Trumsil, our Teacher (a short story)
I was one of those few in the first class he ever taught and I wish to briefly carry you with me on a visit to those days, for he was one of those rare men whose words and actions spoke truly of the man he was.
I vividly recall the first run. He gave us no explanation, only told us we are to start the day with a run. As we ran, we saw a camera followed us, but it never seemed to film those in the lead, only concentrating on those who lagged and suffered at the end of the line. Since I was usually among those the camera filmed, I can tell you I hated having it film me and tried hard to get away from it.
After sixteen days of running, he delayed his lessons to speak of the runs. He said, “The first run took seventeen minutes to be completed by those at the end of the line and it took many of us a good five minutes to recover our breathing.” He showed us a couple of films and we saw how awkwardly we ran. “You have now reduced the time of the run to eleven minutes and I think we may soon need less than seven minutes. I look forward to that day.”
Unlike all other teachers, he never spoke of how the best of us did, he always concentrated on those who needed his encouragement the most - and those who were the best learnt to emulate him, helping the rest of us and earning his approval.
The day after we achieved his target, he showed us the film again and we saw our running had strengthened so that we no longer looked awkward, instead, we now looked powerful, strong. At the end of the run, no longer did we struggle to breathe.
We did not know it, but he was not happy with what he had achieved. One morning, after the run and as we left the mist room to dry ourselves, he led us to a small wooden room waiting outside. He asked us to enter. There was just enough space to fit him and us.
“I want you to open yourselves to everyone in this room. Try to sense how we all belong together.” We did as we do when lying down to sleep and gathered in our limbs, but Trumsil did the opposite. His nine limbs stretched out, not actually touching any of us, but threaded among us. His eyes, which always seemed to watch me wherever I sat, retracted so that they lay folded against him, as we only do with those we trust our lives to. He never asked us to do as he did, but within a few days we all lay with limbs crisscrossing and eyes withdrawn, our breathing often seeming to synchronise.
In all he taught us, he followed the same philosophy, always there to encourage those who struggled. He showed us that he cared, never demanded that we achieve, but privately sorrowed when we did not, or so we felt it was with him.
For all my years at school, our class stood out. We were all healthier, we all achieved better than the other classes and we seemed to grow into a unit who cared for each other.
As an adult I have held to all he taught us by his example and my fellow students and I have remained closely knit, almost like family. We saw that those who followed us into adulthood from his classes were the same as us and we have grown to care for them also.
I am told that in each class there has always been at least one student who has asked him, while lying in the caring room, “Sir, why have you never formed a family of your own?”
His answer has always been, “If I find a female who stirs me, I would love to have a family.” We all hoped for him, but it never happened, for he gave all of his time to us, his non-family children.
I do not know if others have said the same, but I recall, during our last days in school, one of us told him, “Sir, no other students have learnt to care so much for their teacher and we are going to sorely miss you.”
Almost wistfully he told us, “I am glad, but I would be happier to hear that each of you has learnt to love yourself. You cannot love others and be a good friend or parent, if you have not first learnt to love yourself. Love who you are and what your potential is and do all you can to grow and the entire world will be your caring room and you in turn shall be the Trumsil memory of future generations. That is what I dream for you and me.”
Today we are gathered, brought together by the news that our teacher has died. I say it is not true, for he lives on within each of us and our children.