I am Justin Carvalho, Male, 78. You would know me as one of the bestselling writers on The New York Times Best Sellers list. I live in Candolim, Goa. You may not have heard of this place. What if I were to tell you that I had a jolly good fellow as a neighbor? He1 would send me a crate of the best whisky every Christmas, and then some more on New Year’s Eve. Notoriety makes a person well-known, far more easily than one’s good deeds.
That is what makes Mr. Tuti very special to me. His good deeds remain confined to me, or perhaps just a few. My father worked at a timber merchant dealing with Teakwood2 in Burma3. I studied at the St. Paul’s English High School in Rangoon4.
Our English teacher was Mr. Tuti. None of my classmate knew his first name, nor bothered to know. Mr. Tuti was a big man with a soft voice. He was of average build with dense curly hair on his head. What distinguished him was his dark color that made the whites of his eyes all the more frightening. The standing joke among my classmate was; if you rub coal on Mr. Tuti, it won’t leave any mark! Another one was; if you leave him in a dark room, he will become invisible if he closes his eyes!
I was his favorite student, and he would praise me saying I write ‘speaking’ sentences. Yet he never gave me full 100 marks in the monthly, half-yearly or annual examinations.
Once I gathered courage and asked him that despite being the topper in his subject, why he never gave me a full 100 marks?
“Why I never gave you a full 100 marks!” Mr. Tuti smiled indulgently at me and explained, “Carvalho5, you don’t ‘get’ those. You ‘earn’ them. The day I learn something new from what you write, you will get 100 out of 100!”
Yet whenever I made any mistake, he would punish me most severely. I would be asked to write that word 100 or even 200 times. Once, much to my chagrin, he asked me to fill the remaining pages of my notebook with the three words that I had misspelt. His punishments were not confined to just words, but often to write full correct sentences, when my verbs did not agree with the nouns, or my tenses jumped the confines of time. Other students were spared this horrible punishment.
Once again I approached him.
He put his hands on my shoulders and said, “Carvalho, all your friends are sons of rich businessmen. Once out of school, they will pursue their father’s business. You, my son, are destined to become an author. I want to equip you with the best I can.”
When I was at the Cambridge6, and my first novel was published, I received a telegram. It read, “Congratulations. You have earned 100 out of 100. – Tuti”
1. This refers to the well-known Indian MP and industrialist, Mr. Vijay Mallya.
2. Teak wood is a considered strong and valuable for making furniture and fixtures. It is found in Southeast Asian nations like Burma, Thailand, and Malayasia including India. Teak from Burma is the most expensive and valuable teak.
3. Burma was a part of British India, prior to 1937.
4. Rangoon is now known as Yangon.
5. In British schools, it is customary to address the students by their surnames.
6. The British School education system had Junior Cambridge and Senior Cambridge examination. The latter entitled a direct entry to Cambridge, Oxford and other universities in UK.