“My name is Major Timms,” his voice echoed in the classroom of fifty students. He stood 6 feet tall but for his straight spine, slight chest protrusion and impeccable dress code made him look like a giant. He towered over you in demeanor. A strange and disquieting feature when one is just sprouting the adolescent features. He had command. There was no turning back. If you had remotely patterned yourself towards an easy year, those words from his mouth dispelled such a thought.
There was something in the way he moved about the room, gazing back at anyone that dared to see where he was at any one moment. Before you knew it, he was breathing down your neck, examining the search for answers in your eyes, “What seems to be the problem?” he would say and you shrugged your shoulders with a, “nothing, sir, nothing at all!” With a qualified loud “Hrrmph” he would be perched over someone else’s shoulder with an empty pipe dangling from the corners of his mouth firmly clenched in between his teeth. The image had along lasting effect on a twelve-year old mind.
Soon however as the first month of the year passed, you grew comfortable. It wasn’t like Oliver Twist looking for “more.” It was more like the plate was always filled with more even without the asking.
Major Timms was a joy as a teacher. His “hrrmphs” got quieter as he gauged your discipline and desire and then stoked the energies of the youth. Even the laziest of the lazy were compelled and propelled. Somehow everyone learned. He allowed questioning at its basic level. The “whys” were always answered with a “because” if he knew them and “lets find out,” if he didn’t. He was like an adventurer at the helm of an expedition, always knowing the currents, tides and winds for the sails to fill and the direction towards the rising sun.
There was more knowledge received from him then can be quantified. He would take an algebra problem and equate it to Al Khwarizmi and how people back then solved complex issues of society. He had a knack for metaphors, an eye for the needle in the haystack, an ear for the subtlest of sounds emerging in the youthful understanding and above all he prodded, poked and stoked the fires of passion to learn. From DaVinci and Shakespeare to Newton and Einstein everyone and everything was fair game.
Every day in his class, I changed my mind to follow a different goal in life; a mathematician one day changed into an astrophysicist, a writer morphed into a philosopher the next and in the end the rocket scientist finally settled on medicine and within medicine later, from an immunologist to a medical oncologist. But oh, the pleasures of those multiple desires still evoke a memory that continues to ignite the conflagration within.
I have often wondered if I could find in myself a sliver of what he had, so I may be able to mold journeys the way he did? He was a special person. He wanted the best in everyone. He told stories, he brought fables to life, spoke of myths and fashioned arguments for and against till you saw the meaning behind the words. He was special indeed. For he gave me the wisdom to learn and I will forever be grateful for that.
So long Major Timms, your inspiration lives.