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'He visited the slums to teach children like me'

Last updated on: August 31, 2010 18:17 IST

'He visited the slums to teach children like me'

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We bring you readers' stories about their favourite, most inspirational teachers.

Yesterday, we invited you to share special experiences about your best-loved teachers with us to celebrate Teacher's Day on September 5. Here is the first set of responses.

We start off with Bangalore-based Heera Nawaz's dedication:

It is often said that during the course of one's education, if one is lucky, one will come across a very sterling and colourful teacher who has the ability to inspire one for life. I was indeed such a lucky person and the teacher in question is Mrs Vatsala Seshadri -- the quintessential teacher, but a distinct cut above run-of-the-mill educators, many of who just try to rush through their portions in order to have longer holidays!

On the other hand Mrs Vatsala Seshadri, who has to her credit over 40 years of teaching experience was no laid-back teacher, but a dedicated, sincere and devoted one who taught English and History. When she first entered our ninth standard classroom at Bishop Cotton Girls' School, Bangalore, in the year 1974, she brought our English lesson on the doomed Titanic to life with her vivid descriptions. The lesson sparkled due to her profound knowledge of facts and figures and her delectable sense of humour. She was a knowledgeable and interesting person who had the wisdom to make her teaching practical by relating theory with everyday life examples, situations and vicissitudes. Due to this, we were often charged with energy and enthusiasm and never felt bored in her classes.

Mrs Seshadri was a shrewd and intuitive judge of character and knew which girls to praise and which ones to pull up. She was one of the few who was not misled into giving only the beautiful and brilliant girls encouragement, as she often said that pretty girls were headstrong and arrogant. On the other hand, she inferred that shy and demure girls could be more unassuming and have greater personal depth.

Mrs Seshadri was a friendly and witty person, and often inspired and attracted students who surrounded her in the break time like butterflies around a flower, eager to partake of her share of knowledge. She told us that we too could be repositories of knowledge if we read voraciously, especially the classics and encyclopedias. In fact, so strongly and forcefully did she influence me that I became a voracious reader of both newspapers and general knowledge books -- a habit which I have honed over the last 33 years.

In fact, I remember her 33 years later mainly because she was the person who inspired me to become a writer. She gave me valuable pointers -- for instance, she reiterated that for a writer, words must flow freely and be expressed vividly with clarity and lucidity for the best and most effective communication. Secondly, she told me to develop a good vocabulary and to not only use a varied spectrum of powerful words but to also discern the context of when to use each word. Last but certainly not the least, she told me to write to express and not to impress and to mean what I write and write what I mean.

All in all, Mrs Seshadri was really a rare teacher and a great inspiration for all women. So this Teacher's Day, on September 5, I will definitely call Mrs Seshadri. Though a senior citizen now, she has not lost her verve and enthusiasm for life. I will tell her, with tears streaming down my face, that "the feather floats, but the pearl lies low."


Next we have nostalgia from Nirjhar Majumdar of Navi Mumbai:

My favourite teacher was a very ordinary person.He lost almost all his property in erstwhile East Pakistan in 1971 and could barely escape to India. He was a retired professor of English and History from Sylhet. His son worked as a Central Government Officer. My teacher, Professor K N Roy Chowdhury started to live with his only son in their government flat at Salt Lake (Kolkata).

When I met him, I was a student of Class XI and he was 73 years old. He took full responsibility to coach me in English. Considering my financial condition, he decided not to take a single rupee.

He had to struggle all through life and had little savings. His son fell prey to severe epilepsy and had to take long leaves from work quite often. Later he had to opt for voluntary retirement. In spite of all this, I never saw the smile disappear from Prof Chowdhury's face.

During my Class XII examinations, my studies were seriously disrupted due to a series of family problems. It was the professor who not only gave me mental support and courage, but had me study in his flat for days. And the way he taught English -- I have yet to see a professor teach any subject like that.

I still remember the days when we used to walk together down the beautiful streets of Salt Lake in the evenings and he used to make me understand the finer points of Wordsworth's 'Strange Fits of Passion'. He took me to a world that made me forget a lot of my difficulties and miseries of daily life.

He passed away in 1995 at the age of 90. He gave me the some precious gifts -- he taught me to be humble in whatever you do, be kind to the people around you and be respectful to God for whatever He is giving us everyday.

I hope he is still smiling at me from somewhere above the earth.


Here, Luna Daniel from Bangalore tells us about her favourite teacher:

There are quite a few people who make a lot of difference in your life, but you get to realise that a few years later.

