From Guruswamypalayam, a lesson for all shishyas

K. JAVEED NAYEEM writes: September 5 happens to be the birth anniversary of Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, one of India’s most learned former Presidents. Since he was a very great and able teacher too in addition to being a very learned statesman, we observe the day as Teachers’ Day.

It is the sad truth in our lives that while acknowledging the role of persons who help us in our race to reach the top, we seldom realise that our teachers, who are the persons who deserve our gratitude the most, are the ones who seldom get it in right measure.

Our parents who nurture us, the firm that gives the first job that becomes the stepping stone, the boss who ensures that we get our promotions and positions in time and the colleagues who help us achieve our targets and goals and almost every other agency responsible for our success gets thanked at the end of the race.

But very sadly, most often our teachers never get the share of our tributes that is their rightful due.

However, it is good that one day in our calendar is marked as Teachers’ Day as it helps us all to remember from time to time that we should recall the role of our teachers in moulding and shaping our personalities, our careers and our lives. But as we all prepare to pay our debt of well earned and well deserved gratitude to all the members of the teaching fraternity tomorrow by observing Teachers’ day, somewhere in the heart of rural Tamil Nadu a group of students is all set to say ‘thank you, sir’ to one of their school teachers in a very unique way.

Last fortnight, my attention was drawn by my friend Lt. Col. Dr. Y.N.I. Anand to a report in one of the newspapers which said that in Guruswamypalayam in Tamil Nadu, a group of 500 students had got together to pool their money, purchase a site, build a two- storey house worth Rs 10 lakh and gift it as a token of their gratitude on the occasion of Teachers’ Day tomorrow to S. V. Venkataraman, their former Tamil pundit who retired nearly 25 years ago in 1985.

It appears the effort was led by M. A. Arthanari, a retired municipal commissioner and an old student. Realising that their teacher had no savings left to have his own house after spending on the marriages of his two daughters, the group of students decided that this was the best way of paying their ‘Guru Dakshina.’

After reading the report I felt that to deserve this magnanimous gift of gratitude from so many of his past students well after his retirement, he must have been a really great teacher. And, to remember their debt of gratitude to their humble school teacher so long after their own lives had been made and after many of them had themselves retired from their own jobs, they must have been a really great bunch of students.

Ekalavya by giving away his thumb to his unseen and distant Guru Dronacharya, may have set the best example of gratitude to a teacher in distant mythology but by their unique act in a present day world, this group of students have not done anything less.

People say a doctor’s profession is the noblest one but as a doctor I have always felt the most sacred profession in this world is that of a teacher. Wisdom is undoubtedly the most essential and important asset human beings need to lead a fruitful and civilised life on this earth and to be in the position of a teacher who imparts this to us generation after generation, certainly makes it the noblest profession.

As we go through the process of acquiring our education we come across many very good and efficient teachers. But not all good and efficient teachers become great in the eyes of their pupils. Only a few extraordinary ones leave a lasting impact or even an imprint of their own personalities on our minds as S. V. Venkataraman, the school teacher of Tamil Nadu perhaps did.

The quality that makes them stand apart is their ability to go beyond just teaching into the more difficult realm of being able to mould the character of their students by propagating values essential to a good life.

They are very rare gems indeed and thus very hard to find but I have had the good fortune of having many glittering brightly among the many fond memories of my student days.

(K. Javeed Nayeem is a practising physician who writes a weekly column in Star of Mysore where this piece originally appeared.)