Moderately tall and lanky, aged about sixty, slightly dusky and dark-complexioned, having a thinly haired head, gifted with a voice ranged between bass and baritone, dressed in not-so-tight trousers, shirt and a waistcoat, pedalling his bicycle daily from a nearby village that was 6 kilometres away from our town, came a teacher to our school who taught Mathematics, Science and Urdu in the primary and middle classes. The name of this noble teacher was Shri Pandit Sadhu Ram Ji. After his retirement from his regular service, he was teaching in our school. I am proud of being his student. He was popularly known as Pandit Ji in students circles. A very nice, hardworking, painstaking, kind, considerate, mild natured, loving, caring, and affectionate teacher he was. Students loved him, enjoyed his presence in the class, and had no fear of him as normally students are afraid of harsh teachers. He would make the students laugh with his pleasantries. His method of teaching was unique and he would amuse the students with his funny talk also.
When I was in Class III, he taught us science. In the half-yearly exams, there was a question …Pashu bachche kese dete Hain? ( How animals produce their offspring?). I didn’t know the answer. So I left it blank. After the exams when classes were restarted and our answer sheets were given, Pandit Ji asked me why I had not answered that question. I replied I didn’t know the answer. Then he jokingly said: Jab tumhari shadi hogi tab pata chalega. The entire class burst into a loud laughter at this. Actually, I got very less marks in science. Perhaps barely pass marks.
Pandit Ji had been our class teacher in Class II, III and in IV also. After the morning assembly, he would take the roll call calling the names of students loudly. One of my class fellows was Abdul Quddoos. Pandijti always called his name Abdul Qaudas. Once he told Pandit Ji that his name is Quddoos and not Qaudas. But Pandit Ji continued with his previous practice. Perhaps, he felt more comfortable in calling Qaudas instead of Quddoos.
Pandit Ji kept a very thin and supple stick to keep the students under control, though he never used it harshly on his students. In class IV, he taught us mathematics. We learnt interconversion of seconds, minutes and hours; days, months and years; paise and rupees. He would ask us to solve the entire exercise at home. The next day he would check our homework. He would punish the defaulters in a peculiar style. With the thin stick in his right hand, holding the left hand of the student with his own left hand, and slightly bending, he would strike at the ankles of the students very lightly. While doing so, he would say: 36 wari tuhanu eh numbri karayi ya, pher wi ohi haal eh.( I have taught this exercise 36 times to you, but you chaps don’t learn ). The student who was being punished, would jump and try to skip the strike of the stick or pretend to have been hit hard. This drama made the entire class break into loud guffaws. This was his unique way of punishing the students. One of his favourite students in our class was Mohammad Afzal. He was very quick in solving sums. Pandijti would often amusingly asked him….sach sach btao ,aj tumhe shaitan milne Aya tha. Afzal would reply Nahi… Then Pandit Ji would repeat the same question a couple of times. At this Afzal would say: Ha Aya tha. This was how Pandit Ji played jokes with his students. He would keep our minds fresh and lively, and never let us get bored in the class.
Pandit Ji laughed in his own style. He would stretch his left-hand palm and strike it with his right hand, and slightly bending downwards, lifting his right leg jumped a bit and took a semi-circular turn while bursting into a loud laughter.
He didn’t teach us any subject in class V, VI and VII. When we were in Class VIII, he taught us Urdu for a couple of months. Then he left the job and joined some other school.
We all missed him very much and often talked about him. His catchphrase …Tuhanu 36 wari numbri karayi ya …….was our favourite line.
Thereafter for years, I couldn’t see him. Then one day, one of our friends, Abdul Quddoos, suggested that we should visit Pandit Ji. Accordingly, we went to his village and met him. He had grown very old and weak. Perhaps it was winter. Wrapped up in a blanket, he was lying on his cot in the open lawn in front of his house. Seeing us, he sat up. We told our names. Seeing through his spectacles, he tried to recognise us. Luckily, he recognised me by my name. Pandit Ji was very overwhelmed to see his old students.
Some years later, I learnt that Pandit Ji had left for his heavenly abode. May his soul rest in peace!
He was a very noble teacher indeed! I can’t forget him.