6:45am

Wed September 4, 2013
Dispatches from Kolkata for 9/4

Teacher's Day

September 5th is always Teachers Day in India. That means no studies, little song-and-dance programs in classrooms and  gifts of sweets for teachers.

My old teacher and school prefect Father Camille Bouche would have found little favour with today’s parents.  A pink-faced Jesuit priest from Luxembourg he spoke English with a heavy Gallic accent. He smoked incessantly, stubbing out his cigarette as he walked into class, sometimes dropping ash down our collars. He used his cane liberally.

If he was in charge now, someone would have surely been raising a stink about the chain-smoking, ash-scattering, cane-strumming foreign priest. 

 

His job was to fashion us out of mud and bruised grass and send us out into the world. And if any of his old boys, perhaps a businessman now or a colonel came back to visit, they would find him exactly where they left him – in his little room, his face shiny with sweat, in a worn singlet and trousers, his cassock hanging on a hook on the wall.