Teachers’ Day this year coincides with the auspicious “Ganesh Chaturthi” – the day of the arrival of Lord Ganesh – a festival that is celebrated practically all over India, in some form or the other. The coincidence is even more pronounced, because Ganesh is the God of intelligence – ” Buddhi Devata” as we call it. 

Can’t be a coincidence then that Lokmanya Tilak chose this 10-day festival to bring about a reform in the mindset of the Indians, then under the British rule, so that they would begin a revolt against the tyrannical rule and end it. The idea was that people would mingle, thoughts and ideas would be exchanged under the umbrella of religion and plans could be devised, unhindered, to disrupt this rule and eventually end it. People would be educated about the idea of freedom and encouraged to strive to gain it. 
All through history it is the teachers, educationists, social reformers and mentors who have played a major role in bringing about a change. Be it an “anganwadi” teacher in some small hamlet in an obscure corner of the country or a highly qualified scientist with a doctorate teaching at some world-renowned university, a teacher is a life coach – a person who inspires to learn, assess, reform and create. A big responsibility, no doubt, to teach, mould and shape young and uneducated minds and facilitate the journey from being ” literate” to being “educated”. I’ve always felt there is a big difference between the two.

 An illiterate mind can be a highly educated one and vice versa.

 A degree holder, speaking fluent English, with posh clothes, throwing away an empty packet of chips by the roadside – literate but uneducated! 

A simpleton who has maybe studied till class 3, tilling his land with the help of water from a check dam he built by himself, taught other people to do it, respected nature’s cycle and sowed crops accordingly, controlled the use of pesticides, learnt new farming methods and used them wisely so as not to disturb the balance of nature or unduly exploit valuable resources – illiterate but educated!
Education can’t be all about gaining more and more degrees to eventually earn more and more money. Education has to teach a person to value people and nature, show compassion, make the difference between right and wrong, stay positive, create and not destroy. 
A teacher has to be the one to inculcate all of this. There are good teachers and there are great teachers. There are teachers who will make a person literate and there are teachers who will educate. There are teachers with whom education begins once the lecture is over. Because it is then that the teacher starts to educate. About life skills, without sounding pompous or preachy. 
Such a teacher will look beyond the grades of a student in class and value him/her for the person that he/she is. Respect what the student feels about the subject and accept that a student might not particularly like it and try to facilitate the learning accordingly, rather than apply a standard method to teach all students. A teacher will coax, cajole, explain, encourage, at times even threaten to get a point across; but never insult, demean or give up. A teacher will invest time and patience, at times even money, to see a deserving student achieve success. And that success could be an “A+”for some student, while a “passed” for some other. A teacher will celebrate each of these successes of his/her students – because it is the effort and the hard work of the student that need to be lauded, not just the high grades! 
I have been fortunate to have had a few such teachers in life. Teachers who taught us to respect and value the good things and experiences, and learn from the bad or unpleasant ones. Teachers who silently or vocally encouraged and walked with us, rather than ahead of us; who made us feel wanted and cherished. Who were not blind to our faults and shortcomings and pointed them out, but at the same time also nurtured the good in us. Who went beyond the realms of classroom teaching and strove to make us like what we we doing, rather than make us do it because we had to. 

So as I ponder on this Teachers’ Day/Ganesh Chaturthi today, about this coincidental connection, I hope that like the magnanimous, manifold, benevolent image that we carry of Lord Ganesh in our minds, an image which appears in various avatars in the hundreds of pandals across the city celebrating this 10-day long festival, we as teachers too can try and inculcate this magnanimity, this variety, this benevolence, this tolerance in our students. Teach them the religion of humanity, teach the virtues of religion without violence, teach young minds to accept that “I am right but you are also not wrong” goes a long way in building bridges. 
Happy Teachers’ Day!

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