“You may or may not remember the topics I teach but you will definitely remember at least a few of the other things I tell you during my classes”, declared Prof. S with a serious face in his first class. I smiled at him in disbelief. Today when I sit back and recount my 3 years of under-graduation that statement rings true; not only in his case but for all the professors who taught me. The most important lesson I learnt from Prof. S’s classes was to accept myself and love myself wholeheartedly. Through a simple activity, he demonstrated to us that we can quickly list out the things we don’t like about ourselves but we take much longer to even list a few things that we like about ourselves. On the other hand, we take a long time to list the things we don’t like in our best friends but can quickly make a long list of things we like in them. In a world that magnifies our weaknesses and failures, he taught us to celebrate even the smallest of our achievements and to accept every compliment graciously and not dismiss them like we generally do. These concepts were radical to me. I hesitantly started practising them and what a difference it has made to me! Being aware of your achievements and strengths empowers you.
Then there was Prof. R who kept telling us that positive affirmations can do miracles, which is why (to our embarrassment) she used to prefix our name with a positive adjective every time she addressed us. She would encourage the loftiest of our aspirations and tell us that it was well within our reach unlike some others who would laugh it off and tell us to be realistic.
My all-time favourite is Prof. C who taught us English. I looked forward to his class even if it was the last session of a long day. I’ve hardly missed any of his classes in the two years he taught us. With each short story and poem he opened my heart and mind to a whole new world out there. I’ve learnt so much from him and his classes that I can write a book about it. Through his sessions on James Thurber’s works, I learnt how important it is to laugh at oneself. I am still mastering this art but it has already made my life simpler.
At our insistence, he once conducted a special session on art appreciation and it was a marathon 4 hour session on a Saturday during which no one even stirred! At the end of it I realised what Tetsuko Kuroyanagi stated beautifully, “Having eyes, but not seeing beauty; having ears, but not hearing music; having minds, but not perceiving truth…These are the things to fear…”. His last class for our batch was a sombre affair with the class bursting in strength. It was another memorable session in which he told us that what really matters in the end is making somebody a little happier by our presence.
This teacher’s day is dedicated to all those teachers who transcended the text-books and the classroom decorum to teach us lessons that make us better human beings and help us lead fulfilling lives. May their tribe increase!
P.S. Published in the editorial of Deccan Herald on 2nd September, 2016