Wednesday, Dec 23, 2009 at 0226 hrs
It was an occasion filled with admiration, nostalgia and a rare display of teacher-student bonding. For Bernard T Brooks, who turned 80 on December 21, a late evening birthday celebration at a banquet in Free School Street found him basking in the warmth of the gratitude and affection of his students whom he had taught decades ago.
Brooks, who was the headmaster and later principal at Dr Graham’s Home, a reputed boarding school in Kalimpong, for 30 years (1958-88), found students from all across the world coming to wish him on his 80th birthday.
There were 18 among the nearly 40 students who had flown in to Kolkata just to meet their teacher. The list of his Brooks’ students include Bhutan’s Prime Minister Jigmey Thinley and its Chief Justice Sonam Tobgye as well as Norman Hutchinson, a painter in a UK court.
To Brooks, both Thinley and Tobgye who are now at the helm of affairs in the tiny mountain country next door are the Captain and the Vice-Captain of his school. Tobgye had sent an emissary to be part of the celebrations here.
“I am here because he has been a wonderful teacher to me. He taught me chemistry, biology and geography. He was a strict disciplinarian but he never scolded us,” said Sarkissian Arshak, (73) who has come all the way from the UK to attend his teacher’s birthday celebrations. Incidentally, Arshak is not a student of Dr Graham’s Home, but of St Paul’s School where Brooks taught from 1951 to 1957.
When the 40-odd students met their teacher on his birthday, Brooks remembered how the doors of Dr Graham’s Home were opened for students other than that of the Anglo-Indian community. Truly, he had an eclectic mix of students from various countries from Bhutan, the UK, Europe and Australia.
“When I joined the school, 99 per cent of the students were from one community. When the doors of the schools were opened, it became one of the most cosmopolitan schools in the country when the first batch of students appeared for the Senior Cambridge examination in 1963,” he says.
“Today teachers are more interested in the subject than the child. This should not happen. Child should be at the centre of learning,” Brooks said.