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My Loving English Teacher
The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.— William Arthur Ward
There are certain people in our life, who directly or indirectly touch us in many ways. We give them several titles such as ‘teacher’, ‘master’, ‘guru’, ‘mentor’, ‘role model’ etc. For me, PVR was all these and much more.
He was a native of Kasaragod district. His parents were so poor and illiterates. My association with him started in the mid-80s. That time, I was an avid reader of Career Magazine, a magazine so famous in those days. PVR was a columnist for the magazine. He was also a well-known freelance journalist and handled both Malayalam and English beautifully. I had read many of his articles in Sun magazine too. He also worked as Editor of the famous Malayalam daily “Veekshanam” published from Kerala.
One day I noticed an advertisement in Career magazine regarding a spoken-English course titled “A Formula to Speak English”. It was at a time when a kind of over enthusiasm was burning inside me for learning the English language. Naturally, I wrote for details and PVR sent me brochures, which ran into pages. I was totally amazed and fell in love with his writing style. Love, at first sight, was happening. The fluency, the decoration, the vocabulary, his total grip over the language was simply superb and beyond any comparison.
The most surprising fact was that he was born in a very poor family and his parents didn't have the means to send him to a good school. He learned his lessons lighting the kerosene-lamp. He had no proper food, clothing and even books for study. For the poor agriculturist father, it was beyond his means and he was totally helpless. But determination and hard work always pay. PVR had it all in him plus the strong desire to face whatever obstacles stare at him. And he did prove it. He created magic in the world of English literature. He even became a gold medalist in the All India English Oratory competition held in Bangalore. His opponents were the highly educated ones who were studied in convent school noted for excellence and the children of high-rank officers like IAS and IFS from the metros.
At that time (maybe 86 or 87) he just charged Rs.50/- for his course material. It was a meager amount. But I could not even arrange that small amount. How could I? I was jobless and penniless. Somehow I managed it, though a little bit late, and collected the material. I read it and went through the lessons carefully. I paid more attention to the tenses, which were tough for me till then. And after that, I was able to write without errors. Mastery over the 'tenses' gave me confidence. Continuous reading of many of his works including his mock love letters gave me a flow in the language. He had prepared several exercises in his book to teach even the toughest grammar in a simple fashion. Based on his guidelines, I too started writing imaginary love letters in English and it did benefit me several ways. I shifted my diary writing from Malayalam to English.
I liked all his works. He wrote, published and marketed the book all by himself. I sent letters to him. He replied. He even offered me a job as a representative. My job was to sell his books. But I didn’t accept his job as I had one already. Later, he published another book titled “An Art of Letter writing in English”. That too was a best seller. I do believe reading that book also polished my writing skill. We had even phoned once or twice but never met each other!
He wrote lovingly. Spoke lovingly. And behaved lovingly. His aim was not the money making but teaching Malayalees good English. Thousands of Malayalees, after studying his books, started to use good English and their thanks-letters poured into PVR’s mailbox. Sacks of letters were still kept in his house in Kochi. He was thrilled and felt blessed on knowing his dreams getting materialized. Days and nights he worked hard on research projects. His mission was to find out more and more ‘formulas’ to help the Keralites to polish their already fine-tuned language skills (because of him!). He had more and more dreams.
The Tragic Twist
And I always have a bad habit: just feel tensed thinking about whom I loved the most. I get worried about their future, their existence in this world, their departure, etc, etc. I will unnecessarily think will they survive their entire life term or leave this world untimely…..? Absurd thinking……Irrational and illogical thoughts…I don’t know why I am so. But I am like that. Naturally, I did think so about PVR too. And many times. He had no problems; no issues. Still, I feared unnecessarily! Days passed on……….
It was a December. The climate was cool. It is so elsewhere in the world in December. My train is running fast. I am on the way to my office at Tirur. My one-hour long journey will usually be allotted for reading “Indian Express”. It is past Parappanangadi. I stopped reading 'Express' and borrowed 'Mathrubhumi' from a co-passenger for no reason. The train is still heading fast. I am totally engrossed in reading the newspaper. There are 2 more stops for me to get down. It happened all of a sudden. My eyes could not believe what I found in the obituary column of the paper. My attention got arrested there. Usually, I was skipping the column. But this time somehow, yes, somehow I happened to read it. My God! What I see? I can’t believe…I won’t believe!
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My worst fear has happened! My loving English teacher-PVR has passed away!! At a younger age of 46, he had left us orphaned. I don’t remember now what the exact cause of his death was. But guessed this to be some kind of serious illness. My worst fear has turned to be true now. PVR is no more! His journey ends. The thought that I could never meet him in person made me very dejected. I was totally blank. It took days to return to normalcy.
He was a man so good at heart. Like me, thousands of Malayalees were inspired, influenced and ignited by his literary talents. His compassion towards creatures was beyond words. Out of the thousands, a few could reach a level he had dreamt of his disciples to be.
I now hear that sitting in the comfort zone of paradise, PVR softly and gently says: Sunil, you are doing so well and on the right track. Putting a smile on his face he adds My boy, I am proud of you!
© 2017 Sunil Kumar Kunnoth