Pratima Apte recalls the most influential teachers and mentors who have impacted her English language skills since childhood through youth.
Lord Ganpati, in his innate wisdom, just encircled his parents, Lord Shiva and Mata Parvati, when asked to encircle the universe, as they constituted his universe!
I salute the Lord of Learning and Ma Saraswati, for educating me, as much as I could absorb in my capacity, and continuing to do so!
My first exposure to the English language began with the nursery rhyme ‘Sing mother sing’.
My father had bought an amply illustrated Nursery Rhymes book and taught me the lyrics of these nursery songs. My mother too used to listen, as she was keen to be able to converse with my future teachers, in English. She had studied in the Marathi medium in her school and was keen to gather more confidence while communicating in the English language. I picked up fast, and then my father taught me the alphabets and the numbers.
Moving on from my first mentors at home, I would like to specially mention the teachers of my school as my most valuable mentors who shaped my academic life and my persona.
My first teacher at the Sacred Heart Convent School, Jamshedpur, was Sister Maria. I loved her sweet, melodious voice. She was soft-spoken and very patient with us. My cursive handwriting improved under her tutelage! The strict school diktat, of speaking the Queen’s English in school, did help us to practise speaking grammatically correct English.
After a double promotion, my most influential mentor was Miss Philomena Fernandes. I still write a distinctive P just like her. She was quite instrumental in smoothening the ‘burrs’ of our mother tongues, which invariably seeped in, when we conversed in English. Like for example, the word ‘love’. It sounded anything from low, laav, lub,luh, luv as in LuvKush, Lord Raam’s sons! Slowly, we improved our diction and pronunciation, graduating from our native accents and amateurish style of speaking in English and acquired the desired proficiency in the language.
The hymns and songs sung during our everyday Assembly sessions honed my grasp of the language, as also the happy hours spent in the huge, well-stocked school library.
In college, Ms Rati Bartholomew, mother of world famous photographer, Pablo Bartholomew, taught us to appreciate the romantic poet, John Donne. Her sharp wit and naughty humour enlivened her lectures. Ms Kalyani Dutta, Miss Thomas, all have had a deep impact on my psyche, and molded me as a person, too.
Later, Sujata Sabnis and Vinita Deshmukh of the Indian Express, Pune, told me I could write! Indian Express published a number of my articles and stories, some twenty years back. Those cuttings fell prey to termites and my writing stopped as email was favoured over the typewritten manuscripts. But the written world continues to be my first love, and will remain so, for years to come, and I express my deepest gratitude to my English language mentors for that.
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