but there was no way I could stop this new-found excitement of ‘topping’.


The rest was just crazy  -- success followed success, of course, with a lot of toil ¾ under the constant guidance of Father, dear Father. A few months later, we learnt that Fr. Gilson was to leave for another school ¾ and in a day or two he just left! I wept openly. Nobody had ever treated me like this before. Nobody else could turn around a sad case like mine into a fairy-tale. And thanks to him, I am where I am today: no doubt about that.


Many years later, I was posted as Additional District Magistrate of Asansol and Durgapur in the Burdwan district of West Bengal. I was overjoyed to hear from a friend that Father Gilson was the Headmaster of St. Xavier's, Durgapur. I sought for an immediate appointment. How could I tell him all that I wanted to say? Here was the teacher who had turned my life around -- so close, after so many years. Would he recognize me? He was the man I had referred to in all my Teachers’ Day speeches in all the stations where I had served as a Magistrate, at the dozens of school-committees on which I served as President, ex-officio.  I could hardly wait.


The day finally arrived. A strange feeling of nostalgia overpowered me, as my official car drove into the school -- with red lights, policemen and other unavoidable trappings of authority. I was ushered in from the staircase and as I walked into Father's room a familiar scent greeted me. He was not there, for he had to take a class as some teacher was absent. But he came in soon and shook my hands warmly.  "I am proud of you", he said. He was just the same, a trifle older. But, I was transformed, from a picture of confidence back to a quivering, nervous ‘student’ -- groping for words. Even before I could frame my gratitude into proper sentences, the bell rang and Father Gilson sprang up from his chair exclaiming: “Oh my God, there's another class to attend. And the little boys are waiting. Naughty, you know. Like you were. I must go. God bless you, my son. Do well.  But I must leave.” 


The good Jesuit had no time for my praises and my ever-lasting gratitude -- he had others to tend to, to improve, to reform.


******

[1] Published at the 135th Year Publication of Alumnorum Societas (Alumni Association of St. Xavier’s Collegiage School, Calcutta), Kolkata in February 1995

You can place your comments on the post by clicking the comment button below or mailing them to pbparivar@gmail.com

19 comments:

  1. sarkar ,,bus itna hi kehna hai...HONHAAR BIRVAA KE CHIKNE CHIKE PAAT...HOSLA BADHTA HAI JUB HAAKIM AISA MILE..LONG LIVE,LONG LIVE.....Rafeeqmasoodi@Tvpm

    ReplyDelete
  2. Father Gilson you are Great.my best wishes to all your students till date you have teach so far.saigautam@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. an interesting piece of
    article by our beloved CEO. The article was so absorbing and honest
    confession that last line of the same made me cry.

    I always feel that future of not only individuals but society as a
    whole is in the hands of teachers. Undoubtedly, today there is dearth
    of such teachers who can mould the life of disciplined as well as
    difficult children. Nowadays, we may face deterioration in every
    sphere of life where everyone intends to join rat race of amassing
    infinite wealth.

    Despite such aberrations, there is a ray of hope that noble souls like
    you and your dedicated team will always find the way to spread
    goodness and positivity among fellow colleagues and society at large.

    Given the kind of appreciable work your team is handling, I am willing
    to join PBV Blog right now.
    bkoberoi <bkoberoi@air.org.in

    ReplyDelete
  4. We must not forget those whose guidance and encouragement led us to a successful position. Thanks to our CEO that he has not forgotten his beloved teacher. It reminds our childhood and our teachers too.

    ReplyDelete
  5. INSPIRING ! OUR GOOD LUCK TO HAVE A CEO LIKE THIS.
    Ajay Kumar

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks to our CEO that he has not forgotten his beloved teacher. It reminds our childhood and our teachers too.

    ReplyDelete
  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Normally we condemn our children who score poor marks and the child is branded as useless or worthy of nothing. This story is a good example which shows that every child has a potential to become something great worthy in life.May be in some cases a good teacher or mentor is needed to spot the talent and ignite the spark. A very interesting story , we can read it out to our children.

