I started my education in Lady Irwin High School, (later Higher Secondary School ) Shimla-precursor of the present Dayanand Public School, which despite a different name was under the DAV management. Without the trappings of a public school, English was taught from Class I. It was a girls’ school, boys being allowed upto Class IV only. By the time we reached our last class in this school, we had started reciting and learning by rote English poems. All the teachers were ladies. We wrote with lead pencils .
All this changed when I got admitted to the local S.D. Higher Secondary School in Class V . Teachers were all male, and strict disciplinarians at that , though devout teachers and literally wedded to the profession. Uniform was compulsory only on Monday , though some of us wore it on all days.Only one notebook for each books was prescribed – there being no separate notebooks for class work and homework. But the rude shock came in the shape of use of ink instead of lead pencils. It was ‘G’ nib fixed to a holder for English and ‘ Qalam ‘ made from bamboo reed for Hindi and other subjects. New to this , it took me quite some period of time to get used. Every time opening the inkpot and placing it on table, then dipping the holder with the nib or the Qalam in ink and writing on notebook was quite taxing. All the time my fingers got stained with ink , which was removed with difficulty on reaching home . Sometimes, if the inkpot had a loose cap , ink would spill out and spoil the bag and the books and notebooks. The use of blotting paper while turning pages was quite frequent.However, we got wise with time and had our fountain pen nibs cut in the Qalam style which brought forth the same results , but without hassles. Good handwriting was not only encouraged but duly emphasized. There was a competition of sorts among the students who cared, to earn as many ‘ Good ‘ or ‘Very Good’ remarks as they could. A far cry from the present day emphasis on cursive writing in schools, without teaching the students how to write. I must say this stood us in good stead so far as handwriting is concerned. This reminds of Mahatma Gandhi’s lament that he did not have a good handwriting and called this a sign of imperfect education.