Sunday, September 5, 2010

Salaam Guruji !

Those who educate children well are more to be honored than parents, for these only gave life, those the art of living well - Aristotle

They say that the youth are the architect of a nation's future. But what remains hidden behind those words are that its the teachers who lay the foundation for carving the bright young minds, for where would the youth be had there been no good teachers? From time immemorial,  a teacher has always been looked upon with great respect in the society. Cicero the Roman Philosopher has said "What nobler employment, or more valuable to the state,than that of the man who instructs the rising generation", and haven't we all heard our parents say "Beta, why don't you try becoming a teacher?". We all have had our favourite teachers, the most hated teachers( maths teachers in most cases), a teacher for whom we harbored crushes ( its their subjects we would burn the midnight oil for, and submit their assignments on time) and they all have been a part of our memories, and we owe at least a little bit of what we are today to them. We remember the rap on the head we used to get for failing their subjects, we remember the ruffle of our hairs when we topped the class, we remember them for solving our doubts in our subjects even after school hours, we remember them for their trademark style of teaching, their trademark one liners which they would dish out to the students every now and then, which we secretly enacted during lunch breaks to keep our friends entertained. Having been born in a family of teachers- my mother, my uncle and my aunt, I have seen the adoration and the adulation which they receive from the students and their parents. It is heart warming, yet at times unsettling to see the amount of trust the parents have on the them. Apart from trying to secure good results for their school, they are also shaping young minds. Teachers empower these minds with the freedom to make decisions, giving them the liberty to think on their own. What a parent may not understand about their child, a teacher very well does. 

A bond that a teacher shares with the students is considered to be the most holy of all,  the Drona-Arjuna relation from Mahabharat even to this day is a fine example of how deep a relation between a student and a teacher can be, another example is that Reliance advertisement where Hrithik Roshan calls up his school teacher to wish her, a 30-second ad it may have been, but yet somewhere it makes us want to call our gurus and thank them for all they have given us. There are some movies  which have so wonderfully portrayed the relation teachers share with their students, To Sir, with Love, Dead Poets Society, Taare Zameen Par, Pay It Forward are some which always brings a smile on our faces, and make us think of those fine men and women who taught us more about life as much as they did about subjects. Haven't we all met a few teachers who with their maverick style made our subjects more interesting? I shared a love-hate relationship with maths, I loved to hate it, I always dreaded maths classes and hated math teachers, but I had a fine gentleman named Mr.Vardarajan teach me math during my twelfth grade, who changed the way I looked at it. He was a well read man, a brilliant orator who could narrate Robert Frost and Thirukurral with the finesse with which he solved integral calculus.Bespectacled, lean and tall with a commanding voice he was as stern as any math teacher could be, I have been slapped around by him a few times, but for a change I never hated him for that. Its been seven years since I passed out of twelfth, and yet I still remember those math hours fondly for how he created a love (although a short lived one) for the subject in my heart. God bless him wherever he is.

I was a literature student, and like Prof. John Keating from Dead Poets Society, I had a few college professors, a few good men who taught me prose and poetry in their own inimitable style. They always made us believe that a B.A in literature was as good as any degree to feed your empty stomach, and to provide you with steady paychecks. Where the society always raised an eyebrow upon hearing my B.A degree and questioned me endlessly about the limited career choices it offered, these men gave us that hope and that belief that in this day and age any monkey who knows to type and say few words in English can get a job. And true to their word, this monkey has a job and is looking to make a career out of it. As students, we had that air of cockiness around us that we knew more than our some of our teachers. We believed in what was written in the neatly published, highly priced Tata-McGrawhill than our teachers' old and torn xeroxed notes. We felt we knew more than them because we owned a neatly packaged guide that told us more about the subjects than our professors ever could. Yet after having passed out of college I sometimes feel that I may have been harsh whenever I had scoffed at them for their knowledge or for their lack of it. I realize that they have taught me lessons on life which is not written in any book, they have been fine companions and fine advisers, a role no book can play.

While in college and school there were few teachers whom we despised, we would promise to ourselves that once we passed out we would never look back at them. We remembered them with contempt for all that humiliation we had suffered at their hands.Yet, as time goes by and one fine day when we bump into them out of the blue in a train or in the streets, we forget all the slaps, the kneeling downs, the impositions, the scoldings. We let bygones be bygones, we go over to them and tell them a polite "Hello", and I think that is all they want, they need no money, they need no ballads written or statues erected, they need no books written on their lives from us. All they need from us is that simple acknowledgment that we remember them for all the efforts they took for shaping us into what we are today. I met my professors recently during my graduation, and it was a humbling feeling to have met them and tell them "It was a pleasure to have been your student", something which I did not realize during our college days, I told them that day, and I meant every word of it.

They say that a good teacher is like a candle- it consumes itself to light the way for others. To all those teachers who burn day in and day out only to illuminate the path for youngsters, to the teachers who give their students a push in the right direction, to the teachers who shape young minds and give them the freedom to think, to the teachers who always have faith in the ones who could never have faith in themselves, to the teachers who never asked for any sort of reward and recognition except for maybe a decent "Hello, how are you?" from an old student, to my mother who had a tough time teaching me Vertically Opposite Angles when I was busy suppressing my yawn all the while pretending to be listening, to the teachers and professors who have taught me and provided me with all the study materials, and more than that who have taught me to chase my dreams, aap sabko mera salaam!!