What’s your Nickname for our Teachers

Referring to teachers and masters by their nicknames was very much prevalent during our school days, i.e. around the ‘50s and ‘60s. Besides learning mathematics, science, languages, history, geography and discipline for that matter from our teachers and masters, the forty or fifty odd boys in the class would study intently these teachers and masters, observing their traits and come up with interesting nicknames. It was out of respect and a degree of fear that a teacher or master was never directly addressed by his or her nickname. However, behind their backs, more often than not, these teachers or masters were referred by their nicknames

It would be a matter of interest as to how and when, nicknaming of our masters and teachers started in our school. Like the legendary “Mr Chips” of Brokefield, All Boys Boarding School of the eighteenth century. We had in our School Hitler, Humphrey, Boxer, Boiler, Gerry Baldy, Charanna, Walnut, Dhapatya etc…. etc. in the nineteenth century. “Hitler” the middle school Maths master so nicknamed was excellent in English language. Doubt if there was any close resemblance to Adolf Hitler? Probably for the small tooth-brush like mustache that he sported identified him with the infamous of World War ll dictator. “Boxer” so nicknamed was a Science master who was also in-charge of the Science laboratory. He was a very proficient in his subject matter and nattily dressed in shirt and tie. One wonders if our “Boxer” ever had experience in the boxing ring and flattened his opponent’s nose and got it vice versa. There was another competent science master who was referred to as “Boiler” probably due to his characteristic short temper. Then we had “Dhapatya” the Marathi master who was quite a disciplinarian and a moralist. “Dhapata” in Marathi means blow on the back, and it was probably after the many blows on the backs of our erring students earned him this nickname. One can never forget the reverberating voice for announcements in our school of our excellent master, who was nicknamed “Charanna” over his rhyming surname. Charanna during those years was the denomination for quarter of a rupee.

There was an episode in our school hall which I remember very vividly, in one of the plays an actor had quoted amidst an uproar of laughter. “There in that corner that man, his head is like a walnut.” Coincidently there were two of our teachers, who had scanty growth of hair on their cranium and were nearly bald, were in the same corner where the actor had addressed. Although one who was known as “Gerry. Baldy” took sportingly, but the other “Walnut” would get infuriated at the site of a walnut as some boys would bring walnuts in his class.

Another funny incident was about a friend across the street. His mother Dr(Mrs) R. K. was the then Principal in South Mumbai School and was also mother of two students in our school. She was also an active member of the then PTA (Parents Teachers Association) and once came to meet one of our Masters. This Master would announce his arrival in the school with his roaring Norton Motor Cycle just minutes before the morning assembly. He would often come in school uniform white shirt, short khaki pants, knee-length stockings and with his son as the pillion rider on his motor bike from Mahim. He was popularly known and nicknamed as “Sir Humphrey” probably resembling the famous Hollywood actor Humphrey Bogart or maybe after the inventor of Davis Safety Lamp, Sir Humphrey Davis. Dr (Mrs) R. K. unaware of the fact that Sir Humphrey was the master’s nickname continued addressing him as “Sir Humphrey” and this Master was very much amused and my friend squirming and turning red faced standing next to him. Back at home, both of us my friend and me were summoned and severely reprimanded by his mother for the goof up and calling nicknames for our teachers. It was only after this incident that we realized that our master’s first name was “Gerson”

Today, even after nearly fifty years, in-retrospect we realize that the reason for this nicknaming was the emotional bond and affectionate relationship shared between us students and the masters and teachers. Like in a family, the closeness of the family members and affection for each other gives rise to pet names or nick names. This was all in the formative years in journey of our school life there never was any disrespect meant or intention to ridicule them. In fact, it is our masters and teachers whose loving support, wisdom and warmth continue to inspire us today. While substituting our parents during school hours, they put in their best efforts and helped countless students become their best selves!”

Pramod Mankar …………..1967 batch

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