Yesterday was Teachers’ Day in India. For those of my readers who don’t know, it is the birthday of India’s former President Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan. The man was better known as a fantastic teacher that as a President. I remember looking forward to Teacher’s Day every year when I was in school. To me, it meant a day off from studies. It meant students of Class 12 taking over the role of the teachers for one day in the year. It also meant a rare opportunity to socialise with my teachers the way we had never done during the rest of the year. We could see our teachers take a well-deserved break from teaching, participate in a game of Antakshari, dance to the sound of a popular Bollywood song and try their luck at quizzes. On the whole, it was a fun day, both for the students and for the teachers. I wonder if Chinmaya Vidyalaya retains that tradition today. The purpose behind such a celebration was not just to give the teachers a day off, but also to teach those poor students of Class 12 just how difficult a teacher’s job can be. These celebrations were a way of giving them the responsibility of running the school for a day even if the gesture was simply symbolic. It helped in cultivating a sense of involvement in school life.
That is why I was rather surprised to learn that Teachers’ Day was a holiday for the SBOA School near my house. Apparently, the school administration decided that the best way to give the teachers a break was to give them a holiday and force them to sweep and mop and cook special meals at home instead. Or maybe use the day to catch up on pending work at the bank or a government office. When I asked the kids why they had a holiday on Teachers’ Day, they seemed genuinely surprised to learn that the day was supposed to be Teachers’ Day. Then, with a look of dawning comprehension, one of them told me that it was a holiday for teachers to enjoy. That is the sad state in which many of our schools find themselves. To my neighbours’ kids, the teacher is simply someone who is paid to repeat what is printed in the text book. There is a clear absence of personal rapport and respect for the teacher. In fact, the situation is so bad that I heard an irate parent tell her daughter that she would only end up as school teacher if she continued to do badly in studies. It is a sign of our decadent times that the last profession a parent would want her child to take up is teaching. Is it so bad to be a teacher? I am a teacher myself, or rather, was a teacher until August 2005. Some of the best experiences I have had as a human being are as a teacher.
I remember very little of my kindergarten days. That is normal given that I was barely four then. But, it is impossible for me to forget the wonderful “Sulochana Miss”, without whom I would have refused to attend even my second day at school. She made my life school a joy. I looked forward to seeing her every morning. She made my innocent, four-year-old life worth living. I wonder where she is now. I wonder if she knows that I have come this far in life. And, I wonder how she will feel about it. Along the way, other teachers have made their impact. Mrs. Kanti Ramakrishnan at the age of 15, Mrs. Titty Phillips at 18, Mme Brigitte Maury at 21 and Mr. Eric Chevallier at 24: each of them has been a positive influence in what would have been an uneventful and mediocre life without them. Each of them has had a lasting influence on my career choices and made me what I am today. I have not had the opportunity to tell them this ever. I wish to say thanks to each of them through this post. Thank you for making me what I am today.