I was in the eleventh standard. Hindi class was going on. As usual, our Hindi teacher, Chatwal Sir was sitting on the table instead of the chair, so that he could keep an eye on the activities of each and every student.
I used to sit in the third row, my preferred place. Manish, a student sitting next to me, was sleeping in the class. Sir made a gesture, typical of him, that meant I should slap Manish. But I simply ignored.
He called me, and when I got close to him, he slapped me and said,
“Did you understand?”
I nodded in agreement. Then he said,
“Okay, now go to your seat.”
I went back, but before taking my seat, I gave Manish a good slap. Manish was fully awake by then and enjoying the sequence of events. Chatwal Sir asked me angrily,
“What is this?”
I coolly replied,
“Sir, भूल चूक लेनी देनी (correction of the mistake).”
He laughed out loud and continued his lecture.
Chatwal sir was not one of the strict teachers. He would get angry if somebody did not listen to him. But he always used humour while teaching, and made his lectures lively and interactive.
His illustrations and interpretations, particularly of the couplets of Bihari, Rahim and Kabir, by adding a new meaning and a different dimension altogether, were quite impressive. This was precisely the reason why we all used to wait eagerly for his classes.
Actually he raised my interest in literature. Whether it was an essay competition or elocution, I would definitely participate, which impressed him a lot. For inter-college competitions, Sir used to take pride in guiding us personally, and under his leadership our college had won several competitions.
Chatwal Sir always used to think and do something new, out of box. He was aware that I was getting two or three write-ups published in the college magazine. He also noticed that I had a beautiful and calligraphic handwriting.
He called me and Siddharth the other day to the staff room and said,
“I want to bring out a hand-written magazine with the help of both of you. Are you ready?”
Then he explained how to go about it. He allotted the the job of writing to me, and Siddhartha, the painter of the college, was entrusted with the artwork. Siddhartha had a superlative talent in drawing sketches and caricatures as also in painting.
Sir also explained that the work had to be completed during the summer vacation, so that people would be pleasantly surprised to find this unique magazine after reopening of the college. As the exams were over, both of us used to visit his house to take his guidance on and often.
The name of my college magazine was “अरुणिमा or Arunima (the morning glow)” and he named this hand-written magazine “अणिमा or Anima (the subtlety)”. This was the maiden attempt in the history of college. The readers were mesmerized not only by the essence of the magazine’s artworks, but also by the innovative presentation.
Following this, I was made one of the three student editors of the college magazine. Even today, if I am able to read and write something, it is because his inspiration is with me.