Thomas Macaulay did a big favor to Indians when he articulated the British policy of educating the colonial people in western thought and ideals. It was meant to serve their purpose but it ended up doing a greater good for us. He famously said "We must do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern, a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, words and intellect."
Indians like Raja Rao Mohan Roy, Sarojini Naidu, Mulk Raj Anand gave a distinct Indian flavor to the Anglican literature for Indian consumption. The Anglo Indians and convent school teachers took this great legacy forward and one such person was Mrs.Hilda Edwards who passed away today. In essence this article is a tribute to her, for it was in her fine teaching that we learnt the nuances of the language and its transformative influence on our lives.
There are many International schools today, what with their fancy names, logos and flashy billboards. But the quality of teaching and the imparting of knowledge can’t hold a candle to the modest but brilliant class of old world teachers like Mrs.Edwards.
Traditionally attired in a Saree and large spectacles, Mrs.Edwards would punctually troop into the class with a text book clutched by the chest. She would quickly get down to lessons in a soft demeanor. She was patient in our fumbling attempts to get Wren & Martin right, many of her English lessons were interjected with questions on prepositions, conjunctions and so on. When errant boys misbehaved or created some ruckus in the class, her reaction would be to stop the lesson and a silence laced with a dead pan expression would be directed at the culprit. It was enough to convey the message without a harsh word or a caning. She encouraged us to ask questions and drew engagement on the subject.
She taught us English grammar the traditional way i.e., deductively which is presenting a rule followed by example drills (from general to particular). The pedagogical rules and methods have changed from passive to explorative learning now, but in the mid 80s that was the best way to get attention and engagement from the class and Mrs.Edwards exemplified it.
Sri Rajagopalachari once pointed out that English was the greatest gift of Goddess Saraswati to India. And we saw a helping hand of Mrs.Hilda Edwards in that …..R.I.P Teacher.