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Do all teachers serve as beacon in our life?
Every year 5th September we celebrate Teacher's Day. Teachers are supposed to be the guiding force in our lives and are held in high esteem in our society. But do all teachers serve as beacon in our life? Memories especially gory memories do not fade from our mind.

As I write this article, I cannot remember a single teacher in my entire school life who had shown me the path to light. It is not that they used to teach badly, but their behavior and attitude haunts me and the rest of my friends who were very mediocre in school days. Most of our teachers 'favored' the so called 'good students' who scored high marks in science subjects.

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It was pre-decided they will be the future leaders and the rest of us- who were naughty, mischievous, talkative, who barely managed to pass or got average marks were worthless. I remember once I had failed in one of the subjects in a terminal examination, so a 'good' student was asked not to sit with me since I was bad! Unfortunately that 'future leader' could not shine much in her professional life.

Our parents admit us in convent schools so that we become disciplined and acquire good skills. But in the name of discipline our childhood is lost and basic instincts are curtailed. How badly girls of our school were humiliated during the morning assembly if they were found to loiter around with guys after school hours, in school uniform.

The 'control' of our school was omnipresent. Is it not natural for a teenager to seek love, admiration from an opposite sex. An ambience full of moral values was created. Girls having boyfriends were 'bad' having no future. One such 'victim' of morning assembly is a famous actress of Tollywood, of whom the school is very proud of now.

There was a program with the Don Bosco, I remember one of the nuns said, "The boys are your brothers…treat them as brothers. You are not supposed to look at guys…you can get pregnant!"

As school children all these ideas would have never germinated in our minds if we were not told such irrational things. There was never any effort made to explain certain vital facts of our lives in a scientific manner. Needless to say we collected information on sex and other associated things from Hindi movies; from our peers; our seniors in a hush hush manner.

There was no Internet in those days. All these doses of moral values actually lead us to hide things and our activities from our parents and teachers because of the fear of punishment. Once one of our sisters had remarked, 'it rained in entire Calcutta, but never rained in our school because of God's mercy'. Some of us found it hilarious and laughed. We were made to stand the entire workings hours of the school in scorching heat! In those days there were no electronic media to 'live' telecast such incident, nor human rights activists campaigning for child rights.

Every day, as I said, moral and ethical values were showered on us. I asked one of my teachers (a nun) "If God Almighty is present everywhere then why do we need to bow our heads and pray? We can even pray by singing, dancing, laughing, and while we do all other activities."

She was so angry with me and blasted at me saying, "I have no values, no future… nothing…I have insulted Jesus Christ!" It goes without saying that God in convent schools implied only Jesus Christ.

Few years ago I met one of my school friends. She is a doctor and at the moment engaged in research in Pune. We were just discussing our past. She said, "I am invited to deliver lectures and share my expertise in different fields …if I can speak, deliver lectures now, at least in schools I could have uttered one sentence, one word, but I and you (meaning myself) were never given this opportunity in school."

Even I feel the same when I am invited to train police and correctional service officers in training institutes in India. A couple of times I was invited to deliver lecture to IPS officers for their in-service courses at Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy under Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. I have been abroad for paper presentations. In fact had got a rare opportunity to visit the Department of State's Office in Washington D.C. and held meetings with senior officers. (It was a part of my Human Rights course).

If I can express myself in such high profile venues, then why was I labeled 'useless' in parent teacher meetings during my school days. Majority of these so called 'excellent' school companions of mine on whom my teachers banked upon are living in U.S.A. on a dependent visa. They are wives of NRIs. There is nothing wrong in being wives of NRIs. But the moot question remains, in a country where millions of students do not get opportunity to study, what have these 'dearest' friends of mine done with their so called 'excellent', 'star' marks?

Their sole work now is to upload photographs of U.S.A. and other countries in Facebook on a regular basis. In Bengal, engineers and doctors are the most coveted profession. One of my 'star' friends could not even qualify the West Bengal Joint Entrance Examinations. At least I and some of my mediocre friends are making a decent living from the education we received. We may be going abroad once in a year or more, but we make such 'foreign trips' which are considered yardstick of success, by our own merit. We are not parasites.

