“Our fingerprints don’t fade from the lives we touch”…a quote I found on Facebook circa September 2012, was brought back to my notice thanks to the memories feature, that pops up things from the past. The hands of time are relentless and keep marching on, but there is also the beauty of the fingerprints that stay, when the hand that they belong to is long gone from our lives.
Top of mind for me today is ‘the teacher’ since I am sitting and writing this on teachers’ day. While I have had many, the one that stands out from school days is Mr. Gardner. The principal of St. George’s, lover of the English language, tennis player, and a leader. Love him or hate him, there was no ignoring him.
As I look in the rear view mirror, I realised that sitting in his English class, discovering Shakespeare and poetry, was where the seeds were sown. The power of essay writing, the ability to read the same lines and infer different meanings, were just some of the discoveries made in his classroom. It is possible my love for writing and communication was born there and today it is my life and livelihood.
He encouraged me to play tennis by building tennis courts in school and getting us to participate in inter-school competitions. My father and grandfather both loved the game and were brilliant players. The introduced me to the game. This inspired me to get on the court, but if Mr. Gardner had not built those courts in school and allowed us the luxury of spending time on them, I would not have all those happy memories. I am lucky to still be playing.
The fingerprints his large hands left were not all happy ones. He suspended me for drinking and I had to endure the pain and humiliation of a public caning, in front of the whole school. Solitary confinement for two weeks followed, when I was locked up as punishment for this. It was also in many ways a turning point in my academic life. With nothing to do other than loose myself in books, I studied hard and came out with flying colours in the next exam. Once I had done well, there was no turning back. Life comes a full circle when he was passing through Delhi a few years ago, he called to say he had left me a gift at the hotel he was staying in. At the front desk, a few bottles of wine were waiting for me. Cheers to the power of a good education I guess.
My lovely wife and son. My loving grandparents. My parents. My sister. So many doggies that have blessed my life, all of them have taught me and continue to inspire my everyday… Then there is my work family, bosses, clients, journalists, and colleagues, with whom I have interacted and learnt so much from, over the years. More recently, all my new friends from the world of coaching who welcomed me into their universe. Thank you all for the extended hand. I must also thank you all for the occasional slap on the wrist when I needed it. The fingerprints remain.
I have chosen to remember the more positive experiences. Or at least look at the difficult ones with the benefit of distance and hindsight and see the good in them. However, some fingerprints have left behind a lot of pain as well, which I cannot as yet seem to fathom. They all add up to make me who I am today.
Here is me reminding myself to use my hand to touch lives wisely and with kindness. To extend my hand in help and never raise it to inflict pain on anyone. My fingerprints too probably remain in places I can’t imagine and leave their imprints in ways I will never know. Our fingerprints don’t fade from the lives we touch…. finger prints always tell a story, or shape a story. ‘Hand’le with care.
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