When you come from a family of teachers, the idealism, discipline, ethics, thinking, expectations all have independent and different standards as compared to your peers. You are groomed inadvertently to evaluate and analyse every situation, action and reaction. The learning is imbibed instantly along with its cause and effect, almost like building a database inside of you. Needless to mention, this equips you for more balanced, logical and suitable reactions to people, circumstances and pressures, later in life.
I come from a family of teachers and trainers. All my maternal aunts, a few dynamic cousins and uncles have all been teachers or trainers. My extended family included a committed visionary who not just established a primary school against all odds and attended as a student, but also served as a Teacher himself, and later tended as a Manager and mentored as its Chairman too. An exemplary commitment of 70 years! My Mother was a super enthusiastic and dedicated Montessori teacher who did not care that her voice went hoarse bellowing instructions over and over to her toddler students. The chalk dust burning the eyes did not matter and the energy drain caring for every runny nosed kid never counted. The pride in her eyes watching the children perform on stage was more than that of the parents. I remember her constant assertion, ‘The place at the top is always reserved for you, if and when you reach there…’ That was my first impression of what a Teacher could be like.
We always worship school teachers. Some connect with their math teachers, other with the Sports teacher. My English teacher was the reason for this obsession for reading and writing- how else would I have learnt how to use ‘annihilate’ in grade 8th? I remember even living at one teacher’s humble place to give some competitive exam, she encouraged me to appear for, for 3 days. I recollect my Drawing teacher was fascinated by the female form, as we giggled jokes in the backdrop of his paintings and my science teacher wondered why I always asked so many questions in class! ‘A little humility will take you a long way in life, only a little bit of it, else people will turn you into a doormat’ was an autograph from a favorite teacher. It has stayed with me always. I dig such memories out from the mounds of time, and dust them as I rebuild my recollection. And then there are always teachers who either discriminate you for being assertive and aggressive or just because they do not like your face! Life came to a whole circle when I discovered to my utmost surprise that my music teacher from school turned out to be my son’s music teacher too!
College exposes us to freedom of not just thought, but also choice. That brings with it criticism. We break the bonds of school discipline and want to experiment. The emotional dependency and adulation converts to admiration and respect. It’s about which lecturer you connect with, after getting a chance to stand out from the crowd. The bond is more on an equal level emotionally. My Hostel Rector was a disciplinarian whom we used to look upon with some element of scorn. The connect that developed over the years was so profound that I kept writing to him for Guru pournima from the UK during my PhD studies, he participated in my wedding, was by my side during all the grave personal tragedies of life and even often bestowed me the award of Guest-of-honor at many a College functions. He has been my unwavering constant of reliance, guidance and strength for all these 29 years.
Pursuing doctoral studies in a new country was a challenge in itself. Being Indian did not make it any easy. My Professor guide was a globally acknowledged and renowned researcher, which was intimidating enough. The performance pressure used to take away not just appetite but also presence of mind. In such a dispiriting environment, an unassuming friendly assistant professor preached the universal mantra during one of his consolations- ‘Don’t throw the baby out with the water!’ It enlightened me in ways I cannot express, and those words have stayed with me ever since.
The harsh, ever demanding and judgmental corporate world gave me some amazing guides. Each one of them ‘fathers’ of their skill set, freely shared advice, suggested strategies, methodology and presentations. Their critical appreciation, setting high standards to match and exposure to information and knowledge kept me on my toes and miles ahead of my own finish-line. ‘Turn adversities into opportunities and them into experience’ one such top Boss mentored me. Another consoled, ‘Opportunities are never lost, only the others win the ones you lose’. One even pushed me to read ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ and ‘Built To Last’ to digest the long term goals of a business. A little more than 20 years in close association with these spearheading catalysts turned me into a trailblazer who instills anxiety and self-doubt in the hearts of my adversaries, today.
When we look back, we actually realise every moment, every person whose paths has crossed our’s, every situation has actually been our teacher. Every stage of our life itself is a teacher in a different form. Our children teach us new perspectives and show new vistas each day. Introspection is a teacher we find in ourselves, in solitary moments. To take and absorb the lesson, we got to have open minds, without any presumptions, free of prejudices and skepticism. Else the teacher may knock at our doors and we may ignore it assuming it is the rustling of the dead leaves against the door… They say, when the student is ready, the Master appears. He delivers some within our grasp and the rest for us to figure out on our own. It is only after years that it suddenly dawns on us what a particular statement meant! The teachings too become accessible to us when we are ready for it and when we truly need the knowledge.
What is learning? A thousand hacks of hammer and chops of chisel shaping us up to become what we were destined for? And then what is life after all? It takes the exam first and gives the lesson later!