Here is a collection of reminiscences which make up peep into our past and recall school and college experiences of which a variety of teachers formed an integral part. Some teachers could inspire and guide; some were indifferent; some were harsh and hard. On going through the author'sexperiences, one is reminded of the Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar who had said, ?The peculiar character of learning is that it is a double source of pleasure: an intrinsic joy to him who has the knowledge, and a source of happiness to others that benefit by it.? In short, it goes to show that we are what we are because of our teachers. In this compilation famous personalities express their views about their teachers by penning their biographies in an endearing manner.
On reading these biographies, one is forced to ask, ?Were they teachers or great leaders? Did they know what role they were playing in the lives of their students? Did they have a vision of their role? Did they plan in advance what to teach or was it spontaneous? Did they continuously try to build values, character and attitudes of their students? Do they know when they took up teaching what a hard task it would be? Did they know of what intractable material human beings are made of??
Lila Poonawalla talks of her teacher of Standard VIII who changed her life by telling her, ?Lila, you have the ability to transform every area of your life?and it all begins with your very own self-description. Remember it is the power of choice.? On another occasion she told Lila, ?Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.?
Sharan Rangnekar, who was initiated to study Sanskrit, says that it was his teacher who aroused curiosity about the language and once aroused, the student in him kept on learning by himself, ?using every opportunity to satisfy his desire for knowledge?.
R.K. Laxman, the famous cartoonist, says that when he was asked to draw a leaf, he drew such a leaf that the teacher told him, ?You will be an artist one day. Keep it up!? So he ?began to think of myself as an artist in the making, never doubting that this was my destiny?.
Ratna Khemani, a teacher, recollecting George Bernard Shaw'sline ?Life is no mean candle for me. It is a torch which I must make burn as brightly as I can before passing it on to others?, says that it was her teacher who guided her to win the President'sgold medal for best all India NCC cadet. She sums up her career by quoting Shaw again, ?I am not a teacher; only a fellow-traveller of whom you asked the way. I pointed ahead?ahead of myself as well as you? and adds herself, ?It'sa lesson I ask my students to learn by heart.?
Anjali Ray narrates the story of her English teacher Malati Verma who went to Oxford on a fellowship but returned six months later because ?England discriminated. I learned Oxford English in India from Malati Verma. I learned about Oxford from Malati Verma. I have always steered clear of Oxford. Into post-coloniality, into which I drag England and the rest of the world. Because teaching is like that. You can begin anywhere and end anywhere, along any route. Breaking boundaries.?
Gayathri Moorthy, an educational consultant, talks of her teacher Harold Joseph who told her, ?There is no such word as ?can?t? in the English dictionary? and who was a perfectionist. He taught her to go prepared for every lesson that she taught, ?having made sure that all my materials are available in adequate quantities and arranged in the correct sequence. The end product of all this preparation is a satisfying experience for both the teacher and the student, who consider it all worthwhile.?
The book written by Viney Kirpal, who is an executive of Global Research Education and Training Foundation at Pune, shows the unconditional gratitude of erstwhile students to their teachers who had given them so much without asking for anything in return?the highest offering?the real guru-dakshina that any student can give to a teacher. Hidden in the stories are the secrets of becoming a great teacher?learned, inspiring, devoted, creative, courageous and compassionate. Concealed in them are the numerous techniques and pedagogical methods that creative teachers use. Revealed in the book are teachers who served as role models for every student who wanted to teach and excel.
(New Dawn Press, A-59 Okhla Industrial Area, Phase II, New Delhi-110 020.)