Wednesday, May 18, 2016

N.S. Sitaram - tribute to a teacher

On Saturday 14th May, 2016, I passed very close to the house of my high school teacher NSS [N.S.Sitaram] on the way to the market.  There were thoughts of stopping by for a minute to say a respectful hello to him. But I did not. I had been longing to meet, pay respects and take his photo, but kept procrastinating.  Our houses are not very far apart, may be one kilometre.
The evening paper of 16th May had this to shock me:

It was terrible news considering what I failed to do just two days ago.  He had died on Sunday.

Sarada Vilas High School [for boys] is an old institution with a very fine reputation through its dedicated teachers who had moulded characters and imparted great knowledge and culture to its pupils, some of whom becoming famous nationally and internationally.  

2009 photo of our school. [Click to enlarge]

NSS was one among the great teachers who had served there for a long period of time and retired as Head Master.  My father and uncle were also students in that school around the mid 1940s, but it may be before the time NSS joined. When I joined in 1970, NSS was the Asst. Head Master. When I passed out from 10th, he had succeeded Sri M.N.Lakshminarasimhaiah as Head Master. His signatures are on my Admission Ticket as well as Marks Card. 

NSS came on his bicycle clad in a simple mull-cloth ಕಚ್ಚೆ ಪಂಚೆ [white dhoti], leather sandals, light gray 'close-collared' coat, old but neat, worn on a white, long tailed, full-sleeved shirt, the same length of the coat.  His headgear was a black ಟೋಪಿ [stiff cap] and he wore a wrist watch.  His fair-face had features one had to appreciate.  His eyes required a pair of spectacles for short-sight.  The costume was typical of the older generation Mysorean 'school masters'.  We were fortunate to have been students of this 'last batch' of them.  

I try to roughly show how NSS appeared.

[Or did he wear an open collared coat that exposed the two shirt buttons?]

The cardboard headgear used to be like this [without the dark band shown here]:
Click on the image for larger view.

It was a delight to see his writing on the blackboard, the letters forming neatly, equal in size and uniformly white.  He held his chalk softly and never seemed to apply any pressure as he wrote sum after sum.  It was also something as much appreciated as his teaching.

NSS' forte was Mathematics, but used to fill in with some English or Science subject occasionally when that teacher was on leave.  He used to take Algebra which most students remember for his fine method of making the difficult subject to be understood easily [I admit I was an exception!].

He was a very lovable and approachable teacher, mild mannered but strict.  When NSS walked in there would be silence.  He was never armed with a stick for lashing [like MRK], or needed to slap any boy [like KRK] if the homework was not completed or some sum was wrongly answered or someone was not attentive in the class.  He would correct it so that the pupil learnt.  NSS was never one to get teased or his dhoti pulled by mischievous boys, [we heard they did it to one VSS who also came in a dhoti] but was one who had commanded respect through his dignity and quality as a teacher.  Yet, on the lighter side, he had been nicknamed in Kannada for fun, like other teachers' initials also, as ನೊಣ ಸಾಯಿಸೊ ಶೂರ [Fly killing expert] to expand his initials of NSS.

The last I met NSS was about 5-6 years ago.  He had said "86" when I asked his age.  He had been on his walk on Krishnaraja Boulevard when I was on my bicycle on my way home.  I had the opportunity to walk with him pushing my bicycle along for a long way, while we talked on a few subjects, also of moral values, teaching standards and the teachers of my time.  I had told him I would take him on the scooter to his contemporary PV's house one day.  This never happened and PV also passed away last year.  He was our history teacher.

"Wow, our NSS", I used to mentally exclaim on seeing him walk leisurely in front of our house and along the calmer streets in the area, clad in his simple white dhoti and white shirt.   At times I went closer to be seen and bowed the head to greet.  He had mentioned why he had chosen the time for his walk which was an hour before noon - low density of traffic.  I remember him having mentioned of his normal health and kept himself active with a long walk daily.  He used to be in my thoughts often, because of some unexplainable, special admiration and impression.  He had known my grandfather also.  About 10 years ago we wanted to put our daughter for maths tution with him, but it did not work out.  I had gone to his house for this and had taken the opportunity to get his blessing by prostrating at his feet as an old student.
Another great old timer now joins light, aged 91.
May his soul rest in peace.

More school memories are in this separate post: [Click here].


Lakshman Prasad said...

ಅಸ್ಮದ್ ಗುರುಭ್ಯೋ ನಮಃ Very nice tribute.
All our teachers both in Saradavilas High School and College were exceptional.

These days one can access lectures on science and maths from world renowned universities such as MIT (eg Walter Lewin, Physics) via the internet. I watch them some times out of interest. The rigour with which the fundamentals of science and maths were taught in Saradavilas High School and College is comparable with the best in the world, with the exception that the campus, space available and physical buildings may not be on par.

It is the foundation laid by these eminent teachers that has held many of the students in good stead and excel in their professions world wide. Every one of them must be recognised via the National Award for Teachers (even posthumously!)_

Anonymous said...

Please this version. The one I posted earlier has an error.

NSS was a doyen among teachers. His passing away will be mourned by all his students. Singularly soft spoken to students, he commanded universal respect. To me, who was his student in the mid –to-late 1950s in Sarada Vilas High School, there were only 2 teachers who were exceptional: NSS and SR, the latter with such mastery over History, Geography and English. I had had the privilege of meeting him as the head teacher in 1970s, if my memory serves me right, It was to help one of my colleague’s son, and at my colleague’s request, we went to meet NSS in his office. Seeing me approaching his office, he came out greeting me, which was so kind of him. This was such a pleasant surprise as he remembered me after about 20 years!!
Everything was not good at this High School-but that was for another day for comments. Right now, my thoughts has been about him: our maths teacher. RIP NSS.
The Four Justmen

Anonymous said...

An error Should read " thoughts have been about him..." in my previous post.
Not been to India or Mysore for over 20 years or so. But could see from afar how the deterioration has set in. Very difficult to have seen teachers like NSS and SR even in 1970s. In those 10 years, I could even see how money and status played their parts, and this school was not an exception. Rich kids and their studies in top English medium convents had their sway. Very difficult for us, the poor kids, even with excellent larks gained in studies in ordinary local middle schools, to get into that coveted English medium 1st year; but I managed it because they could not turn me down in the end. Not that English medium was any way superior, but it gave such lift in the 1st pre-university course introduced then.

Bharathi said...

It is a pleasure to read about my " Doddappa" from a student's perspective.
To us, his children he was always the soft spoken, wise and loving man with a passion for kagga and Rajkapoor in equal measures.
Thanks for the nostalgic post.