Who must I recall as best teacher in my life on teacher’s day? This question seldom bothered me earlier as I never really found any space where i was not surrounded by hosts of teachers of all sorts. They included both animate and inanimate. I don’t exactly remember when I got conscious of me as a formal learner in a school, but it didn’t matter at all as there was always enough things and people to learn from. My apprenticeship in formal education began in a the primary school of my village. Though I spent five years here of my early childhood and learnt how to read and write, i don’t remember if any of my teachers had much impression on my gullible mind. Teachers were more like satans than angels. They were really cruel and hated the poor and the lower caste children most. I hated them all and had only scant respect for them. Yet, i think i have lots of things from them. I attest that i had had my first first tryst with sociology of caste under the guidance of these teachers. My studying sociology afterwards proved only a reiteration of what i had already seen in thought and actions of my teachers.
It was not before i had reached the middle school that a certain face of the teacher started taking shape in my mind, yet i found none of my teachers resembling any degree to my ideal teacher rooted firmly in my mind. I was considered intelligent but deep inside my heart i knew i wasn’t good at mathematics. But it was certainly not for the reason that i found mathematics difficult or uninteresting. On the contrary, i had had special longing for the subject. Truth is I was looking for excellence but found none to fall back upon. Then happened the miracle. A new teacher of science joined our school and soon established himself as the sincerest of teachers. His name was Mr Tasavvur Hussain. When he came to teach class seven students in the afternoon on day one of his joining, he asked each student to share constraints s(he) faced while doing mathematic. I wrote down mine and handed over to him. Before concluding the class, he aksed me to meet him after the school hour. I met him but said nothing on constraints i had shared with him. And asked instead, “what this all hurry in life you have for?. I didn’t have any twig of his meaning, but slowly it revealed itself all too clearly. The following week proved a gift of life for me. He himself offered me free tuition time in the evening. Though i don’t sharply remember anything of his style of teaching, i still feel the immese impacts it had in channeling my attention to mathematics. In less than a week, e made me passionate about mathematics. When he found that I had learedt the needful so quickly, he patted me on my back and said, “ you should never seek paid private tuition. Books teach themselves. That’s how i learnt the art and science of mathematics which in turn made me think bold and rational. He taught me about the power of logic and reason in solving problems not only of mathematics, but also of life and life-situations. As a formal teacher i don’t remember anyone other than Mr Tasuvvar Hussai who can be said to have had significant impact on me as a student. Post school life didn’t allow itself to be stamped with impressions of individual teachers. Institutions took over teachers.
Of my informal teachers, i rate my uncle Jugul Chacha being extraordinary. I found him highly educated but with no formal degree. He was very fond of philosophy and had an uncanny skill and manner to relate his knowledge and wisdom to mundane things and activities. No wonder, he began his journey for the search of truth as a Vaishnavite sadhu but ended as a practicing communist after having meandered through fields of Arya Samaj and in the meanwhile. I learnt from him about the virtues of fearlessness, informed discussion and reason and logic. I owe my atheism and fearlessness to him
I salute them all.
Virendra is a sociologist working as a Program Management Consultant (PMC) for Bihar Urban Development Investment Programme (BUDIP).