The Ones who Mattered

So, it’s 5th September yet again, that time of the year when florists do brisk business and gift shops stack their counters with colourful greeting cards courtesy the entire country celebrating their teachers. A day when student who’ve been lucky enough to get good tutors thank their stars..and their teachers.

Teachers and teaching is a topic close to my heart. My mother tells me I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time as a child with a chalk and a slate (pati-khadu for the Marathi mandali) teaching my imaginary students( the unwitting and rather inanimate victims of my forced lessons being cards from a pack of playing cards and even more bizarrely, the mosaic tiles in my apartment).

A far more relevant reason may be being at the listener’s end of innumerable lectures and classes for several years (Beginning with school, it takes 21 years to earn an M.D in India, and I still have 3 years to go). In these years, I’ve come across lecturers who’ve sedated me with monotonous sermons, instructors who’ve slayed my self-belief….and then some others who have become my mentors, my gurus. So it makes sense that 18 years into that education, I look back on the lessons that have stayed with me and write a post on my teachers, the ones who mattered.

The teachers who probably had the most consistent impression on my psyche were the senior teachers I was lucky enough to learn from in higher secondary school. Dynamic ladies they were( and are). With their distinguished personas and razor-sharp attitudes they managed to convince a bunch of hyperactive adolescents to direct their interests to the giddy delights of languages, the cryptic riddles of mathematics and the fascinating world of the sciences. They appreciated it even more if you had a thing for fine arts or played a sport. Generations of students of SJC can vouch for the brilliance of Mrs. Martins, Mrs. Lorraine and Mrs. Andrade. These were the ladies who taught us to have strong minds and follow our hearts.

A special influence for me was the man who taught me Mathematics and Science for my  Boards. You could love him or hate him, it was difficult to ignore Hussain Sir. Using every trick in the book, he motivated his students to pursue excellence. He named Math problems( so there was a Ku Klux Klan problem and the Skeleton sum), used water sprinklers to wake the afternoon batches and made sure he knew every student as well as he’d know his own child. I could go on and on, but I’ll end this by saying that if it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t have studied medicine. By raising the bar of what a good teacher must be, he inspired me to keep to keep learning wherever I went.

It was some medical college professors I met in my early M.B.B.S days who turned me off and made me get disillusioned with the teaching fraternity as a whole. To set the record straight, these people were good at their subject. The flip side was they were even better at telling their my batch-mates and me that we were morons of the highest order (more often than not, there was no reason for this). They ranked attendance over content at lectures, read verbatim from power-point presentations during classes and lost no opportunity to throw around their seniority, their authority and often their rather loud voices. I had major issues with my self-worth in those days, and while I cannot blame anyone for these, these so-called-teachers with their h

Thank God for a few doctor-professors I interacted with in the latter half of medical college who made me change my mind. These were highly trained super specialists, some of the most coveted names in their fields with packed schedules. It was their time, humility, graciousness and enthusiasm which helped me find myself.  Ironically, these were the people from whom I learnt outside the four walls of a conventional classroom, long after lectures were over and done with.

These were the teachers who kept their doors, their ears and their hearts open. And welcomed their students inside. These were the teachers who respected their junior-most students, their peons and their patients. From their conduct, I learnt that being nice never goes out of fashion. Over eclectic conversations over cups of chai, I was taught to find my voice. And express my opinions. Never mind what the world thought.

. From my teachers I learnt that its okay to be lost and confused. Because as long as I kept looking, I would find myself and my passion. From my gurus I learnt to follow my heart. Irrespective of where it took me. My mentors taught me that its okay to not know the answers. And long as I knew how to find them. And as long as I eventually did find them. Watching them soar high in their lives was ironically a lesson in staying rooted.  In my out-of-the-classroom lessons, I think somewhere I was taught to love. Myself. And Pink Floyd. And life.

Somewhere, I think I’ve made my peace with the bad teachers. And their dogmatic methods. Probably because of the amazing teachers I was lucky to learn from. On this Teacher’s Day, I’d like to go back and thank these teachers. For their wonderful lessons. The ones which really mattered.