Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Mentor

What a contrast my life in the campus was to the one I had in my college! While in the college I was always engaged in reading, writing and participating in seminars, now it was as if I had forgotten all these things. I used to have so many questions to the teachers in the college, often leading to fierce arguments, in the university there was very little of such activity. In fact, one of the teachers asked in the class openly not to read “Politics Among Nations” about which he was delivering a lecture. It was a different matter that I had read it way back while I was an undergraduate. A good teacher would never discourage a student from reading the original works. While in the college I had only a couple of friends, now I had too many. At times I felt life on the campus was purposeless, directionless and therefore useless!

We had another teacher who spoke in telegraphic language, for apparently he was not very comfortable with English. He would begin his lecture always with the headlines in the newspaper that day. He used to say it was for ‘refreshment’. He was teaching theoretical aspects of public administration, but during the whole year he never really touched the core of the subject. He used to ask students to have a set format for any topic – introduction, body, criticism and conclusion – in that order. But yet he was a very popular teacher because it all looked so easy to the students when he explained in his telegraphic language and gestures. Moreover, some of his jokes were below the belt in a very subtle way that caught the admiration of the students. Once Virupakshappa answered a question in Kannada and I repeated the same in English using the academic jargon. When he appreciated me, Virupakshappa in protested that he’d given the same reply. The teacher explained, “ See, one not good looking girl -in bad fitting clothes -nobody notice. But same girl wearing miniskirt and t-shirt, high heels- everyone will watch.” The boys understood the difference immediately and there was laughter all around.

There was another teacher, who was known to be very soft on girls and usually understood to be weakness for the fairer sex. The practice was to call the second names of the students while taking attendance. He began addressing the girls with their first name. We had watched Vani going very often to his chamber for god knew what. Her complete name was Vanishree Moraba and he used to call her Miss Moraba in the beginning. One day while taking the attendance, he called her “Vani” and I exchanged a knowing smile with Vijay and Bhaskar, which he noticed. He immediately gathered his notes and the attendance register and left the class.

Everyone knew it was because of me that he had walked out, so I had to go to his chamber to apologize. Upon my entering his chamber he said calmly, “Mr.Harsha, I know that you are well-read and intelligent. I cannot come to your standards. You better stop attending my class. I will give you full attendance, you needn’t worry.”

I was perplexed. Although I didn’t mean it, I said, “Sir, I am really benefited by your lecture. I didn’t mean to offend you at all. Please forgive me. It won’t repeat, I promise,” and I came out. Next day I attended his class and he acted as if nothing had happened.

Yet another teacher wore very peculiar combination of clothes. He was a tall man and his trousers were always an inch shorter exposing his socks. He wore a bright red blazer over off white shirt and sometimes a tie that was as wide as a handkerchief. He stood at the edge of the dais with his crotch thrust forward. He would frequently scratch his crotch too. He spoke good English although he tended to be verbose, but he spoke it as if he spoke in Kannada. He loved to use such words as ‘hooliganism’, and ‘pusillanimous’ and his language, mannerisms all looked comical to the boys. Once he rubbed the black board with his hands and scratched his crotch with the hands covered with chalk powder. Unfortunately he was wearing dark pants on that day!

Not that all teachers were bad or funny or uninspiring. One particularly was excellent. He had a highly analytical mind and very logically cogent approach and expression. He made matters so simple by his exposition that one could never fail to grasp the subject and it would be firmly settled in the recesses of the memory. He was witty too, but his humour was of a very high order. After attending one of his brilliant lectures, I understood what I had not been able to comprehend after years of studying political philosophy. Giving several illustrations, he asked us to approach any political philosophy with the fundamental question of political obligation, asking the basic question why people should obey the dictates of the state. He taught us to have a clinical indifference and impartiality towards the subject under probe and never to let our own values to interfere with our conclusions. His love, compassion and concern for the students too was well known and I felt to have been fortunate to experience it myself. He was a great mentor, beyond all doubts.

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