Teachers, our foundation stones

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Teachers’ Day is celebrated in India on the fifth of September and we all know that the second President of India Sh Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was born on this day in 1888.  He was a great philosopher and a teacher and believed that the best minds in the country should be teachers.  Those of us in school have a break from studies and those practicing for the cultural program also get to miss classes.  But for those of us who left school a long time ago, it is a time of nostalgia and remembering all that we learned and gained from them.  The social media sites are suddenly buzzing and full of tributes.

On a site, I found this great tribute

“Teachers are the cornerstones of our future and act as a foundation for creating responsible citizens and good human beings. This day is celebrated to show our acknowledgment and recognition of the hard work put in by our teachers towards our development.”

…and it made me think.  People from whom we learn or want to learn are everywhere and all around us. They can be of any age, older or younger, formally educated or not, we have to be willing to absorb what they are saying and in the process, they become our teachers.  We always think of our school teachers on this day as they are the single most influencing persona in our formal education.

For me, my mother is my first teacher and even today she is the person to guide me.  My intense interest in creativity, skills in crafts are acquired because of her guidance and teaching from an early age. Encouraged to work in any medium, create a mess and see something beautiful emerge gave an immense joy.  Missing school to attend a demonstration of a new art/craft form at the Army Ladies Club was highly rewarding.  Her love of gardening, cooking, embroidery, lace making somehow got transferred to me and my sister.  This abiding interest and ability in the creative field were further enhanced when I found a guide and mentor in Mrs. Roma Mukherjea in Allahabad.  Shifting to Allahabad in 1969, I became her student and she taught me patience and also that you cannot use black as a color.  You mix a black and not use it in pure form.  Pure black is harsh.  Her advice has stayed and I tell my students the same.

At St. Mary’s School, Allahabad, Sister Pia taught us in class 10th and 11th.   She was an amazing teacher; we loved her and were so possessive about her.  She was very versatile and did beautiful embroidery and crochet which were then given as prizes at the annual raffle.  Sister Pia once told my mother “ Mrs. Mital you do not know what you have given your daughter.  She will never know the word bored in her life”. This was when my mother was complaining to her that I was more interested in painting than studying for my 11th board examination.  I did not understand her words then, I do now.

Sister Maria Goretti was our needlework teacher.  Very meticulous and exacting who liked neat work.  I remember in class 7th we were taught knitting and I knitted cute little booties in lemon color wool for my newborn cousin.  When we did cross stitch she would examine our work from the reverse side. The work had to be equally neat on the reverse.  No knots, no hanging threads, and definitely no threads crossing over. She had a tiny pair of scissors that were used to cut the cross-over threads.  Then you did the work again.  But I loved her too and she taught me much more than was the syllabus.

We all need not only good but great teachers.  They give us so much and sometimes it takes us years to understand their meaning.  What Sister Pia said has pulled me through many difficult times “ self-pity is the worst thing you can do to yourself”.

Happy Teachers Day to all my past and future Teachers!

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