TEACHER’S DAY evokes fond memories in my mind. I was born in Kolkata and studied in vernacular medium till Class VIII. In 1946, my father shifted there and this required a new school for me. With some effort, my father managed an interview for me in St Xavier’s, a reputed English-medium school.
On the appointed day, I was mortified as I entered the room. The teacher, a soft-spoken person, asked me my age. Nervously I replied, ‘Twelve o’clock, sir.’ He laughed and put me at ease. I was admitted to St Xavier’s.
The teacher was Father Van Buynder who was to be my mentor, reshaping my life into a new mould of confidence and self-esteem. He accepted me as a challenge just as Professor Higgins of ‘My Fair Lady’ fame, accepted and trained the raw Eliza Doolittle. Father Van Buynder refined me, educated me, leaving an indelible mark.
I think many of us remember the teacher who left a deep impact. My son often talks of his teacher Brother Hart in St John's School, Chandigarh, who taught not just English but gave a different perspective to speak and write the language.
At the annual function of the Chandigarh Bhavan Vidyalaya, the outgoing school captain spoke in moving words, ‘In the 18 years of my life, I have spent 15 years in this school. What I am today is all due to my dedicated teachers who passed on their knowledge to me with affection, commitment and understanding.’
Our scriptures are replete with hymns and mantras in praise of the teacher or guru. Dattatreya Upanishad says, ‘Matrudevobhava, Pitrudevobhava, Acharya devobhava,’ meaning mother, father and the guru are like God. Skanda Purana has a mantra, ‘Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu, Guru Devo Maheshwara, Guru Sakshat, Param Brahma, Tasmai Shri Guravay Namah.’ In Sanskrit, the word guru comprises two root words: gu and ru — gu means darkness and ru remover. Thus, guru means a teacher who removes darkness and brings enlightenment.
All cultures and countries respect the profession of teaching as it is linked with human development. Unesco recommends celebrating October 5 as World Teacher’s Day bringing focus on the importance of a teacher’s role in society.
India observes September 5 as Teacher’s Day. It is the birth anniversary of a great teacher, Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. In 1965, when some admirers wanted to celebrate his birthday, he with utter humility, expressed his wish not to celebrate the birthday, suggesting instead that this day be dedicated to teachers. Since then, the day is observed as homage to Dr Radhakrishnan and to all the teachers of India.
George Bernard Shaw says, ‘Life is no brief candle to me. It is a torch which I must make burn as brightly as I can before passing it onto others.’ This is truly a teacher’s lofty wish and ideal to pass on the bright torch of knowledge to his students.
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