A Teacher Extraordinaire
In the course of my academic life, I have been fortunate to come under the tutelage of many good teachers; but towards the end of my schooldays, in St. Edmund’s School, Shillong, I was blessed to have been mentored by Brother Basil Davis, of the Congregation of The Christian Brothers.
We had just started the academic year as Class 8 (I believe it was Section C) students and were wondering who our class teacher was going to be; when, in walked this grim monster of a man! Standing on size 13 sandals, a towering 6 feet 4 inches tall; with combined palms and fingers over a foot long, his dark as night complexion brought into perfect contrast by his white as snow habit, he was a sight to scare the bejesus out of any adult, let alone a bunch of school kids. Although he never unjustly punished any of us, woe to the boy who made a mistake. His method of punishment was pivoting his wrists to rap us with his knuckles, on the crown of our heads. When you take into consideration the fact that he towered over us and that the length of his palm and fingers were over a foot long, it was like being hit on the head with a sledgehammer (at least that’s how it felt). I hated him with all the venom my small heart could muster, and consoled myself with the thought that no matter how bad things were, it would last only a year.
Imagine my dismay when I walked into Class 9 the next year and discovered that Brother Davis was our class teacher once again! I felt like a jail inmate who’d been counting the days till his release only to discover, on the day of his release, that his sentence had been doubled! But what a difference! Everything, about him had changed. No more corporal punishments, smiles in place of the frowns he previously bore, and gentle remonstrances in place of harsh rebukes.
We had a half hour period in the Moral Sciences and during one of them, I asked him what caused him to change? His answer, if I recall correctly, was a simple, “I met Jesus.”It seems that he was spending a night at a hotel in Calcutta (now Kolkata) when Jesus appeared before him and asked him to repent. I am not writing this to make you believe in God, Jesus, or Christianity; but believe me when I say that I never saw such a complete change for the better in any person in my entire life.
One does not have to preach or lecture to teach; your demeanor, your attitude and reaction to everyday occurrences and the way you interact with people hold an ocean of knowledge to the discerning student, and that’s the way I learned from Br. Davis.
Saturdays and Sundays would see him being followed by a flock of kids, who he regaled with tales, and I usually tagged along. I’m certain he was unaware that I was learning from him, but I was; among the many truths I learned from him were, religion doesn’t matter, your deeds do; the rituals of religion do not matter, your faith in God and how you transcribe it into action does; and that the intention behind the things you do matter more than what you do, for good deeds resulting from bad intentions do not profit you in the Eyes of the Almighty.
And though he never said anything to the effect, I first began to grasp the Christian Concept of being “Born Again/Revived” through his living example; for if ever a man was “Born Again/Revived”it was Br. Basil Davis; it is through him I learned to look beyond outward appearances to the inner beauty of people; for truly, he was one of the unsightliest men I’ve ever encountered, but he was transformed into the most beautiful of God’s creatures and remains the embodiment of the best of Humanity in my eyes.
Hardly a day has gone by in the course of my life, when I have not thought of or been influenced by Brother Davis. Other teachers educated me, he instilled in me the fact that living a principled and ethical life, with my conscience as my guide, was all that mattered in the Eyes of God. I learned not to fool myself and others, and to abhor hypocrisy; but above all, I learned, through him, that Honesty and Truth are the only riches worth cultivating. I thank God for sending me the best teacher during the best period of my life. May he and his kind be blessed forever.
Kahuto Chishi Sumi