Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Loving the Sir !


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The year 2000. A 15 year old girl is eagerly going through her English Textbook for the new academic year as she loves to read it before being taught at school. One chapter, somewhere towards the end of the book, grips her and she thinks with a little disappointment that she’ll have to wait till almost the end of the academic year to reach that part of the book. Yet, she loves reading that chapter over and over again when she gets time, and falls in love with it every time . She tries without success to procure a copy of the book of which it is an extract.

The influence of that chapter stays with her as she leaves school behind and enters college, and one fine morning, she discovers a battered copy of the much-wanted book in a dark corner of a dusty bookshelf at her college library. She devours the book with much enthusiasm  ; that book tops her list of favourites.

It would be take some more years for her to own a copy, though.

And that 15 year old is, yours truly.

Period.

When the Write Tribe wanted us to write a review of a book, the first thought was, ‘Oh ! I can’t write of any recent releases in English, because most of them are still in my ‘to read’ list ; the copies resting at my home in India.’  I’ve been catching up with Malayalam over the past few weeks. But that wouldn’t do, for this challenge.  

That was when light dawned. Why not write about my favourite book ? Yes, that will be it, I thought to myself.

Without any more delay ( I’ve spoken much already :-/ ), presenting before you, ‘ To Sir, With Love'.

Title : To Sir With Love
Author : Edward Ricardo Braithwaite
Genre : Autobiography
Year of First Publication : 1959, The Random House Group
ISBN ( From 2007 ) : 9780099498049

Have you ever been judged by your colour ? Have you ever been rejected at interviews because of the colour of your skin ?  Despite being educated, and after having served in the armed forces out of a sense of duty and demobilized from the same at the end of the war, have you remained unemployed for almost 18 months because the sophisticated British Society couldn’t see beyond your black skin ?
You would , if you chose to live in Braithwaite’s shoes for some time.

So, after about 18 months of unemployment, he decides to try teaching, and gets posted to one of the worst schools in the East end of London. He gets a shock the first day, on his route to the place, when a woman refuses to sit next to him in the bus, despite the conductor’s repeated reminders about an empty seat. Rick gets down at his stop, and turns back to find the woman sitting on the seat he just vacated. The harsh reality of the racist attitude strikes him hard.

He’s in for a greater shock at the school, for he finds it nowhere near his imagination. The students are an unruly lot, least bothered about their studies, and consciously unmindful in their filthy appearance and foul language. Most of them are from the same locality, and the atmosphere in many homes in not conducive to their development into good human beings. Their lack of respect to themselves is matched only by their disrespect to the world in general.

It is into this pandemonium  that Rick enters as a teacher.

Needless to say, he has a tough time winning their trust . His supportive colleagues do warn him that he’s bitten a tough bunch of grass to chew, but his resolve to change the students doesn’t falter. When he sees his colleague Mrs Grace maintain a good rapport with the students, he becomes confident of a similar victory.

Does he , or doesn’t he, and if yes, how ? This is what the book takes you through.

At the risk of introducing mild spoilers, I would quote some instances which I found particularly endearing.

The first time he erupts into his infamous temper with the girls is when he finds that some girl has tried to burn a used napkin in the fire grate inside the classroom.

In another instance, one of the students challenges him for a boxing match , which he completes successfully, and arranges for that student to teach boxing to the younger kids !

When one of his students loses his mother ,the students refuse to take the wreath to his home as that boy is of a mixed race. Rick finds himself failing as a teacher here, judging the students for what they said. Yet he’s filled with remorse the next day, when he finds them all at the funeral. He has, after all, been a reason for them to see reason in their behavior !

The way he teaches them to address each other as ‘Mr’ and ‘Ms’, and to behave in a manner befitting their age, is commendable.

It is just a matter of time that he wins the class over in his own style !

Rick’s life as an individual in enriched by his interaction with his students who show him a totally different  phase of life.  They soon learn to trust him, and he finds that he’s expected to guide some with problems in their families, as well. He does that many a time, earning the respect and gratitude from the parents as well.

His role in their lives gets redefined, while his own outlook towards certain things in life undergoes a positively cataclysmic change.

He finds love, too. He hits it off with one of his colleagues, and her family is able to accept him despite his colour, though reluctant initially. 

So much happens in the eight odd months of his life as a teacher in that school, and at the end of the year, his students are confident enough to take up the challenges of the world, thanks to his moulding them.

They love him for what he has been and done for them, and gift him a big parcel on the last day of the academic year . With love.

To Sir, With Love.


E R Braithwaite went on to become a social worker and then a diplomat, after he left teaching. This book is his recollection of his days as a teacher, and his best known work.

This story was made into a movie in the year 1968, with Sidney Poitier, donning the role of Rick. The movie might have variations from the written version of the book for commercial purposes, yet it was a commercial hit. More details on the movie can be found here.

If you haven’t read the book, please do. It is sure to leave you feeling good.

If you have already read it, there's always a scope to re-read :-)

So, which is your favourite book ? Would love to know !
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The Write Tribe Festival of Words 3 is on ! Join us in this wonderful journey through words :-)

Linking this to the post for  Day 4 , the challenge being, " a book review or review of a book you love."

Check out some wonderful entries here.

26 comments:

  1. Aah! This has been one of my favorite book. Have read it loong long back. Your review, refreshed all about it! Thank you Sreeja :)

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    1. Aah... so you know how I feel ! Thanks, dear ! :)

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  2. This book was a part of our text in schoold ays.. such impression it left!

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    1. Yes yes.... it was :) That impression lasts to this day :)

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  3. I haven't ever read this book, but from your review I am sure I will love it.

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    1. Sure, please do, Bhavya. You'll love it ! Thanks :)

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  4. Sounds like this one will be a very heartening read. Thanks for the lovely review.

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    1. Yes, it will be :) Pls do read :) Thanks for the visit and the nice words, Aarthy :)

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  5. Have seen the movie and loved it... and yes, i guess the book will definitely be better than the movie! Soul-stirring story it was.

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    1. Yes, it is. Soul-stirring. Thanks, Doc :)

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  6. I have read this book and ofcourse the book is amazingly written. And it is one of my top recos for people to read :-)

    Richa

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    1. Yes, a top reco, from me too. Thanks dear :)

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  7. This is one of my favourite books too! :)

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  8. I havent heard of this book before but the subject chosen here and ofcourse the fact that this is your favourite book encourages me to pick this up soon. Dont know how many books are going to get added in my wish list of reading at the end of this write tribe festival day 4 :P

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    1. Ditto with the book wishlist here, Jyotsna :D
      Thanks dear :)

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  9. Seems like a lovely book. Will pick it up soon

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  10. Not read it. But will read it :)

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    1. Pls do Leo, You'll definitely enjoy it !

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  11. Amazing love story with a book!! I would love to read this one!

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    1. Thank you grassflower. Yeah, pls do read, You'll love it as much !

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  12. The book and the movie are superb.
    Sidney Poitier was simply amazing as Rick :)

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    1. Wow, Pixie ! I haven't watched the movie, though would love to. Thanks a lot :)

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  13. Love the way you started the review, beautiful. All men and women are equal? Or, we still live in a myopic world, I wonder. All great men and women been through shit and thinking bout their struggle is a motivation when things go bad. Will read it:)

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    1. Thanks a lot, Vishal. True, we still live in the coloured world ! Thanks for coming !:)

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