G is for Grammar Teachers

I have been asked this question a lot (not really): Why do you write? When we started this blog, and even before it, I came across people who all have their reasons. A father writes about Autism acceptance because he wants his son to grow in a world where he is not frowned upon. Another mother writes her young son and daughter online notes, which they can read when they grow up. Yet another writes because he has something on his mind, and Twitter and Facebook don’t cut it anymore (they never did).Β  I don’t have any of those reasons. Then, why do I find words, why do I construct sentences, why do I create stories? Hitler in Mein Kampf wrote: “A lot less people are won over by the written word, than they are by the spoken one”. Then why do I persist in one of the most difficult arts?

I do it, for two simple reasons:

  1. I like it.
  2. I am good at it.

Both of these can be credited to various ladies in my life; who took upon themselves to teach me English, proper Grammar Nazi-like (I call myself a Grammar Jedi) English. When you are young ( I mean innocent childish young… I am still very young), you seem to enjoy everything Arts, Maths, Science, History. Also as a child, you always have your favorite teachers, mine in-variably were the ones who taught English. And they loved me back. I was a straight arrow, had a dimpled smile, and loved to read books, I mean I was a dream boat of a student if there ever was one. They showed and taught me the lure and grace of the spoken/written word. They taught me the secret art of grammar, and schooled me in the way of the Grammar Jedi.

A T shirt with the quote "I Love My Grammar Teacher"
Source: alcollegeenglish.org

The very first memory I have of my interaction with my “English teacher” was when I mixed up genders (used a he instead of a she) while making a sentence. The class laughed, and so did she, but I don’t remember being embarrassed (perhaps I thought I had made a good joke). But I remember her telling us that there is ‘a he in every her’. The class giggled again, this time I joined in. She smiled back at me and said, “See, it isn’t that hard.”

Flash forward a few years, and I am a teenager, exploring the world as much through books as through the internet. Our English teaching duties were handed over to a beautiful Bengali teacher, who went by the name of Sanjukta Banerjee. As most Bengalis are, she was well versed in literature. This was also the time when we were moving on from short Ruskin Bond stories to Shakespeare’s plays and Wordsworth poems. One day she was discussing with us Milton’s Paradise Lost (believe me that book was still way over our head). I don’t know what led to the discussion, but I remember what she said

“When you read Paradise Lost, you realize how much Milton wanted this to be about Lucifer. Almost right through the book, he takes Lucifer’s side, raising him to a level where he becomes a worthy opponent to god himself. Then he realizes what he has done, and might get into trouble for what he is doing, and then brings him down.”

While most of what she said didn’t make sense, the way she said it made an impression. I felt the same goosebumps when I read, I am vengeance, I am the night, I am Batman”. I could almost see Marc Anthony when he said, “Friends, Roman, Countrymen… I come to bury Ceaser, not to praise him.”. I knew now, that it was not uncommon to feel like this, instead it was actually very natural when you were doing something you loved.

TShirt with the quote "English Teachers are always right"
Source: http://www.zazzle.com

During my final two years as a school going kid, I had 2 teachers who shared English teaching duties. Rajita Thapa, was a young 25 something teacher, who inspired us to pick “Write a Story” from the Composition section, instead of writing according to cues. She taught me that to think fantastical and big you didn’t need 800 pages. She taught me to write what I like instead of writing what gave me marks. In an atmosphere where it was imperative that I did what made profit, she taught me to do something which I liked.

The other one is a little more special. Mrs. Saraswat was a slim, convent schooled, hearty, white-haired lady who just happened to be my first valentine (that’s a story for another day). One day when I asked her how did it matter if I used your instead of you’re, and she said

“Dear boy, very soon, you are going to be writing poems. Poems for your friends, for your girlfriends.”, she paused and smiled coyly at the red cheeked boy. “At that time.”, she continued, “You would realize, that finding the right word is important, but it’s the right comma, the right full-stop and the right apostrophe which makes all the difference. People like pretty words, but they love perfect ones.”

