Today is Guru Poornima or the Full Moon of The Teacher and I wish I could personally thank all the people in my life who taught me.
I first heard of this tradition of honouring one’s guru when I got married all those years ago. My newly acquired grandmother-in-law asked me to teach her French even though she was never going to use it. She was dedicated in her effort and every day we’d spend 2 hours learning verbs and nouns and every day she’d do her homework. We did this diligently for a year and on Guru Poornima insisted on paying me a Guru Dakshina of Rs.1.25 and a handsome meal of shrikhand puri.
Today with tuition fees ranging from Rs. 500 an hour to Rs. 2000 and more, this amount is laughable but Guru Dakshina is not about the money, it is all about the gratitude that a student has for a teacher. It is an amount that cannot be measured and cannot be adequately recompensed. It is a task that has little acknowledgement and of no value in the material world. But teachers have a role to play in the way we think and shape our lives in ways we cannot always see.
My teachers have been many – right from very first teachers my parents – who apart from values and traditions taught me stuff : my dad who was interested in everything and opened my eyes to the wonders of the world and my mom who taught me the meaning of dedication , tenacity, commitment and sacrifice; my very first teacher at my very first school Mrs. Stokes, Mrs. Jaykar who brought my whole class to visit me in the hospital , Sister Mary Anselm the bad tempered nun who flung chalk at those who talked , Miss Mistry whose nails would click on the piano and whose ruler would come smack on my knuckles, Miss Irani whose French accent was so atrocious that I was glad I don’t remember any of her lessons, Miss Lawrence who was the most unartistic art teacher I’d ever seen, Mrs. Ninan who taught Maths, Mrs Martin who taught History, Miss Castellino who left us heartbroken when she got married, Mrs. Punoose who used to sing out the last syllable as we completed each sentence, Mr. Elisha of the deep sonorous voice walking down the corridor with his black gown flapping majestically, Mr. Lewis who dinned formulae into our heads with his own formula of ” the more I practice the more I score and score I must”, Mr. Rao who refused to get disturbed by the antics of our class, Mr. Jacob whose history of religion class in the cool airconditioned comfort of his cabin was a welcome relief from Chemistry and Physics and Biology, Mrs Sonea who encouraged us to paint out of the line, Mrs. Karat and her eccentric way of teaching Geography, Miss Choksi who finally managed to make me somewhat like PE and finally all my English teachers who made that subject my favourite subject of all – Miss Eapen, Mrs. Downey and Miss Vakil who looked remarkably like Queen Elizabeth. Our French classes at the Alliance were made all the more fascinating by Madame Nouet who waved her cigarette and nodded her head of curls as she held forth, Prof Swaminathan of the logical mind, Profs. Malapur and Namjoshi whose names are all that I remember from the Eco classes and the list can go on and on and on. Teachers who made lessons fun and interesting but whose names unfortunately I can’t recall. Especially since I’ve never really stopped learning.
I think none of us really stop learning and the world of academia only equips us with the tools to learn from life itself because no amount of preparedness prepares you for anything and no amount of knowledge gives you the skill sets and information to deal with things.
Every day we learn new things
from new people and in many ways –
dear friends whose conversations
enriching and rewarding
are called my Gurus by my family……….
But life’s experiences are the greatest teachers
They teach us many things
that can’t be taught
like love and trust
And faith and hope.
And betrayal and deceit.
Our karmic fate makes people come
into our lives
to teach us what
we need to learn.
And then they leave to make some space
For other people
And new lessons
that take the learning curve ahead.
Thank you my Gurus for all that I know and the skill to make sense of what is yet to come.
On another note
Last night a friend who stayed over was talking about facing life with grace a word which soothed and calmed my troubled mind and brought a momentary stillness into my stormy and unsettled life. Was it mere coincidence that he came on the eve of Guru Poornima to teach me a lesson I needed to learn?
He presented us with a book he’s recently published – Alphabestiary which is a wonderful collection of Animal poems complimented with an accompanying piece of prose.
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