Sunday, September 5, 2010

"What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches." ~ Karl Menninger

5th September is the birthday of the second President of India, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and is celebrated as Teacher's Day in India in his commemoration. I think it's the only "Day" which is truly Indian in its essence. Hardly anyone celebrates Mother's Day or Father's Day or Brother's and Sister's Days and so on. Most of us live with our families and it just isn't a part of the culture to celebrate special days for relationships. I remember, whenever I would wish my parents a Happy Mother's or Father's day, they would chide me saying it's not necessary. They used to say that only people who forget their parents for the rest of the year, except on maybe their birthdays and on the special Mother's or Father's days, wish their parents. For the rest, everyday should be a "Family Day." I guess since they are not used to it, they see it that way. For me, it was nothing more than another excuse for a celebration.

Another "Day" widely celebrated in India, would be Friendship Day. I have celebrated it for a few years when I was in high school (Is it just me or did that statement just make me sound like I'm 50?!! ::wails::) But then, we grew out of it. I'm sure that's the case with most of the people. Once you cross 15-16 years of age, somehow, the charm of having an arm full of colourful ribbons and having names of friends scrawled over every available inch of your skin (See what I mean? :P) is lost. And of course, Valentine's Day. It may be because of what my parents have inculcated in me by saying "If you really love someone, everyday should be their day for you." or it may be the blatant commercialism and bombarding of advertisements, that makes you feel like the scum of the earth if you don't buy something for your sweetheart but Valentine's Day has always turned me off. I don't think an occasion should be necessary to show your love, especially not when the same rose that you could have bought for Rs. 5 is now being sold for Rs. 25.

Anyway, so, it was a very long winded way of saying that Teacher's Day, is really the only "Day" which, I feel, is an Indian celebration. In most schools, this day is celebrated by the teachers having a lovely time, sitting at the back of the class while the senior students on the school struggle to teach the younger students, trying to take over a day in their teachers' lives. These are fun times since the senior students get to dress up and the juniors don't have to worry about things like homework, discipline et al. 5th September, 2002 was also the first time I wore a sari, to go and teach 5th grade students English. And, that was also the experience which confirmed that teaching, indeed, is what I want to do for the rest of my life! :D And, the handmade cards that I got that day, are still lying in my cupboard, in a safe place, along with all my other birthday cards, photographs, postcards, letters and other lovely memories. I don't have many fond memories of my school. Out of the 12 years that I was at school, I've had innumerable teachers but I can count the number of teachers who actually made a difference to my life on the fingers of my hands. Make that one hand. Therefore, whatever little I can cherish, I cherish with all my heart!

On the other hand, Xavier's more than made up for everything that I lacked in my school. It gave me role models in 8 out of 10 teachers that I had. And it gave me friends in all my teachers. The Teacher's Day celebrations in Xavier's is also hatke (different :P)! :D All the teachers come together and put up an act, a dance, a quiz and other performances for us students instead of the other way round! My first Teacher's Day in Xavier's, six years ago, when I was only a month old Xavierite, gave me exactly what philosophy Xavier's follows with respect to student-teacher relations. Our Principal, Father F and the college counsellor, Father T, both started off the event, in their cassocks. After a few acts though, they came back on to stage in, wait for it, shorts and sleeveless t-shirts!!!! And, Father T had written a rap-cum-poem that they both read out. It was hilarious! Another awesome performance by our teachers was when I was in my Second year (that would be 3 years ago.) One of our Socio profs, Father A, had dressed up as a hippy, with a guitar and a wig of long dreadlocks. They had all danced on a medley of the then popular Bollywood Songs, like Sajnaji Vaari Vaari and Bhool Bhoolaiya. [Damn it, I think the cd that has the video is probably back home in India!] It was absolutely great to see our teachers struggling and making that effort for our sakes. All of them just inspire us so much! I mean, not because they dance on stage even if they can't. :P But because they are all wonderful people, real teachers. They don't just tell or feed us facts. They show us, they inspire us, they make us think. They brought us out of the stereotypical learn-because-this-will-give-you-good-grades framework of Indian education system into learn-so-that-you-can-be-good-human-beings framework of the world. Like I've said before on this blog, Xavier's is my second home and my very first runway, from where my life, my dreams and my ambitions took flight.

I must also mention that being on the other side of things feels awesome too! :P When I was teaching (and my kids were all brilliant. I get misty-eyed every time I think of them!) I would love the special love they used to shower on me on 5th September! One of my students even calls me here sometimes before her exams so that she can get my good wishes! *Awww-mush* And most of my students from French classes always made me extremely proud by getting the best grades in their classes! Sigh, I do miss being the favourite teacher! :P

And then, last but not the least, I must thank my teachers from the University here. This University and the high standards that the School of English expects from us here made me achieve a lot more than I think I'd ever have in India. Especially, my first term tutors and my dissertation supervisor are the three people I think of extremely highly. They gave me just the right amount of guidance and support so that I don't feel like I'm drowning but at the same time, I feel confident enough to be myself and present my opinions in the academic world. University of Leeds exposed me to the international standards of academia and gave me a lot of good experiences and memories.

I feel very privileged to have been a part of these two brilliant institutes and to have worked with some awesome teachers. I hope my good luck continues in my future too. :) Happy Teacher's Day to all the teachers out there.

*Pictures courtsey Google.

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