(I had the idea to do this on Teacher’s Day but then I forgot. I’m going to write a series of blogs about teachers that have impacted my life in a significant way.)

I went to a pretty basic school. It’s one of those old schools that was wonderful in its time, but while I was there, there was a steady decline in its quality. The friends I made there, are the friends who are always there for a chat and never judge me for the person I am now, but really, the place didn’t really do much for me. It wasn’t until college that I experienced what it was like to be in the presence of a teacher, a real teacher.
I had three elective courses, and my favorite one was English Literature. My teacher’s name was Ma’am Kaukab Tariq, she had apparently taught at my school as well when I was younger, and left when it went down the toilet. She was this elegant, classy, amazing lady who was nothing short of magical for her students. My class consisted of nine students altogether, but I’m sure that even if the class strength was more, she’d be on the same personal basis with even 30 students.

Our course consisted of a collection of essays and a play on Abraham Lincoln. I still remember the very first essay we studied with her, titled The Golden Drugget. I don’t think I can ever forget her musical lilting voice, transporting us to that dark night, with a ray of gold shining out of the inn, as if to say, “come in, and I’ll give you shelter from the storm.” She drew pictures on the whiteboard so we could picture it exactly in our mind’s eye. When I read that book of essays today, I wonder how we endured such dry, dull writing, and then I remember. It was Ma’am Kaukab that made them the exact opposite of dry and dull.

Our classes were filled with laughter and eager discussion. We never got any notes or handouts. We didn’t want them; we wanted to do our own research. When Ma’am Kaukab would tell us of notes she had, we would refuse to have them because we were always in this race to have the best research to show her, and come up with obscure facts and impress her somehow. I still have all of my notes, the quotes from war generals illustrating exactly how horrible the Battle of Somme was in The Somme Still Flows, complete with battle strategies and maps, the essays we wrote on various themes, and how could I ever forget the essay Refuge From Nightmare, which I’ve quoted on my blog several times? I can still remember how quiet we were in that class, how depressing it was for a bunch of college kids to read about the same depressing sentiments in post-WW1 era that we felt at the time. Then we reached the ending, that magical ending, and hearing Ma’am Kaukab explain it filled me with such indescribable hope and joy. To this day, I carry that memory with me, and those ending lines, recalling them in my darkest moments.

Not that our classes were formal in nature. Not by a long shot. I would excitedly tell her about my current favorite TV show, Supernatural, how cute the two actors were, how sad I was when their father died, I related anecdotes of my niece and nephew who still pretty much own my soul. I remember once, when I brought my nephew to school, she was the first teacher I introduced him to, because of how much she heard about him.

My school had been so small, and my life so sheltered, that college was an extremely jarring experience for me. Its very size alone had me in the grips of panic attacks several times. In my school, everyone knew each other, it was a small school and we had all been there since kindergarten, I was popular as one of the best writers, the best debaters, the best at English. Suddenly, I was just another face in the crowd. No one greeted me in the corridors, there was no one smiling in recognition every which way I turned, teachers didn’t really know me, and so what if I could speak English fluently, so could the entire college population! But Ma’am Kaukab’s classes gave me something to hold on to, to steady myself and say, “No, I am no longer special, but I am still exceptional and I am still worth quite a bit.” She would refer to us as her gems, and we probably aren’t, but she certainly made us feel that way. I never knew what knowledge was, until I met her. I never understood what learning was all about until I experienced her classes. That one year was filled with magic and wonder for all of us, and the embodiment of all that was Ma’am Kaukab Tariq.

  1. AyeshaAyesha says:

    I’m so glad to have found this. She’s taught me as well these past two years, and she’s one the best teachers I’ve ever had. Definitely going to show her this post 🙂

  2. imtiaz nasir says:

    Curiosity: Were you taking the Elective/ Advanced English Course based on: Magic Casements, John Drinkwater’s Abraham Lincoln, Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd, English Essays of Today. I took this course in Gordon College, RWP, 1967. Where and when did you?

    • Ghausia says:

      That’s what I studied as well! Somewhere around the late 2000s, I’m too old to remember specific years anymore, and from a women’s college in Karachi.

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