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A kind of epiphany was in store for us when the school year of 1960 commenced , in the form of a new class teacher . He was a priest – a young fresh-faced Irishman named Brother James Burns , recently landed from Belfast.

He proved not merely a great teacher , but an absolutely inspired one . In that one year he touched our minds and hearts like no one else . He opened up for us new and exciting vistas in Mathematics , English Literature , Poetry , History and Science –making these subjects come alive and dance before our minds’ eye. .

He’d solve complicated Algebraic problems with the greatest of ease –leaving us eager to attempt the rest by ourselves. Science was not what lay in the textbooks ,but staggering and absolutely riveting visons of Atomic Energy , Space Flights ... He’d mesmerize us with complicated scientific formulae and conjure up tales of scientists grouped around blackboards immersed in working out complex equations .

English Literature was taken far beyond the boundaries of mere textbooks. Jim Burns would declaim the finest lines penned by the greatest poets ,and fire up our senses with their very spirit and passion . To this very day, I can still recollect verse by John Masefield , Robert Louis Stevenson , Hilaire Belloc and Alfred Noyes Wescott . John Keats’’ Endymion’ , Coleridge’s’Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, ‘The Burial of Sir John Moore at Corunna’ and Tennyson’s’ The Charge of the Light Brigade’ continue to stir me to the very depths of my soul, and evoke emotions that one thought had long been forgotten.

The most evocative memories I still carry around with me are of Jim Burns.

One is of him sitting on the porch of a run down villa ,high up the Darjeeling mountains ,surrounded by some of us eager young lads. Everything around ,is bathed in the soft ,golden hue of twilight ; a light mist rises from the valley floor just behind ; a delicious night time chill has begun to set in. But the beauty and the wonder around us goes unheeded as we sit mesmerized :watching Jim Burns spinning fabulous tales about a Captain O’Malley of the IRA ,and strumming on his ukulele , singing poignant , haunting Irish Ballads .

Another is of him as he takes us through the most exquisite lines of “The Merchant of Venice”. In my mind’s eye I can still the glow on his face, and the way his eyes light up as he declaims the immortal lines :”Sit Jessica …look how the floor of heaven ..is rich inlaid with patines of bright gold….”. These lines , he declares are the most beautiful love poetry ever written….. His entire being seems caught up in the throes of a spectacular passion ,that reaches out and grips us too.

For the school’s annual concert ,he came up with absolutely inspired selection : an operetta set in a fictional land called Pritannia - complete with King , Queen , Jester and the rest of the Court . This operetta had spectacularly brilliant, witty libretto , set to sparkling, lilting lyrics. After months of arduous practice the actual performance was a magnificent tour de force….with the audience sitting spell bound through some of the finest music they must have ever heard.

The culmination of his efforts took place a year later, during October- a particularly beautiful time of the year ;the heat and the monsoons have by then become a distant memory, and people brace themselves for the delicious thrill of actually shivering through the cold . He staged a play set in France revolving around the exploits of a brigand called Yann Tortik. His choice of the actors to play the various parts was absolutely inspired :each person played his part to perfection . The final performance of this gripping ,action packed drama had the entire audience sitting on the edge of their seats with excitement , swept along by the sheer pace of the action .

My final memories of Jim Burns are around the time of the Chinese aggression ,just weeks before he finally left us .

One is of him, , reading to us the incredible tale of the psychic Peter Herkos. I can still picture him ,on that languid afternoon in October , holding us spell bound with a dramatic description of Herkos’ falling off a ladder and the truly amazing events that followed . It was our very first exposure to ESP - the whole thing sounded so fantastic and far fetched ,and opened our eyes to experiences far beyond our wildest dreams.

My final image of him, is of his helping us – seized with patriotic fervour -to pen some doggerel : “ The Devil himself is Chou En Lai / It’s known he always tells a lie/ By saying Hindi-Chini “bhai –bhai/ He pretended to be our friend / And he did Chinese soldiers send/ But now we shall reverse the score/ And kick ‘em out through NEFA’s door…”

As I look back ,it strikes me that no one,not even he , could have realised the kind of cataclysmic impact he would have in moulding our minds and shaping our tastes and values.


------
RJKT


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Comments

The following comments are for "Memories that twinkle, sparkle and dance.."
by RJKT

Brother Burns...
Well, I wish everyone had such rosy memories of people like Brother Burns.

I really enjoyed reading this, but then I was saddened, it reminded me of the thousands of people in each generation who don't have this experience of the good Irish faith.

Beautifully written.

Alex :-)

( Posted by: londongrey [Member] On: September 18, 2004 )

Thank you ...Alex
Thanks Alex for the appreciation and encouragement..though i'm not too sure how much of it i deserve

What saddens me is that nowadays we very seldom come upon teachers , absolutely passionate about their work - who end up making a difference to the minds they touch.

( Posted by: RJKT [Member] On: September 18, 2004 )

Thanks Claire
Thanks a million Claire...However may i say that the source of inspiration has always been those who taught me..i owe everything to them.

( Posted by: RJKT [Member] On: September 18, 2004 )





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