If there is one thing I believe in more than the healing powers of a plate of nihari, it’s generalization. I, like many of my countrymen, like to observe people from a distance, deducing judgements about them by linking their behaviour, looks, attire with popular stereotypes about their religion, caste or gender.
The latest group of people to have fallen prey to my observational skills are teachers. Now, we have all encountered similarities between teachers who teach certain subjects, giving birth to the idea of teachers becoming the subject they teach. Below is a list of
Urdu: The easiest to recognize with their short height, stocky figure and floral-patterned clothing. Legend has it, if you stand outside any school in Pakistan and call out Salma, Khajista, Saima, it will be the Urdu teachers who come out shouting at you flinging their rolling pins or sewing paraphernalia, which they also bring to the school. Yes, they will come out shouting, they look for opportunities to do so. This anger is actually spawned by an existential crisis, of why they are the only ones who have to teach Urdu. It seems that the misfortune that has befallen Urdu in this country has undermined their importance, too. These women, and Urdu teachers are always females, like to see English as the reason for Urdu’s fall. So they like to bitch about English, English teachers and their characters. They live their lives with a plethora of regrets and frustrations, most of them pertaining to the English teacher, which they voice at the top of their lungs. With a half-knit sweater or a plate of cholay always in their hands, these are the most domesticated breed of teachers.
English: Again very easy to recognize, with an air of bewilderment about them. Are better-dressed than Urdu teachers, but really don’t know how to handle that trailing dupatta or those unstrapped sandals. These teachers like to smile a lot, a meaningless, Cheshire cat-grin pasted on their lips meant to convey kindness and concern, but instead radiates absent-mindedness. These teachers like to seem involved in their students’ progress, using words like ‘sweetheart’ and ‘honey’ to address their students. This, in the words of Miss Shaista, the Urdu teacher, ‘is merely a show, to display their alignment with the ‘Western’ method of interactive teaching and display their utter contempt for the Urdu teacher’s teaching.’
Mathematics: The worst-dressed specie of teachers. They can be seen in dark corridors and lonely lanes sporting an over-sized shirts, awkward, faded pants and polished black shoes. The characteristics of these teachers change as the grades progress. Up till grade 8, these are confident people, occasionally cracking jokes and basking in the attention bestowed upon them by students. But as time passes, their confidence withers, their disillusionment with life grows and their wardrobe gets even shabbier. It may be due to the realization that with their qualifications, they are doomed to teach Mathematics to an ungrateful, stupid generation for the rest of their lives. When they teach, they seem to be talking to someone outside the classroom, the perfect student who does not give them any trouble. These teachers long for the Result Day, where they can rejoice over their students’ failure.
History: These teachers are generally a bit more interesting than a bag of stale chips. They talk exclusively to themselves, smile benignly upon the students and could not care less about the subject they teach. It is very rare to find a well-read, informed history teacher. Such teachers are the awesome one, with a grip on the subject they teach and a sharp sense of humour.
I have had amazing teachers and teachers and the ones that I hated, from the core of my heart. We had one in grade 7 who called us ‘ugly creatures’ and threw marker pens at us. But then again, teachers are fully-grown, educated beings condemned to spend 8 hours of their day with a rowdy, puberty-stricken crowd of brats. So I guess, every teacher responds to his/her job in different ways. And teachers of certain subjects tend to react in certain ways. The parallels drawn between teachers and their subjects may not be very accurate, and they are not meant to be. They just provide a glimpse, a biased one, of the teachers that we all have encountered in our lives.