Remembering simpler times with Ma'am Tahira Qazi and Sir Saeed
The Army Public School originally had a single branch on Mall Road Peshawar, near the PTV station. During the mid-1990s, two more branches opened up – one near the old Mall Road branch and the second where December 16th’s tragedy took place, on Warsak Road.
We used to call it the Army Public College, not school, because it was from the sixth grade onwards; so it was for the ‘big boys’, and it had become a degree-awarding college as well.
I started going to the ‘college’ in 1997. Sir Saeed was one of the first teachers I had. I was in the sixth grade; 6-B to be exact. He used to teach us Islamiat. Although fairly good at studies, I often did end up getting a fair bit of corporal punishment for one reason or another. My quota of beatings started with Sir Saeed’s slap. Being the first few days in the college, I was a bit shaken; I complained. Little did I know that the man had a heart of gold, he apologised and became a friend. I realised that he was an extremely decent, soft spoken and humble person.
Sir Nawab Ali became our Mathematics teacher when I moved to the ninth grade in 2000. I wasn’t really fond of him back then. He had a really hefty hand and he made us get our test scores signed by our dads if we had a score of less than five (out of 10). As luck would have it, I mostly scored a zero in his tests. He was a man of few words but a very dedicated and hardworking teacher.
But things were simpler back then. The only thing a kid had to worry about was a slap on the back or a zero on a Math test.
Ma’am Tahira Qazi wasn’t the principal when I was at the Army Public School. She used to teach English to undergraduate students, back in they year 2000 when the college started a Bachelors programme. An elegant and graceful woman, always speaking in perfect English, in a voice I still remember vividly, she reminded me of Shaista Zaid of PTV’s English news fame.
These teachers are no more... in addition to many others whom I never had the fortune of knowing very well. Every one of them died or was grievously injured saving those children.
The school had a huge auditorium. It was our pride and joy and we boasted about it being the largest one in Peshawar, if not in Pakistan. We used to have a literary or dramatic event every Thursday in that auditorium.
However, on the 16th, the same place hosted a blood bath. On the 16th, that place which was a safe haven for us students turned into a slaughter house. On the 16th, we lost many brilliant teachers and bright students. On the 16th, every Peshawarite died a little inside.
If this tragedy doesn’t make us change our ways, I don’t think anything else ever will.
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