Learning on Teacher’s Day

We had a teacher in school who used to hit us with the edge of a wooden ruler on our knuckles when we were wrong. We also had a teacher who, when she entered the classroom, would be received by rambunctious hooligans shouting at the top of their voices. The amazing thing was, this teacher, went on teaching mathematics on the blackboard, seemingly impervious to the chaotic and boisterous scene in the classroom.

I pitied those teachers. They never really taught us anything. They seemed to be doing a job.

And then there were others.

There were those who cared about teaching. Mrs. Paradkar was my school teacher who went out of the way. She taught us Marathi and Sanskrit, but what stood out was her guidance during special events like 2nd October, the Gandhi Jayanti, and 15th August, the Independence Day. I was always a part of the singing group and she not only rehearsed us in the bhajans and the anthem, but also explained their meaning so we sang with conviction.

She took a liking to me over the years, and I visited her home. She fed me, and gifted me books of Swami Vivekananda, which I still treasure. There was no other teacher like her.

Being an unrealistic idealist, as a young kid, I felt I should not be studying in this restrictive Indian system of education, and decided to apply to US universities for an undergraduate admission. When needing recommendation letters from my school teachers, I was faced with a difficult problem. Which teacher, from a small suburb of Mumbai, would give me a nicely written recommendation letter for US universities? Mrs. Thomas came to the rescue and she gave me a nice letter that accompanied my applications. I will forever be indebted to her for her kindness.

In college, I was generally unhappy with my teachers and used to rebel against them. My rebellion was actually against the rigid academic system, not my professors, but I was too young to know that.

One professor stood out, Mr. Chugani. He did not just teach us following the syllabus, he made us think for ourselves. I felt so liberated at being able to do my own experiments in the mechanics lab, which were out of our syllabus, but still being able to conduct those experiments, write observations in our journal and have Professor Chugani review them.

That was true learning and Professor Chugani understood and encouraged it. I was blessed to have a teacher like him. I am also blessed to have made friends with him over the years.

Life itself is a great teacher, but we fail to learn from it. What we need is a helping hand, a guide, a mentor, who helps us navigate life’s difficulties.

On this Teacher’s Day, I bow to everyone who has taught me, and ask for their forgiveness if there was a lesson I did not learn. The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that I did not learn enough from my teachers.

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