Gracy Mathew Ancheri, a veteran teacher, recalls the speech of the late N. Krishnan Nair, a former DGP
Illustration by Vineeth S. Pillai
By Shevlin Sebastian
Years ago, when Gracy Mathew Ancheri was working as a lecturer at the TKM College of Arts and Science, Quilon, she was invited to be a speaker for the anniversary function of a nearby school. In those days, two speeches were a must: one by a man and the other by a woman.
It was not a problem to locate a male speaker, as the locality was dotted with several educational institutions. But it was a tough job to pick a lady speaker, as all the lady teachers hastened home soon after work. However, being an elderly woman, Gracie was chosen to speak.
Having made a few talks earlier, Gracie was not nervous at all. But when she arrived at the venue, she was shocked to see a police jeep on the premises. It turned out that the male speaker was none other N Krishnan Nair, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Kollam.
“My heart sank, as he was an outstanding orator, who could mesmerise the audience and keep them spell-bound,” said Gracie. “Compared to him, I was a novice. For a split second, I thought of sneaking home, but that would have been cowardly.”
Then an idea dawned in Gracie's mind. She requested the organisers to allow her to talk first. They agreed. “I stood behind the microphone and somehow managed to say something,” she said.
Soon, it was the turn of Nair. “One day, at about noon, while I was working in my office, some policemen brought a hand-cuffed man, with ruffled hair and soiled clothes, to the station. As this was an everyday sight, I did not pay much attention.”
Soon, the policemen recounted the various sins of the man: smoking in public, gambling, pick pocketing, eve-teasing, and drug abuse. Much to the surprise of the people present, the accused did not deny any of the allegations and kept on looking at Nair. “I found this strange, as usually, they refute the charges and keep looking down all the time,” he said.
Suddenly, the prisoner said, “May I ask you something?”
Nair told him to go ahead.
“Sir, were you a student of Sasthamangalam School”? said the prisoner.
Nair nodded. Then came the next question.
“Were you in the 'A' batch in Class 10? Do you remember your class teacher and the batch mates”?” said the accused
Nair said he remembered most of his batch mates.
Then came the pertinent question.
“Do you remember the boy Balan (Balachandran), who sat next to you?” said the prisoner.
Replied Nair: “How can anyone forget him? He was the best student of the school and a rank-holder too. Where is he now? Must be occupying a high position. Do you have any idea?”
Pausing briefly, the prisoner said, “Right in front of you.”
Nair shouted, “What? No!”
The prisoner said, “Yes sir, unfortunately.”
Nair felt disturbed. So, he asked the policeman to bring the accused to Nair's private chamber after 5 pm.
“All afternoon, I could not set my heart on any serious work,” said Nair. “My mind was jolted and I kept on thinking of Balan, who had been the pride of the school. I kept walking up and down.”
After 5 p.m, the hand-cuffed Balan was brought to Nair's chamber. Nair offered Balan a seat but he refused to sit. “So I forced him to sit,” said Nair.
Then he asked Balan to tell his story. “Sir, after leaving school with flying colours, I got admission in the best college of the town,” said Balan. “My family lived in a nearby village. My father had gone to the Gulf to do a job. In his absence, I became the master of the house with no one to discipline me. In college I breathed the air of freedom for the first time. I realised that school was just a jail and the teachers were like watch-dogs.”
At the college Balan became a free bird with no one to restrict him. Unfortunately, he fell into the company of a few undesirable boys, who did not believe in education or a honest life. He bunked classes, and enjoyed vices like smoking, drinking and gambling.
The inevitable happened: he could not sit for the final examination because of a poor attendance record. “I became a full-time reveller,” said Balan. “Merriment was my motto. Discipline had no space in my life. By the time my father returned and tried his best to drag me out of the dark pit I was in, it was too late. Now I am unable to get away from my vices.”
Nair shouted, “You can, if you want to, and make a whole-hearted effort. A man is the architect of his own life!”
Nair came to the end of his speech. He put a question to the audience: “Who is responsible for Balan’s discomfiture? Who ruined his career? His family, friends, teachers or himself? Please go home, think about this, and let us all try to save boys who will grow up to become Balans.”
(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)