One such person, who I never got the chance to tell how much she meant to me, but was always quietly supporting me was Mrs Bandopadhyay -- my class teacher of classes IX and X.

I was always a bright student but extremely shy to express my thoughts, unlike other peers who were quick to understand that competition did exist even at the tender age of 13 and 14. The more I let go of arguing and openly showing my distaste of various happenings, the more she encouraged me to voice my opinions.

I was not the topper, nor was I the most popular girl in school or the daughter of an illustrious father. But she always made sure to let me know that my opinions and thoughts mattered, even if they were different from everyone around.

I was a talkative teen, but that was limited to family and close friends.

I loved poetry and most of my work in school always had a streak of creativity. Mrs Bandopadhyay encouraged me to use it constructively -- she nurtured my love of poetry and ensured that, quietly but surely, I was made to feel proud of my small creative pieces.

I was an above average student and participated in most activities, but I always tended to let the spotlight go to people around -- never did I want to be centrestage. She helped me understand that this quality was unique, but made me realise that being known for the good things you do is not being proud, but making people around you proud.

My achievement of getting five points in ICSE also goes to her. She always had the faith that I would come out with flying colours and needless to say, I stood amongst the top ten in school.

My adoration increased for her tenfold when I saw her strength and grit at losing her only son in the Kargil War. Never did she let us realise the pain she went through -- she smiled even through the time of loss.

Today I am 27 years old, confident and known to be the face of my team. Whenever people from school see me, they always comment on the changes that I have undergone over the years in confidence and interactions with others.

The only person whom I owe this to is my very own Mrs Bandopadhyay. Love you, Ma'am! Hope I make you proud like always, even in the years to come.


And finally we have Deepak Singh from Agra tell us about his teacher:

I was born and brought up in an extremely poor and socially 'lowest caste' family in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh. Though my parents accepted Christianity as our religion, our socio-economic conditions remained the same. We were not entitled to any SC privileges due to our religion. I had been living with my parents in a small hut in a slum located at Doulat Bagh in Moradabad. Though my parents were deprived of education due to lack of resources, they knew its value; therefore, they worked day and night to manage the education of their three children and made sure we got it. I was studying in a municipality school along with my two younger sisters. Though good at studies, we always longed for someone to guide us to understand better what we read.

One day a tall man with long hair and beard, wearing long a long khadi kurta and dhoti came to our house. He introduced himself to us as 'Acharya, meaning Guru (teacher) from Pt Shambhu Nath Dubey Sharaswati Shishu Mandir, located in the Civil Lines area. I was shocked to hear that he wanted to identify destitute children from our slums to give them tuitions every evening. I was not able to believe that a Brahmin wanted to visit slums and give tuitions to the 'untouchables' free of cost. But it was true -- Acharyaji remained with us for the next two years as a very inspiring teacher, who not only explained difficult Mathematics, Science, and English, but also taught us the Gayatri and Shanti mantras that I still remember. I stood second in my class in Standard V and did well in the higher classes as well.

The most touching moment of my life with him was when, one day, all of a sudden he expressed a wish to have dinner with us in our home. My parents did not know what to do. We were able to arrange some curd and chutney and onions with chapati. We offered him food and were silently waiting for him to finish, but he insisted that we should bring our food and eat with him. We did not know how to respond, as my parents had cooked meat that day and Brahmins are strict vegetarians. When my parents finally managed to tell him, he politely said, "Don't worry -- you eat your food and I will eat mine, but we will eat together." That spirit of fellowship I still cherish after 30 years -- and I miss my great teacher, who went beyond ordinary human thinking and made his place in my heart like an image of my Christ, who did the same with Samaritan women in spite of being a Jew.

Today, I have finished my second master's degree from one of the best institutes in Europe and have visited almost four continents. But my Acharyaji's role at that time in my life will always inspire me to follow in his footsteps, apart from my professional duties. This is to express my love and gratitude to Aacharyaji.

I don't know where you are Acharyaji -- I miss you and wish to meet you.

NB: Acharyaji was transferred to some other place and I became quite busy in my studies and left Moradabad long ago due to my professional requirements.

With Teacher's Day coming up on September 5, we want you to share a story about your favourite teacher with us. It can be amusing, interesting or sentimental -- but it has to be about that special someone who made the biggest impression upon you in the course of your academic career.

Simply write in to us at getahead@rediff.co.in (subject line: 'To Teacher, with love') with your experience and, if possible, a photograph of your teacher and you. We'll be publishing the best entries right here on rediff.com


Image: Bangalore-based Heera Nawaz's teacher, Mrs Vatsala Seshadri