Of course in between all this, I learned a lot of tangible things too. But these little pearls of wisdom helped me become what I am today. I try to write and create a world, I try to write what I want to write, and I try to write it as it should be written. But most importantly I write it because even if I make mistakes, I am not embarrassed by them.

While this might not be your exact tale, I am sure a lot of you can relate (if you had the patience to read through all of that). So if this made you think of your English teacher, or any other teacher for that matter, tell me how they touched and changed your life.

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29 thoughts on “G is for Grammar Teachers

  1. Awwww… I could relate to every sentence, every word… probably every alphabet you wrote.
    My favourite teachers have always been English teachers, my favourite books have been English, and they say my greatest strength is my English.
    This is a beautiful post and I feel I should thank you for this post.

    Bhavya
    AtoZ Challenge
    Just Another Blog

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    • Just glad you could feel the emotions Bhavya. Teachers play an important role in a child’s life, and I have always found that most people who love to write have had good English teachers.

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      • surprisingly I don’t recall anyone in particular- is it bad ? Infact i remember those who gave me a shaky start. But, i really do appreciate the role of teachers- my little one who is 4 years old has an excellent set of teachers and I can that he has bloomed.

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      • Not bad at all. We all have our moments don’t we. Best of luck with your little one, I am glad he has a set of teachers who are moulding him.

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  2. Wonderful post.. I have always loved my English Teachers.. and i was lucky for a wonderful set through my entire school life… ! I genuinely believe I am where I am because of only them !!! Actually I need to do a post on similar lines !!!

    First time here and found a post that I can so easily relate with !

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    • Yes English teachers have a way with words. Don’t they. I am glad you found something you liked. Look around maybe you find some more.
      -Ayush.

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  3. I write precisely for those reasons and many more . I love English language with its countless little quirks and yes even today sometimes the apostrophes confuse and confound me , but as your English teacher says , writing is not for pretty words , but also for perfect words . To me perhaps writing is as much about learning and UN-learning the words as it is about discovering of self πŸ™‚

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    • Its the things that you don’t like, which you stop learning. The things you like, you keep on improving in/on them.

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  4. I remember the first real story I wrote in third grade. My teacher, Mrs. Francis, had each of us stand up and read them to the class. Everyone was up there for all of 30 seconds, but mine was so long, with its beginning, middle, and end, that I took what seemed like 5 minutes.
    My favorite teachers were not the easiest, but the ones who cared the most and expected the best from me. It sounds like you had some wonderful teachers.

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    • I am glad that it does…. I think of myself of as a quick learner..but these awesome teachers of mine, made me like learning stuff…
      -Ayush

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  5. May the Force be with you!

    As the daughter (and granddaughter) of an English teached I can tell you straight away that it leaves you wishing you could scatter commmas and full stops like confetti, just so you can. Liked the nostalgia . Love your site. Cheers!

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    • Wow…your family must hate the Internet and their English. We are glad you loved the post and the site…and we hope you keep coming back for more…we would love to have you.

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  6. “People like pretty words, but they love perfect ones.” Lovely! And, I hate it when people write ‘your’ instead of ‘you’re’ and ‘so fun!’, and a host of other phrases that make no sense! My best English teachers were my books!

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    • Finally…someone gets the punchline…in those words…What was your favorite book growing up..Mine was Julius Ceaser (not really a book I know) and Hound Of Baskervilles.

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  7. Hello Ayush/Akhil,
    The American is back. I can’t help but notice that most of your comments now seem to be from non-native-English speakers and they may not understand all the references in your post, but I did. I thought the air was cleared and now this (aside from the Nazi comment):

    Hitler in Mein Kampf wrote: β€œA lot less people are won over by the written word, than they are by the spoken one”.

