Our sterling teacher in the
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By MOHAMED IBRAHIM: It was a special classroom with special students. The
students had been sentenced to death and life. Yes, they were inmates of the
Coimbatore central prison. They were a deeply depressed lot and some of them had
not had even a single meeting with their families for more than a decade. Prison
life is harsh marked by fear and melancholy; sometimes, a telegram would
herald the death of their lovable parents or a court order would uphold their
death or life sentence, as the case maybe; or a dismissal of their clemency
petition would arrive from the President or the Governor. Occasionally, a
release order would bring joy and life back to them. .
The classroom strength was never stable some got released by courts and others
got remission for good conduct in prison. But there was a special and gifted
teacher named Sister Ethu Kutty, who taught us spoken English. A brave but kind
soul, she boldly entered the prison and taught the inmates whom the world feared
Our gifted teacher was a retired principal of a prestigious school; then she
became a caretaker of a hostel for destitute children even though she spent her
valuable time with the inmates. She never sought any publicity.
Our teacher had to cross various checkpoints and metal detectors and walk nearly
1 km from the south gate to the main gate of the prison. At the main gate, she
and her teaching materials (i.e., books) would be thoroughly checked by the
sentries. She fully cooperated with them without a smirk because she knew they
were just doing their duty. After the search, she had to walk half-a-kilometre
She entered the classroom always with a smile and greeted us cheerfully,
notwithstanding the tediousness of repeating the long-haul journey.
The class started with a prayer. We closed our eyes and raised our hearts to the
Almighty. We had a special slogan: I can do everything with the help of God who
gives me strength.
The students were many Hindus, Christians and Muslims. The teacher exuded hope
and created a convivial atmosphere in the class. The inmates always greeted one
another during their respective religious festivals.
Sister Ethu Kutty was not only a teacher but also a kind guide and good
counsellor. She always advised us to spread positive vibrations by cultivating
positive thinking. To be positive in prison under trying circumstances is next
to impossible but our teacher helped us to maintain calm. I personally know of
inmates who came to her class to overcome stress. Some prisoners came even
though they were unlettered. So what? They just came to listen to her soothing
She taught us spoken English. When I joined the class I didn't know proper
English grammar and as a person from Uthagamandalam, I only spoke butler
English! Now I am able to write an article!
On September 5, I called my teacher and wished her. Some inmates like me got
released from the prison. But till date, she is taking English class on Mondays
and Tuesdays without fail.
A lot of inmates like me were released and are living a peaceful life with
positive thoughts which Sister taught us. We always pray to the Almighty to
bestow peace and prosperity on her. On this day, I also remember Sister Selvi
who introduced Sister Ethu Kutty to us and arranged that class.
Once she said that a teacher has to be a guide, a parent, a doctor, a friend, a
companion and a counsellor. She played all these roles. We are proud of our
(The writer is a former inmate of the Coimbatore central prison. His email id
is: email@example.com )
( Courtesy: http://www.thehindu.com/ )