Ever since I got my first posting in a school as a Science Teacher, I had been sad on several grounds. One reason of my sadness was nonpayment of my salaries without any genuine obstacle. Once I had overheard the Principal of the school talking to a senior teacher, in confidence -
"you see, he has just joined here. He is very young. If everything goes smoothly- take for example the payment of his salaries- if he recieves his salaries easily, or if he is given leaves simply on an application , he will soon become unruly, indisciplined and impolite. Why then will he come back to us?".
I understood the philosophy behind the Principal's behaviour towards me. Thus, I had to suffer for six long months. Finally, a thought had struck to my mind and I had inclined to solve the problem on my own by posting a request letter to the director of education. My over action left a persistant dislike for me from the side of the Principal and his cabinet.
The second ground of my sadness at my work place had been the traffic of students outside their classes at the end of each period, and I had to feel mental tiredness regularly while going upstairs facing the crowd of students coming down for water and toilet facilities. I could not solve this problem inspite of crying on students and complaining to my seniors who used to looked towards me as if they looked towards a man of very low knowledge and spirit.
The third reason of my sadness had been related to my fellow teachers and their activities. I used to see a number of classes running without teachers in the school, though the teachers concerning different periods in different classes remained present in the Principal's chamber talking or discussing on some important issues pertaining to some or the other national or international interest. Some teachers used to enter into their classrooms and prescribe some classworks that were not understood by students. However, the students dared not ask for clarifications. For example, there was a teacher of Mathematics who used to prescribe classworks to his students like this - " Draw Triangles", and after directing for the important classwork he came out of the class and stood in the verandah examining the traffic down on the road. A Hindi Teacher used to prescribe classworks to his students like this - " Write an Essay". These incidents pained me severely, usually when I went on bed and started trying to sleep.
The Principal retired one day and one of our seniors, say the seniormost teacher of the school was given the post of the Principal- in- charge. He planned for a number of reforms and implemented some of them. Two teachers who were never seen taking a class started going to classrooms, as I saw them. I became a little comfortable.
One reason kept me still sad needs some explanation here, so allow me to go in some detail about it.
There was not a single herb shrub or tree in the campus of the school where I served. Some grass dared to grow in side areas close to the boundary line. I talked to the Principal that some plants could be there along the western boundary as a part of the programme of greening the school- campus.
The Principal said, "I have always advised you not to become over active. It is not good for your career here. Some teachers will soon become jealous of you, and will start pulling your leg. However, if you are ready to face the consequences you may employ some of the children of the Environmental Club that you have recently organised, and plant some trees that may have least canopy on their adulthood. You see, the campus of this school is very small, and we don't have sufficient area to plant shady trees here."
" Okay Sir" - I said happily.
In the interval, I approached three of my students namely, Sanjeet kumar Sahu( presently a Chartered Accountant), Prem Kumar and Sachin ( now both engineers), to discuss the matter with them. They were taking lunch but all the three stood up with their lunch boxes to hear me.
The next day happened to be the "World Environment Day" the 5th June.We four went to a private nursery of plants and purchased some plants of Eucalyptus, and Drooping Ashoka as per the suggestion of the nursery owner, brought them to the school and planted all of them along the boundary side and in the back yard. It was raining lightly, and the Principal and most of the teachers were busy in the examination for " Probationary Officers" for any bank.The government schools used to remain centres of some examinations of the like categories on Sudays or sometimes on working days also, that were managed by suspending all the classes. The other day, I called a meeting of the members of the Environment Club and assigned duties of taking care and irrigating those plants to students. Each of the plant was adopted by a group of two students and each group was responsible for taking care of its plant, till the group was to remain on the rolls of the school.
Days passed one by one. And in this way, six years passed. All the plants were now growing into trees. I had a routine duty of examing those trees soon after my arrival at school on the routine duty.But one day I was shocked to read in a news paper that I was transfered to a new school located at a distance of about seventy kilometers in the neighbouring district. I had to go.
