Our lives are shaped by our environment. Our environment consists of both animate and inanimate. Animate environment has people, animals and plants. All these have had their influence on us and among the many people who did have a positive influence on me, the earliest one was Mr Ananth Rao.
Ananth Rao was my Primary/middle school teacher. It was a school located in a semi urban cum rural area. He taught Mathematics and English to a class of forty children of varying background, mostly poor and middle class with a few rich. Those days there were no private schools and everyone went to these state run schools. The teachers did not bother us much and occasionally when things went out of control, however, they made liberal use of the cane.
Ananth rao rarely used the cane. His teaching methods were revolutionary [I realize it now]. His teaching of arithmetic was by using examples. He would not put 8-4= 4 on the black board. He would make eight of us stand and make the rest of us count loudly the number. Then he would ask four of us to come and sit down. Then he would ask the class to count the remaining. That would be a lesson in subtraction.
Though the spoken language in that area was Kannada, Ananth rao spoke only English when he took English language class. He made all of us do the same. He would sit and correct each of us. Sometimes it would take the whole hour to correct a simple sentence but it would stay put in our minds. That was my first lesson in spoken English. It was also then I realized that speaking good English had nothing to do with writing good English.
He had another endearing habit. He would invite a few of us to his home few kms away from school. Some of us would go there after the evening game [unorganized in open fields] more to eat the goodies his wife made rather to learn. That was in the beginning. Later we got hooked to Ananth Rao’s other activities. He would keep us spell bound with stories .I had my introduction to Dickens, Hardy, Shelly, Keats, Wodehouse and Shakespeare there at his home. My interest in Hindustani classical music too had its origins there. Mr Rao had the sense to appreciate the beauty of nature and he would take us out to witness a rainbow or to see a flowering creeper next to his wall. Thus he sowed the seeds of interest in natural history, music and appreciation of colors [became an interest in painting later]
How did a primary school teacher acquire so much knowledge and interest in various fields? It is because he wasted no time and took pleasure in perusing his hobbies and more than anything else, took pleasure in introducing these to us children. He did this for the sake of satisfaction and joy and not for fame or popularity.
Sadly, despite his best efforts, he could not get me to take interest in mathematics and many times he called me muttala because of my inability to come up to his expectations of mathematical expertise. muttala is kannada version of mutt!.
But his efforts did not entirely go waste. My daughter excelled in maths and had Mr. Rao been alive he would certainly been happy.