In kindergarten, I looked forward to going to class every day, excited to learn in our bright, colourful classroom. We played with crayons during breaks, occupying a vibrant make-believe world of our own.
My teachers, for the most part, were kind and loved kids, finding new ways to keep us engaged. After class, I was picked up from school by my parents or a nanny followed by a healthy dose of my favourite TV show at the time, “The Flintstones” and a well-deserved nap.
My dad, a doctor, got slightly delayed one day because he was tending to a patient which took longer than expected. I waited patiently, excited to spot our family car. A teacher stayed with me when she realized I was alone, allowing my four-year-old self to entertain her with tales from my life. Dad reached right after that and looked at us gratefully, relieved that I was in safe hands.
A couple of decades later, I can appreciate how thoughtful her gesture was. She let me take over the conversation, earnestly listening to everything I had to say. From her, I learned to be more thoughtful about what other people may need from me. Another teacher in the fourth grade, who adored me, never shied away from making me feel at ease. She raised my spirits even when I goofed up at a school event, forgetting a few dance steps and improvising on the spot. For her patience and unconditional love, I remain eternally grateful.
In the eighth grade, the English and French teacher taught me several things. One of the most poignant things he ever told us was this: “Once you’re out of school, life will hit you like a tight slap on your face.” He meant well. He explained his logic, talking about the unstable world outside the classroom and that it’s important to stay true to yourself, no matter what. Thank you, Mr.G, you were charismatic, charming and a solid mentor. When he met my mother, he insisted that I was meant to be a writer. And it turns out, he could read me well.
In my undergraduate years, my writing professor pushed us to go beyond our comfort zones and identify our individual strengths. She would critique my writing like no else, motivating me to embrace my thoughts no matter how convoluted they felt. When I left India to study abroad, I left behind a box of chocolates and a long note for the woman who inspired me everyday for three years. Thank you, professor.
In grad school, two of my journalism professors went on a charity rally to Mongolia, armed with a van and plenty of enthusiasm. They covered over 14,000 kilometers, getting over several hurdles including relying on strangers to tow their vehicle after it broke down. They gave us a glimpse of their adventures after the holidays in fancy hats and taught an important lesson: stay unconventional and go off the beaten track. It’s usually fun, unpredictable and worth it.