When 'Madame Q' Speaks, You Listen...
Ms Pushpa and me, having tea together...
There is one teacher of mine whom I have always admired, and am very fond of. Her name is Ms Pushpa, and I have made references to her before in this blog. I have known her for the past 9 years, ever since I was a wee 13 year-old.
Behind Ms Pushpa’s back, a few students refered to her as Madame Q (MQ). It was a portmanteau of the names ‘M’ (the head of operations in the famed James Bond series), and of 'Q' (the ‘product specialist’ of the same series). Students often nickname their teachers, sometimes facetiously, but never in Ms Pushpa’s case…
Ms Pushpa said many things which I will always remember…
1) Of Treating People
“Treat people like you would want your mother to be treated. Because every person you meet, whether he sweeps the road, or collects rubbish from the street, is someone’s mother. He or she may be only a rubbish collector to you, but he or she is a daughter, father, son, sister, wife, friend, husband to someone”
2) Of Words
For a whole year, Ms Pushpa called me and my friends ‘names’ in class. I myself have been called everything from ‘pathetic’, ‘idiotic’, ‘weird’ to ‘individualistic’. Phrases like ‘never used brains’, ‘no brains’, ‘stoned’ and ‘cat got your tongue’ too has been made in reference to me…=)
It was only after one year that Ms Pushpa stopped calling us names, and one day she asked us if we knew why. We said no.
She said “Because you have all learned and you have all grown up. You have learned that no matter what someone else calls you, it doesn’t make you any less of the person that you are. Words can hurt, but at the end of the day, they’re just words”…
3) Of Being Damsels in Distress
Ms Pushpa was always known for her wit and sarcasm, and most pupils (except her Literature students who adored her) stayed far away from her.
One day, over lunch, she remarked (in response to one friend’s lament about her pancit’ed tyre): “Hello? I know you all very strong advocates of girl power and all. But next time your tyre goes flat, do yourself a favour and stand by the roadside and look pathetic. Somebody will change your tyre for you. Men can’t resist playing hero. You know that no matter what, you will eventually need help with the tyre anyway, so why get dirty in the first place? Just look pathetic, something you’ve all mastered to perfection anyway”.
She laughed, and we all did too...Lesson learnt!
4) Of Domestic Help
Ms Pushpa always maintained that maids and domestic help are there for one reason: They are there to help.
“Help, mind you. They are not there to do everything. Some of you are rich brats. Don’t think that makes you above menial work. Next time you see your maid doing the dishes, help her. She is there to lighten your work, not make you lazy bums. In future, when you have your own house, remember that a maid is there to help, not take over. Because if she then takes over your husband, don’t complain. You made it happen. She does everything that will otherwise help you build a relationship with your husband. So, why not sleep with him too?”
5) Of Falling In Love
Ms Pushpa said: “Falling in love doesn’t mean losing yourself. If any of you come and tell me you’d kill yourself over love and that your boyfriend’s life is more important than yours, than I’d tell you to go fly a kite. Being in love is never about losing yourself. It is for you to grow”.
6) Of Position in Life
“You are not below washing toilets”.
7) Of Life
“Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing." — Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 23-27)
“That’s life. It is short. What you make of it is yours to decide. But in the final analysis, all the ‘sound and fury’ (bombastic stuff) don’t mean anything”, Ms Pushpa said.
8) Of Happiness
“You don’t need to justify your happiness. A truly happy person never says ‘I am happy because…’. If you’re happy, you don’t owe anyone an explanation”.
Another gem from Ms Pushpa!
Whatever it is, Ms Pushpa goes down as one teacher I know who really did just that: She really taught...