Didn’t do Homework? #MurgaBano

The boisterous boys’ class would go pin drop silent at his approaching footsteps. He’s six feet tall and invariably dressed in spotless white Dhoti and Kurta. His broad forehead and piercing eyes made him look grave if not formidable.

Everyone in the School was scared, I was no exception, but no one disliked him. He’s our Languages teacher for Telugu and Sanskrit for 10th Grade.

He spoke less and sang more in the class – Sanskrit Slokas and Telugu poems related to the captivating tales from Mahabharata, Ramayan and the works of Kalidas and Bhavbhuti.

We stayed mesmerized at his musical inflection and his simple but superb narrative at the end of each lesson that invariably invoked discipline, good conduct and morality in life.

Years later when I joined financial services, I would know what morality in Life Insurance truly meant.

Our teacher was a stickler for compliance,  far harsher than perhaps IRDAI. Managing renegade 10th grade boys possibly is tougher than disciplining delinquent insurance sales people. The measure of mischief was larger in our class than in the markets now.

How did our teacher manage it? Simple, the trending penalty was Murga bano. Of course, he never punished us unless we truly earned it.

Not doing the homework properly was the leading reason to tempt his temper. He would unremittingly and unhurriedly make everyone adopt murga postures.

Homework was important, he would claim – to reinforce one’s learning and to go beyond what’s been taught in the class.

How many of us are doing our “homework” properly now?

Well, we’re out of the class, but thick into the chaos of real world. Doing homework, especially in financial matters is sine quo non.

Life is full of awful surprises; joblessness, disease, death, divorce and bankruptcy of the mind or the wallet. Most of them happen because we didn’t do our homework properly.

In the last semester of 10th Class, our teacher was rushing through the advanced grammar and literary formats of Telugu poetry. Not many could cope with it.

I look back at the day he gave us the largest homework assignment; mastering nearly the 32 grammatical structures of Telugu Literature.

Next day he calmly asked how many we did learn. Boys would be boys. They would brag about things they didn’t know. What followed next would make a Nazi look modest. He did not mind us failing but wouldn’t stand our idle boast.

When he asked us to recite what we learnt, one after one, the whole class gasped for breath in recalling the tongue twisting Telugu grammatical notes. Even the class topper failed. And down they went on their knees replicating Rooster like positions.

I was the last one. He asked with a sneer whether I would confess that I failed my homework and receive lesser sentence. I looked up in his eye and reaffirmed that I did my assignment. So the test began.

Verse after verse, slowly but surely I recited – 32 of them, not a single stumble in the stunned Class. Pity there are no girls in our Class. Otherwise, I’d have been an instant hero.

Many years later, I would meet him in the University Library. He joined the University as Head of Sanskrit Department and I,  as student of Management. He would politely enquire about my studies and I would stand to attention just like a school boy.

When I reflect on that day in the class, how did I manage my homework when the entire Class failed? Did I mug up the whole night? No, actually it came to me easily – because I followed the most proven success formula in life-to pay attention to what’s coming ahead and be prepared.

Of course, I had an exceptional teacher. If you paid attention to what he was teaching-it’s unlikely that you’d ever forget, a fact my wife and children would grudgingly admit because, once in a while at the dinner table, I would reminisce about my school and nonchalantly rattle few of the 32 stanzas, until they’d stop me in my tracks.

If education is true insurance, my teacher was the best agent I ever met. He taught me discipline and helped me with a lifelong annuity of money back value no insurance I ever sold could match.

As the head winds of economic change engulf the world, I wish there’s a cock-a-doodle-do wakeup call from teachers of insurance – to cover against shattering home and work places.

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