    None of this is funny or a joke. Do you know what Hitler was referring to (“winning people over”) and why would you read such a horrid book and then quote from it? Is G for German or Gestapo? Could you not find a better example/quote to state your point? Hitler was very good at written propaganda as there was little other media at the time (1930s primarily), and you can go visit my blog to see the consequence of that. Proof of the power of persuasion by Hitler and the Nazi Party’s written word–before the time of television/internet:

    Sources:
    http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/newspapers_nazi_germany.htm
    http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005274
    http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005151 (1st paragraph related to language)

    As if things weren’t bad enough, I just had to add a disclosure to my semi-shutdown blog due to the anti-Semite harassing me and it starts with a quote from GANDHI–one of yours and a great man of peace. Go read it if you wish–it’s been up for days now. Was I reading about Gandhi in the ’80s while you were reading Mein Kampf–quite aware you were not born? I don’t make rude inferences to Indians on my blog or those who dislike Indians or any other ethnicity. They shoot Sikhs here in the US as they think they are Muslims, not that I have a problem with tolerant Muslims, either, as my only true friend here is Muslim.

    Really not understanding this and thinking again that it IS time for me to go. If you choose to write in this matter, then expect comments from those who don’t care for it (putting it nicely) and who are not afraid to tell you so. Wtf? See you around WP.
    A

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    • Hey Alisa, Ayush here…
      I almost went through half of your comment, thinking it was a compliment. Before realizing that I had touched a nerve somewhere.
      Mentioning Hitler or even quoting him, does not make me a Nazi or condone his practices. In fact the reason for quoting was to stress upon how difficult it is to express yourself with the written word instead of the spoken one.
      Yes, I have read ‘Mein Kampf’, but I have also read ‘My Experiments With Truth’ by MK Gandhi (the guy you mentioned in your comment), I have also read ‘The Da Vinci Code’ which is considered blasphemous in most countries.
      We try to be responsible, and unhurtful while writing. Having said that, I don’t think I have written anything which warrants apologies or a justification. But just as I have every right to write, you have every right to feel almost anything you want. The world is already full of hardliners, I believe in Tolerance.
      I respect your opinion, we would hate to loose you, and would love for you to stay. But this blog is about our point of view and not yours, and both of us are free to express it.

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  8. I’m not sure what you thought was a compliment? Those were my comments to posts before this week. Good to know where you stand and you are too young to be a Nazi, but a Nazi sympathizer is another story and there is no way to justify this. As you/Akhil (?) proclaimed that you’d hate to lose me over what has occurred, the least you could do is not write something inflammatory at this moment. Really? What a shame! If you were being attacked for being Indian, I wouldn’t post anything about how many Americans hate Indians due to outsourcing, etc. Quite true–many here hate your people. I am not one, of course, and my own cousin is Indian. I have no idea why you would do this and don’t care anymore. I strongly suspect you are not who you appear to be on WP.

    I have removed you from my bookmarks and ask that you STOP following my blog. I found who my true friends were through this ordeal. What a shame and I’ve never met any Indians like this before. If you are 2 people, I so wish I had just stuck with Akhil, but this is not a safe place for me–and you have your following now. Rather Jim Jones-esque, but your thing. What a payback for supporting your blog from the beginning when no one was around. I do hope you get wiser when you are closer to my age.

    By all means you can write what you want and spread more hate, but you are anything but tolerant (I prefer “accepting”)-living in a relatively homogeneous country is probably the root cause of that. The US is extremely diverse and you would get much worse for writing this way over here. For someone who professes to be so educated, you do not sound like it in all honesty. Wow–I can’t believe I gave this blog a 2nd chance or that you would ever be a problem. Quite taken aback. Lesson learned for good.
    A

