Boarding schools can be the foundation for teaching life skills and values
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ROSE BY ANY NAME WOULD LIKE SWEET
I have a special place in my heart for the teachers at my boarding school where I spent six
formative years of life. These “foster parents” spent most of their time with us, playing games
with us, coached those who were weak in their studies and comforted those in distress by displaying
abundant care and compassion in a “home away from home”. They taught us the intricacies of
life and showed us where to look, leaving it up to us to decide what to see.
It takes a big heart to help shape little minds. Many of these enduring legends in
school history had spent much of their lives teaching, sometimes two generations of
same family. They are the ones who channeled our teenage energy in a constructive and
gave us the necessary impetus for global development. Absolutely firm on
aberrant behavior, they carried a strong belief in the adage “spare the rod and spoil the
child”. We dreaded their lashes or licks for our youthful misdeeds.
But one area where they failed to overpower us was our talent for coining their nicknames.
There was a tinge of fun in this baptism which was based on a few
attributes, idiosyncrasies or the past they carried. The assistant manager was ‘Muchoo’ for
sporting a huge walrus moustache, while ‘Eggie’ was our bald English teacher. Our
The householder was rumored to have been a pastor before and was called “Popa”, while his wife who
never failed to conceive after a few miscarriages became ‘Pregie’.
In due time, real names were forgotten while nicknames flourished. Dr. Gupta, our
Hindi teacher known to be a miser in giving grades, was called ‘Chappu’, and all
teacher with surname Gupta who joined the school in later years would automatically inherit
this nickname. Another teacher, whose initials ‘HD’ sounded more like ‘UD’ became ‘Yoody’.
Some names have been contracted for convenience; hence Aboo, Willy, Mukho or Solly
represented Abraham, Williams, Mukherjee and Solomon respectively.
My two children studied in the same school and I was happy to learn that the tradition of
The nicknames have been maintained. ‘Heady’ the director was assisted by ‘Tau’ his main master.
A former army officer, remained “Major” even after her retirement. The Dean being short of
the size was ‘Githha’ and his female teacher would automatically be ‘Githee’. ‘Bandaa’ continues
be the instructor of the group and the doctor remains ‘Dockey’ regardless of the holder of these
These nicknames may have had a derogatory connotation when they were invented, but gradually,
affection and warmth replaced any derision they might have borne. In school meetings, we
invariably recall our immature exploits that angered our teachers; disastrous then but
only a source of amusement now. There are laughter as well as watery eyes when their little
the shortcomings are told.
“What’s in a name? What we call a rose by any other name would smell like
sweet”. The scent of these ‘Roses’ is still fresh in our minds even though many of them
have transcended to the next world. Having gained a fair measure of immortality, their
fingerprints refuse to disappear from the lives they have touched.
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