The preacher

He was probably the scariest person that I knew in my school days. When Mr. Dominique Dev Dewan walked into that classroom of Class 4 Section A with his tinted bipolar glasses, everyone would get up their seats, standing at attention and their eyes looking straight. We would freeze our tongue and not move a muscle cause else we would be punished. If there was any comics or fancy magazines around, it was too late to save ourselves from embarrassment. We should get inside the classroom before he does or else we were in trouble. He needed his students to be disciplined. He demanded his students to have his influence in their lives and guess what sir, you’ve succeeded.

Let’s start with the fun part, the part where his speech was enough to wet our pants. For a small man, he had a sturdy voice. We could never question him. He set the rules and if we didn’t follow, we had to get ready for the consequences. Excuses wouldn’t work. Every English class would start with a punishment session. The victims of this sessions were the ones who gossiped in class, entered late in class or those who didn’t do their homework. It wasn’t a usual drubbing of our palm with a ruler, but much creative and entertaining. Now that I look at it, it wasn’t harsh. All of a sudden when it was his class, 5 wooden dusters would appear out of nowhere. The culprits would have to stand in front of the class to the left of Dewan sir who would start speaking and at random moments toss the dusters one by one. The students in being punished would jump to avoid the flying blocks and this is what we call performing Dewan sirs “Jhakri Dance”. As I recall there was a special punishment he called “Toxing” where he would clench his fist, place the thumb on our skull and quickly twist. That pain of his clenched finger was excruciating often leave us buzzing till the rest of the day. I almost forgot he threatened us that he would throw us out of the window. He almost did.

After two years, I moved from Makalu to the upper senior house. Like everyone else, I prayed that I was moved to Kanchenjunga where Dewan sir was head of house (HOH). He was the most petrifying teacher there was, but he was one of the best teachers in the entire school. Everyone prayed to god that they would be a member of Kanchenjunga, not the opposite house Annapurna. Why? Cause he was liberal and strict, yet human. We had less gardening hours, less cleaning hours, less attention to house beautification so to sum up with, he didn’t treat us as machines. It didn’t matter to him that we lost House of the Month as long as he was satisfied with our commitment. He wasn’t a pusher and he was there to guide us always. He only demanded discipline and for which everyone had deep respect. In the singing competition, we didn’t sing some popular English song. We went for “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da” by The Beatles and “Take It Easy” by The Eagles.

Since we were talking about fun, let me go on with his “guff”. He said that when he was young, he did a triple somersault from the top of the Shivapuri Hill and landed on the bottom. He also told us of the world’s most expensive “paan” which would disappear as soon as you place it in your mouth. Triple D told us tales of his school days in Darjeeling at St. Paul’s. He told us of his school days and made us realise how lucky were to have such facilities around us. He made us realise how grateful we must be to our parents and school who have provided us with education, entertainment, shelter, food, care and everything else. He made sure we didn’t complain about not having the premium services. In his thoughts, I realised that I should enjoy this glorious life and that making others happy was what mattered. He believed that in a fair world and that everyone is equal. One time when the Kanchenjunga boys won the swimming competition, he took us all for Mo:Mo with his own money. The reason because he believed we deserve something more than a trophy for the effort we put in. For us boys who were always hungry at school, this was exactly what we could only dream of. FREE MO:MO.

This man had a heart. I remember countless times when after prep time we could surround him all the up the spiral staircase to listen to him talk. He made fun of us and left us terror-struck at times, but his smile was as beautiful as a woman’s. With time, we realised that it wasn’t fear that drove us to achieve greatness but respect for him and respect for ourselves. I’ll always remember the short Christian references he made while giving us lessons and all his impossible stories. We were his sons and he was our father.

Late Mr. DD Dewan will forever be in our memories as one of the greatest teachers of our generation. RIP.


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