Lessons for Life

Teachers’ day is the day when we get the opportunity to gather the courage to simply take an extra step to give away a smile and wish the most dreaded teacher a happy teachers’ day and expect something really nice in return. This used to be a ‘once upon a time’ stunt of mine. As we really experience the impact of teachers in our lives we cannot but remain eternally grateful to what they have been to us. Parents are our first teachers who never get paid in cash but pay a price for what and how a child turns out to be. Over the years of bringing up a child parents also learn a lot of life’s lessons. In a way children also play the role of teachers.

I remember my school days at CSI Matriculation School, Nagercoil. Very much true, most students came from well-to-do families, still surnames or known names meant something to many. In that small town where doctors and people with private institutions were looked upon as Sultans by most people, few teachers just didn’t care to be partial. Few teachers encouraged, coaxed and applauded every child’s effort in class. Placing on record my loud gratitude to this handful happens many a time when I realize they did play their best parts.

University education, marriage, kids and demands that grew with every stage of their growth, diplomacy and goodwill within our families and towards extended families, jobs and promotions, easy and difficult neighbors, making new and cherishing old friends and for being the human we want ourselves to be, every day we learn and unlearn extending the process of teaching and learning beyond classrooms.

On the day set aside to remember and thank all teachers who shaped, moulded and sometimes baked us to make us what we are, I was very busy browsing my entire house for phone numbers and addresses. After I settled down with a sigh did I remember one person who I go to everyday, who had been admonishing, adoring and pampering me to push his hard-headed words of wisdom into my soft-head. It all adds up in a very interesting way, if I think about it. He could shield me too from people about to get unpleasantly angry or hurt me. When I’m angry he has only one piece of advice. That is to be quiet for which I need all my strength. ‘Grace under pressure’ is also his forte which he displays with his sharp retort and sarcastic wit when I try to explode with intermittent anger. Ordering me to be quiet and cool and helping me choose how I react to distinguish myself as a successful human being is his mission. Washing or drying clothes, chopping veggies or acquiring an artistic taste to mould a household, to nurse it into strength, lent it hospitality and charm are some industrious lessons for life that elicits his love for me commanding my love and respect in return. As his fondest, I’m intrigued by all hues of his qualities of humanity and the accompanying virtues.

Laying aside all that made me a better human and registering my gratitude in so many different ways to a few in my life, this is the day I realize what an awesome teacher, an uncle could be to a niece too adamant to unlearn. I’ve been learning a lot of life’s valuable lessons from Harry Sheridon and the roles enacted by him encompass a vast variety. He has acted as a merciful prince, a compliment giver, and the best task master with love aplenty. My life dramas are incomplete without him. His is a complementary role. If I play blockhead, he is a sanity saver; if I’m a writer, he is human search engine; if I’m an angry parent, he is a parent whisperer; if I’m an angry wife, he is an ardent counselor; if I’m a wise owl, he turns a prankster; if I throw a hissy fit, he is tough as nails; if I’m an orator, he adorns the role of Aristotle; come Christmas! he is the Santa; My bestie, my teacher, my Eudaimonia. Three in one is my uncle.

With him, I discovered that the gift of the gab is meant to cheer up, to make peace without taking sides and to love.  There are, however two reasons for me being a lifelong student of Harry Sheridon. The first is that like many other friends and relatives of his, I’m an admirer of his wit and wisdom. In my desperation to attain a witty disposition to my hero, I end up a ‘Venellope’ to Ralph. Why shouldn’t I believe that imitation confers greatness on the imitator!  Anyways, in time I hope to catch up with this teacher with the best sense of humor who teaches me to laugh through universe’s plans. Harry Sheridon…it’s just God showing off. “Look at what I’m capable of”.

The second reason has to do with how he changes my world dramatically with his unlimited knowledge of what goes through my head and heart. At times when I want to leap off the edge like a lemming and can’t remember holy words to change my mood on time, having someone beside who not only makes a gallant attempt at humor but makes me believe that God put two funny bones in me helps. Any time things get too intense or out of hand in a way that the highest academic degree I managed to acquire looks invalid, Sheridon makes sure that my funny bones itch and lighten me up. Don’t worry be happy is not only the lesson he teaches. It’s a life code, no less that he preaches in different ways at different times in different tones highly characteristic of his own milieu. I love to carry his tradition forward till it becomes a powerful brand at least in and around my small territory.

Regaling me with stories of his childhood, adolescent days, his association with Dr. Abdul Kalam and how and why he chose to be someone at some point of time was all meant to convey something worthy; to evolve bigger and better for the larger good, live life by the rules and neither judge nor cheat anyone not even civic and public institutions. Don’t be just courteous be courtesy personified is his genuine take on life. Courtesy is his chief excellence not only with humans but with birds, animals and plants too. What else can we expect from Dr. Kalam’s Man Friday!

Quitting as sub editor from a renowned national daily didn’t seem like a big mistake. Sheridon penance me for it almost every day by making me think hard, put thoughts in words and see my name in print. An active reaction to circumstances and not a passive acceptance and “This is my fate” groan is what he expects of me almost every day. .  Being accountable to him is like living life in a Gurukul. It feels as though his reprimands and aphorisms are drilled into me earlier than I actually began to realize. Moral lessons from my mother remains etched in my heart equipping me with response options after my acquaintance with Harry Sheridon.

What binds me to Sheridon will stand the test of all times. Of this I’m sure, my tryst with unlearnt lessons notwithstanding.

DR. ELSA LYCIAS JOEL can be reached at elsalyciasjoel@gmail.com