An Era of Punishment – “Spare the rod and spoil the child”
Punishing children, using corporal punishment was regarded normal and accepted in many schools and institutions. (23 Aug14, Pg 6 Times of India ICSE ordinance against Corporal Punishment) The legacy of corporal punishment in our school goes back to the beginning of 19th century, (Reminiscences of my school days 1901 to 1906 by Joseph B Gomes ) when from pulling chins, tugging ears, thrashing with a cane and belting was freely used in the name of discipline. Whether it was for academic lapses or for bad behaviour in class, one wonders what compelled our teachers to be so harsh and severe then. Could be a couple of reasons, the boys who came from different backgrounds, egos, temperaments, some with mischievous tendencies and adept in concealing their pranks needed to be tempered, restore order and sanity in class. The other reason could be prevailing belief that “Spare the rod and spoil the child” Some parents would even approve of such severe punishments to some of our teachers privately or in PTA meetings. “Do what you want but see that my son/ward is brought to his senses and he studies”
Then the “Era of Punishment” during our times was further heralded by some Frs. and some teachers. Like in the Andaman Islands during the freedom struggle there were special cells for punishment. Overlooking the vibrant Waroda Road was Vice Principal’s small office room on the 2nd flr., this was the most dreaded den. Some of our boys were equally resilient to any form of punishment and would come with ingenious preparations and ideas to thwart these punishments. Fr. before caning had to be sure that the boy’s posterior was not padded. There were other novel ways of punishments adopted. Like in the past there was “Kala-bhoos” one week’s penance study class.
In our era there was “Kalapani or Morning Show” This was the most difficult of punishment as boys had to sacrifice their play and leisure time. Boys had to come to school on holidays, Thursday or Sunday morning with books and with a bluff at home. Punishment would be invariably a transcription of an entire Hindi lesson. Initially in the morning Fr Aleu would conduct these classes. This was the best time when Fr would then make a discreet enquiry into the punishment and with a word of advice. Once Master Azad took over after Fr. left, it was more of a punishment to him, while he puffed a few cigarettes some of our boys would do the trick. They would write the first paragraph and the last paragraph of the lesson and in between fill with previously written Hindi pages. Once the assignment completed and signed by Master for PS class, boys were free to leave.
In that era the student fraternity in the class could be classified in different categories like the back benchers who would be tall and senior boys. Then, not so bright boys, mischief mongers and natural pranksters occupied the middle benches and formed the bulk of the class. The studious and the brighter boys could be occupying the front benches. The teacher’s approach to punishment would also be different for each of the kind. For the back benchers, the teacher had to do more of balancing act of a ring master in the circus, keeping distance and with a degree of respect for their seniority. For the natural pranksters and mischief makers it was like a cat and mouse game. Once caught the hapless and the helpless would have to face the onslaught of the teacher. For the brighter boys there was a degree of reluctance to punish them and some of them may have even missed the crack of the magic wand “the cane” in their entire studentship in the school.
But, obedience to our teachers and to the lawful authorities is one of the traits that we underwent and imbibed in the school. Breaking and cracking foot rulers on wrists and palms and breaking fine long canes on the backs and legs taught the lesson of life and shaped the boys into men and worthy citizens of today. Many have reached their pinnacle in life with high ambitions and have risen to responsible posts and positions.
Now, in retrospect looking at our teachers, they were a finest lot and qualified for the vocation of teaching. They had a curriculum and a syllabus to complete in a given time, in order to meet and adhere to these deadlines and to run the class unhindered. They had to be strict and enforce discipline. Our French teacher Master Oliver’s words, he would often say that he had to be cruel to be kind. The devotion and dedication of our teachers to educate us was beyond any doubt in that Era, just as our parents would correct and punish us at home, they were in place of our parents in the class room. They were an enigma then, but were like a beacon lighting our path and brought meaning in our lives “Born for Greater Things”
Happy Teachers Day & Thank you Teachers!
Pramod Mankar Class of 1967