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    • Akhil has already mentioned that you are the closest thing we have to being a friend on the internet, and I agree with him.
      I am not your favorite person, and I can live with that, follow just Akhil by all means.
      Before you do that though just take a look at your most recent comments, you have been angry, because someone on the internet, made some unruly comments on your blog, just think what you have been doing for the past couple of days.
      I believe in “Run still, Run deep”, and I won’t tell you what to like, what to say and what not to.
      Hope you make the decisions which make you happy (if you are still reading this comment)
      -Ayush

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  9. Aren’t you having fun with this! I haven’t followed any of your comments–this came via my notifications, which I will probably block with the rest of it. No one made a comment on my blog initially and I have not been mad all week-quite a presumption! I am moderating as a precaution and have no clue as to why you are. This began with a post about me that I did nothing to cause and which I can and may take up with WP, as it is DEFAMATION and WP is in America and we like to sue in the US. Let Akhil speak for himself, but alas, you are one and the same I presume, so a moot point. If he (?) allows you to speak for him and blog with him, he is no friend of mine. That is a damn shame! As far as being the closest thing to a real friend on here–that is laughable at this point. I don’t let friends treat me this way.

    FYI, I have other blogger friends (shocking) and commented on a dozen or so posts this week and no one has received comments like you have. Why? Because they don’t say offensive things, not that you find anything you write/do offensive. Perhaps you should do some soul searching through your blog, Ayush, rather than giving unsolicited advice to those who are nearly twice your age and don’t need it from a 20-year-old (close enough) who hasn’t lived life yet. You are offensive and rubbing salt in my wounds, and forget about including me in that ridiculous hoax that made people look like fools and discredited my post. I HAD moved on by writing my post about what occurred, which you seem to enjoy mocking, and then this crap with your blog. This original person is no longer an issue–you are! I presume this back-and-forth is all part of your funny joke, so this is my final reply. Furthermore, you do not know me, although I am a brutally honest writer. I am someone’s best friend or worst enemy–so don’t make assumptions about my present state-of-mind.

    Perhaps you are not used to a woman who speaks her mind? I have traveled and seen many cultures vastly different from my own and Indians in the US are quite Americanized… And very respectful and decent people. This is your issue, not mine. If you wish to write, expect critiques–I have that in my disclosure, which you will probably copy now, as well. If people find something offensive, I encourage them to comment and have already had good discourse with one reader as she didn’t understand something. I made a valid point regarding that quote of yours based on fact (all those sources) and you just played defense. Not worth my time. I also recall asking you to stop following me, which I see you did not, btw. Odd.

    You are right about one thing–I don’t like you. I think you are a spoiled, pompous ass–childlike and presumably from an upper caste in your society who is an elitist and better than everyone in your mind. Good for you! Go read more Mein Kampf and then use it as toilet paper when the urge strikes–would so like to reword that but prefer a G-rating. Hitler would have sent you to the gas chamber just like every other non-Aryan. Do you chat on Aryan Brotherhood forums, as well? Strange–the brown-skinned Indian who stays abreast of the Third Reich. Maybe you just swapped out your time zone? I may be in the Maldives by morning–who knows?

    Bye-bye–I have to check on my blogger friend in the Caribbean who just had a corneal transplant 2 weeks ago as it’s morning there. OMG–people have real problems outside of Shangri-La! I do not need a reply as you are repulsive and didn’t ask for this one and will ignore all future comments. Again, enjoy the rebirth of Jonestown and add some sugar to that grape drink this time, dammit! Oh, the work of the lunatics you admire!

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    • Hi Alisa,

      We have stopped following your blog. Thank you for your continuous support since the beginning! Good luck for your future.

      Akhil.

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  10. Earlier I use to ponder about this weird notion: – ” Is falling in love with a language normal or is it just an anomalous psychology that I have somehow cultured ? ”
    But this particular article makes me believe that I am perfectly “normal” πŸ˜€
    If I have to answer “what makes me write” then it is the liberation, solace and joy that the process gifts me. Writing turns me into a sculptor which a mad desire to carve each line with venerate beauty.

    Like

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