    ReplyDelete
  9. This is a lesson every one should know in our in our "airdd family".No one is good student or bad student. We be the teacher, parents and as a broadcaster also can change a student to be a good citizen and serve the country with a vision. It has happened with me also. Good teacher is really not just teacher but is a God for student. Thank you sir to have shared the childhood memory. It is really inspiring for us. Jay Kumar Pradhan, PEX,AIR,Rourkela

    ReplyDelete
  10. Truly said by others. We treat our children as useless when they score less in schools and colleges but one should not forget that each and everyone has unique abilities which will shine once he gets a true mentor. We could have saved Manjunath if each and every parent encourages their children that IAS or IPS is not the end of life, there are several other oppportunties through which one can reach skies. At last we are proud of our CEO, who is now our mentor and huge responsibility lies with him to usher we the 35000 employees who have lost all hope of getting any promotion or even saving our jobs in future in this historic organisation.

    Gold bless him and give him strength to turn around this organisation.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Ashok Kale, AE, DoordarshanMay 15, 2013 at 10:56 AM

    This reminded me of a famous letter written by Abraham Lincoln to the Head Master of the school of his son requesting him to teach his son everything required to be a good human being with a gentle & in a kind way. But there are numerous teachers world-wide mentoring their pupils with a mission on their own. Salute to all those great souls & off course Father Gilson. Thanks to our beloved CEO for sharing his true & learning experience. We all in Prasar Bharati can mentor our newly joined & Jr. friends in a similar way to motivate & in turn help in increasing an organizational effectiveness.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As a broadcaster we are just like friends, teacher, parent. We can motivate our children & youth to be a good human being & citizen.

      Delete
  12. Every child has his/her own capacity to learn. We should not put undue pressure on him. We have only to supervise his natural advancement towards study and act as a guide. The beautiful emotional bond of gracious CEO, P.B. with his teacher, Father Gilson, is exemplary for children studying in schools and colleges. His writing is inspirational and motivational for students, teachers and guardians alike. It is great of him what he got from Father Gilson he is returning it to society , Prasar Bharati and its employees by way of good committments and personal care .It is a captivating piece of writing. Best regards for him.

    ReplyDelete
  13. So All back benchers, don't be dis-heartened. You could still end up heading some Govt. Organisation !!!
    Harry

    ReplyDelete
  14. This reminded me of a famous letter written by Abraham Lincoln to the Head Master of the school of his son requesting him to teach his son everything required to be a good human being with a gentle & in a kind way. But there are numerous teachers world-wide mentoring their pupils with a mission on their own. Salute to all those great souls & off course Father Gilson. Thanks to our beloved CEO for sharing his true & learning experience. We all in Prasar Bharati can mentor our newly joined & Jr. friends in a similar way to motivate & in turn help in increasing an organizational effectiveness.

    Ashok Kale, AE Doordarshan Kendra, Pune

    ReplyDelete
  15. '' The rest was just crazy -- success followed success, of course, with a lot of toil ¾ under the constant guidance of Father, dear Father. A few months later, we learnt that Fr. Gilson was to leave for another school ¾ and in a day or two he just left! I wept openly. Nobody had ever treated me like this before. Nobody else could turn around a sad case like mine into a fairy-tale. And thanks to him, I am where I am today: no doubt about that.''
    These according to me are the most beautiful lines of the memoir which I find very touchy and emotional. The description of childhood sentiments is marvellous . The sense of gratitude that the author expresses for his teacher is of highest order ,very noble and pure.The purity of heart of writer reflected in the writing touches me most. Such emotions that are now becoming scarce need to be restored for a value based society .

    ( Aishwarya , a college student )

    ReplyDelete
  16. What Father Gilson has done in your life that proves again"Guru Govind Dono Khade kake lahoon paon,Balihari Guru aapne govind diyo milaye"

    ReplyDelete
  17. Honest, transparent & practical post by Honorable CEO its good lesions to all parents as well as students

    ReplyDelete

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