Monday, September 05, 2016

"My dear Teacher, I am sorry for having forsaken you !"

September 5 , the birth date of Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan and celebrated as Teachers' Day in India, was never just another event on our calendars. We practiced for days perfecting each step of Madhuri's "Ek Do Teen" at the age of 4. We saved up for months to buy a grandfather's clock for the staff-room at the age of 14. The moments when you could see that rare smile on the face of the strictest Physics teacher or that impromptu tango performance of the shyest Geography teacher - were those for which each student - Mary, Mehnaaz or Meera - waited for an entire year.

Almost two decades later, my teachers and I have still remained in touch. Thanks to social media. My face lights up every time I see her retweet my articles and I remember to wish her on every September 5th. But this year, something was to happen post which Teachers' Day would never be the same before.

On a habitual trip of scavenging for fresh books on the market last month, I ended up visiting the book store that hasn't failed bibliophiles for generations. Even in the chaos of the busiest market in town, the quaint "D.P. Sur and Sons" is reminiscent of the secret corner at home that you retire to for unabashedly smelling book pages. To my surprise, the shop was filled only with books of medical studies. The current owner, Shri O.P Sur, didn't seem amused at my ignorance - almost as if he had got used to politely turning away book lovers with a heavy heart. He was so endearing (I would have cast him as the grand-dad in my version of Kapoor and Sons) that I couldn't stop myself from having a chat. And when I left the shop, I had this gut wrenching feeling - of being a part of a generation whose teachers and guides, in the words of the old man, "felt forsaken and lonely" and "found gratification and solace in the books around them".

Looking back, I feel that even though I love my teachers, I have seldom done enough to express it.Their legacy is us, their students,who somehow don't manage the time to check on their teacher's retirement plans - for most likely they will be lonely as parents too in the sunset years of their lives. Compare the amount of pride that they take in sharing our success stories on social media - with that of our interest in their achievements. Those difficult adolescent years when I felt my family didn't understand me, I found comfort in speaking to that teacher. That cut throat competitive environment where I was pushed a step closer to cynicism , I took a step back to innocence realizing the humility that teacher brought to the classroom every day. Those days of paranoia in office when I didn't get gratification for my work, I thought about my physical education teacher who did her work with unadulterated joy even when we hated her for making us sweat out in the sun. I am what I am for what my teachers have made me - yet I have somehow made peace with not looking back at them just enough. 

To my Teacher.

I am sorry for having forsaken you. I know that perhaps you have already forgiven me. I know that you will probably do everything to deny my fallacies and instead take pride in what I have achieved so far. But you are human too, just like my parents and have every right to feel that anguish that I have caused you by that neglect. 

Everyday the world celebrates me , including this very day at Tata Literature Live, is a gift from you. For all those years that I didn't realize it - every day is Teachers' Day. As I leave the podium, even if one listener feels the urge to leave this room and call his teacher, I will know that my apology has been accepted.

This story was selected as a winning entry and presented at  Tata Literature Live 2016.


  1. So nicely written!!!

  2. Damn it. You nailed it with so few words.
    And need to pay the store a visit for sure, you reminded me of college street's boipara in Calcutta. And of so many teachers whom I had taken for granted.

    1. Thank you Alekhya ! I am glad you felt the urge to re-connect with your teachers ! :)

  3. You have now nicely expressed your gratitude to your teachers.

  4. It's really well written and super accurate in today's context.


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