One afternoon one of my colleagues told me her naughty son has been labeled as suffering from 'autism' in school. He is barely three years of age. I remembered my niece whom I most fondly refer as Philomela baby was called an 'abnormal' child by her class teacher. She was victimized for no fault of her. At home her mother used to teach her individually. So she thought that in schools too teachers give individual attention to students and teach individually. So she asked her class teacher to teach her.

I had spoken to the now famous cine star Nigel Akkara (alumnus of St. Xavier's Collegiate School and College, Kolkata) and asked him whether in the school none of the teachers realized that he was getting deviated, he replied 'no'. I asked Nigel whether there were no teachers available to understand him. He again replied in his baritone voice 'no'.

Only if his teachers had taken preventive steps and controlled his violent nature in his formative years, perhaps the golden years of his life would not have been lost. Perhaps the problem remains in our education system. There are too many students in classroom. It becomes very difficult for a single teacher to manage so many students. Moreover in most private schools the salaries of teachers are very less, so they have to 'coerce' and 'torture' students for private tuitions.

It is not that college teachers are better. One of my colleagues had revealed to me that in his class one of his friends has always been 'favored' since his father was a high profile bureaucrat. A Marxist colleague in my erstwhile college advised me to be very kind and polite to a particular student. He was a son of a famous academician who was close to the then ruling party.

In another incident a student of mine was entering examination hall. The head of the institution suddenly got furious seeing her wearing short skirts (it was of knee length and was not indecent at all) and shouted at her. Anyone however well prepared before appearing for examination do suffer from tensions and anxieties. Shouting at a student at that point, what does it imply?

In my professional life I have found teachers very fond of showing their 'power' inside the educational institution. Of course none of my batch mates can ever forget one of our illustrious teachers in university during our post graduate days. She would come to the class, criticize all teachers, boasts of her foreign degree and would read from photocopies She hardly made any effort to teach us. Can I have respect for such teachers?

As I entered the profession of teaching, I had vowed to myself that I will never misbehave, humiliate or maltreat any student. I try to follow it but nevertheless I am a human being and subjected to errors and mistakes. But later on in life I met and interacted with few people who inspired me. One such person remains Mr. S. Ramakrishnan, an IPS officer, who retired as Additional Director General of Police, Criminal Investigation Department, Government of West Bengal.

Later on he served as the Director of the Regional Institute of Correctional Administration. He is a source of inspiration not only for the police force but to everyone who has been fortunate enough to meet him. Last year after passing out parade, a cadet remarked, "you know ma'am we were playing outdoor games and my shoe lace opened. Ramakrishnan Sir was with us, he came forward and tied my show lace. It was very embarrassing…after all he is an IPS officer... I am subordinate in rank and age. But he said on field you are my student and I am your teacher."

Apart from formal knowledge there is so much to learn from him in every aspect of life. He is an institution by himself, yet so polite and gentle. He has no ego of being whatever he has achieved in life and perhaps that helps him to 'connect' with the ordinary citizens.

I believe love and respect should come spontaneously. I think we all love our first teacher -our mothers. And then there is no end to people who teach us and from whom we can learn. In India a B.ED degree or NET is a mere pre-requisite qualification to enter this profession in schools and colleges respectively. But even with the highest degree from any university around the world, if a person remains 'egoistic', 'rude', does not know how to love and share he or she can never ever become a 'real' teacher.

Just as there is no end to acquire knowledge, there is no end of teachers in life. A gardener is my teacher when he or she teaches me the nuances of gardening. A chauffer is my teacher when he in spite of repeated mistakes in holding gear and changing it, maintain his calm composure and tries hard to teach me. Anybody irrespective of any formal degree can be a teacher- a person who inspire us, motivate us above all knows to love us.

Wishing every such person a very Happy Teacher's Day!

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