I contacted one of my co- workers Mr. Dubey and requested him to manage the affairs of caring and watering those plants in my absence. I also requested to the temporary shop keepers or Thela Walas who used to sell different things to children out side the school gate during intervals, and who used to take water from school source, to irrigate those plants with whatever water remained in their pots while they needed to shift their shops elsewhere after four in the evening.
I joined my new school. All the children, as they always remain, were good and hungry - hungry of knowledge besides hungry of food. I remained there for six years. But the love of trees we had planted in the school, and my discontinued research work that I was doing there, pinched me all the time. Sometimes, I had to come to my old city for departmental works, and for contacting my research supervisor, and it was during those occassions that I got chances of visiting my plants( now trees).
I applied for my transfer to any of the school of the city where my parent school was located, so that I might continue and finish my research work in Phytopathology. My friends told me that my transfer was not possible due to some legal bindings that I need not explain here. I did not care for their statements, met the Education Secretay and requested him personally giving all the reasons I had already explained in my application. Opening my file the officer said, "In which school do you want to be posted?"
"Any school in the city area, Sir".
"Why only in the city area?" - He asked.
"Because I need University to continue my research work which is pending in the midway, Sir" - I answered.
"Very good and genuine reason for a teacher. Now go to the school near the University."
The officer wrote something on my application in the file and handed it over to the clerk who had just came and stood besides him with some paper. The second day, I got my trnsfer order to join in the same school from where I was transfered - my parent school.
The next day, I prepared a joining letter, kept it in a file with my transfer order and went directly to the principal of the school. This time, the Principal was a lady. People told me that she had transformed the school through her excellent administrative and managerial abilities, and now the school ranked first among the government schools in the state. She allowed me to join, framed a time- table for me and asked me to work accordingly. She used to inspect my classes when I taught my students, and took reports from students during the meetings of Class Monitors. Soon she became impressed with my performance, and it started being reflected from her behaviour.
Every day, after the school closed, I used to approached trees and observe them carefully. One day I incidently saw a humming bird entering into the space left between the branchlets and the trunk of one of the drooping Ashoka tree. When I went closer and saw upward peeping through the space between branchlets and the trunk, I could see its nest. A number of crows had built their nests on the peripheral branches of the Eucalyptus trees. Some Mynas had built their ugly nests on the branches of these trees with small pieces of clothes or ropes hanging downwards. An eagle had put a number of sticks on the top most fork of one Eucalyptus tree where it used to sit there for some times. I could not see whether there were eggs or not. A red tailed bird used to visit the trees singing loudly every evening around three P.M. All these scenes were matters of gret pleasure for me. The trees had given shelters to a number of birds in the midst of the city where no bird could dare to land earlier.
"Sir, it is five P.M. now. You see we come early in the morning everyday, and now we should go home"- said one of the peons one day. I used to forget the time every day when I went to trees. The peon had to lock the gate, and so it was my sacred duty to go out.
One day, the Principal while walking in the school campus called me through one of the peopns of the school and I went to her guessing about everything see could ask me. She was in a philosophical mood.
The Principal said to me, " Dr. Mishra, you see a teacher has great responsibilities towards his students, towards his school, towards his fellow teachers, towards the society he belongs, towards the nation on the whole ... and yes, towads the environment he lives in. Am I right?"
"Yes, madam"- I said.
"Someone has told me that you have done a number of works outside the school, such as planting trees, caring for animals, organising public meetings for spreading awareness about problems in the local environment and writing columns on environmental issues for children. I have read your articles and features in the news papers. How could you manage those outside activities?" - She asked. I was not prepared to answer such a question.
"Through a local NGO and during holidays, Madam" -I explained.
"But all outside the school ... why don't you start some programmes inside the school, I mean for school children?" - she said.
" Yes, I will do madam" - I affirmed.
"Earlier, we had a very dynamic teacher ... Mr. Dubey. Now, he has been transfered to a distant place in a rural area. Look those trees. Mr. Dubey had planted those trees soon after he had joined in this school. I joined here when these had already been grown into trees. He had once told me that he had to put great efforts in planting and rearing them. I would have recommended his name for the President Award, had he been here for some longer period. An ideal teacher in deed" - the Principal said.
"Y e s , M a d a m" - I said.