During my lower school and early middle school years, I had a personal tutor to help me with my studies. This teacher was a young woman doing her graduate studies whom I addressed as ‘Miss’. She would come home every evening and spend several hours teaching me.
Miss always dressed in a salwar (a traditional south Asian dress), showcasing her curvaceous body, and adorned herself with a simple necklace and dangling hoops. Her nail-polished fingers always caught my attention, as did her long velvety hair that she braided, tied into a bun or sometimes made into a ponytail. On some days Miss decorated her forehead with a bindi (a coloured dot) and on occasions wore kajal (eye liner) over her eyes. Irrespective, she looked gorgeous every single day.
Miss was very affectionate. She would often caress me lovingly, give me hugs and kisses and even bring me gifts. She was also a dedicated and skilled teacher, who meticulously managed all aspects of my studies. She designed a routine and got me accustomed to it.
Miss made me study in a structured and methodical manner. She instilled an ethic of hard work and awakened my competitive spirit. Overall, she provided the necessary framework wherein I could realise my full potential and flourish.
Miss was young, beautiful and kind – but she was also strict and demanding. Discipline was central to her approach. She had permission from my mother to use her foot-long aluminium ruler, which she always kept besides her on the study table and frequently put to use – three to four times a day was common and on many days, it would be more.
Miss punished me regularly for a wide range of study-related stuff. She would give me a sharp smack or two on the arm or thigh. She would make me stand before her, lock my hands in hers, and administer a few brisk swats on the legs. She would bend me over the study table or chair and smack my bum. She would hold my hands firmly and smack the open palms and even the knuckles. These beatings were painful but very effective – I would do anything to avoid the ruler’s nasty sting.
My own mother never physically disciplined me. Nevertheless, seeing that I feared the punishments I received from my teacher, she took advantage of it. So after a while, whenever I misbehaved or disobeyed her, Mum simply reported it to Miss and asked her to punish me. Miss would then give me a good dose of the ruler inside the study room. This way, all my mother had to say was: “Do you want me to tell this to your Miss?” and I would instantly bring out my best behaviour.
Miss often said that I was lucky she was not my mother. If she were my mum, Miss told me, she would not only use the ruler but also a belt. I often thought about this and wondered how my upbringing would be if Miss were indeed my mum. Just the thought of having her around me all the time would make me nervous.
When I was reached fifth grade, Miss married and moved to a different city. I missed her a lot and longed for those evenings where she would sit with me and make me study. I constantly recalled how I would look up at her with love and trepidation while she corrected my work. Her ruler still lay on the table, but my disciplinarian had left me. I began to dream of her as my mother. In my mind, I construed scenarios of her disciplining me with a belt. I needed such a lady – I needed a strict mother.
Years later, mum and I did meet Miss again. She was still the same gorgeous, affectionate woman I knew, but now with two lovely kids of her own.
During the conversation, mum remarked: “Your kids are so well behaved – do you discipline them with a ruler, like you did with my son?” Miss smiled and caressed her kids lovingly – much like she would caress me – and replied: “I have always believed in discipline. I was a strict teacher to your son. I am both a stern mother and a strict teacher to my kids. So yes, I do use the same ruler at home. But it’s not just that – I also have a belt.”