Chapter 1: The Essence of Teachers’ Day; the early days
Happy teachers’ day! Today is the day when we revere our Gurus with admiration and gratitude. Celebrated every 5th of September in the memory of Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, former president of Bharat, a distinguished scholar and philosopher. In Bharatiya philosophical thoughts, teachers are revered as almost divine figures. On this occasion, I’d like to reflect on some of the Gurus who have played a pivotal role in shaping who I am today.
Initially homeschooled, I was taught basic Mathematics, Hindi, and General aptitude by Dadi. Dadi, who was also the headmistress of the village school, is a dedicated educator who imparted knowledge not only to our family but to the entire village. As the matriarch of our family, we siblings were fortunate to receive her teachings day in and day out. Dadi a loving soul has been disciplined all her life. But her motherly affection sometimes overpowers the teacher in her. Recognizing the need for a more structured educational framework, we also engaged private tutors who introduced elements of routine, academic rigour, and English (Dadi doesn’t know English).
Thus, besides Dadi, my elementary education was supported by Mishra Sir Ji whose bold voice and ability to turn anything into a punishment tool would send shivers down the spine. The exercise of assigning daily copies of Hindi and English texts improved my handwriting. As I progressed, Vijay Sir Ji, took over our education. He expanded our knowledge by teaching Hindi, English, Mathematics, and Sciences. He remained our tutor until the time when all the children at home transitioned into their teenage years and eventually moved to a hostel.
Chapter 2: Embracing Hostel Life
At 10, I was sent to the hostel (alternate pronunciation: Terror). After a hiatus, I was enrolled at Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Siwan a boarding school in Siwan, Bihar. The moist eyes at the time of my parents’ departure were blazed by the camaraderie of new friends and the thrill of daily uninterrupted cricket matches. Mahodaya Ji deserves special mention here for being there at JNV, Siwan. Mahodaya Ji was our Hindi teacher and hence it was forbidden for us to call him “sir”. He nurtured Hindi in classes as a teacher and togetherness in the “Nilgiri house” as our housemaster. He instilled a sense of closeness, making our house more than just a hostel to live in but a home away from home. Our social studies teacher, S.St. sir, was a walking encyclopedia of society, politics, history, and geography. His special classes in political science left a lasting impression and formed the foundation of my knowledge of the subject.
Later on, when the school introduced Post Graduate Teachers to us, we found our new Hindi teacher, PGT Hindi sir. A graduate from Allahabad University and a past UPSC aspirant, PGT Hindi sir had a different approach to teaching Hindi. We thoroughly enjoyed his classes, and he further strengthened the strong Hindi foundation laid by Mahodaya Ji. In high school, we were fortunate to have Bio sir who would teach biology to us. Trust the level of teaching of bio sir that guided me immensely to survive four years in college.
No account of our school education would be complete without mentioning Pathak Ji, who generously offered free English tuition during our summer breaks. Spiritually inclined Pathak Ji nurtured us holistically and introduced us to English grammar, vocabulary, literature and linguistics. The recent news of his swargvaas seems like a personal loss, and I offer my heartfelt condolences. Om Shanti.
Chapter 3: A Transition to College Life
After completing my school education, the transition to college life brought new challenges and mentors. Regional Institute of Education in Bhubaneswar was my next destination. Here, we were introduced to Animesh sir, who had an impact on the whole college like no other. His classes on molecular biology were unforgettable, and he excelled not only in academics but also in sports. His fitness level put most of us youngsters to shame. Whether it was cricket or football, he was the one smashing boundaries and charging ahead for a goal.
There was a unique rule in Animesh sir’s class: you had to enter before he did. Even if you go behind him in the class, be ready to be rebuked with his peculiar dialogue, ‘You are too early for the next class.’ College life is a blend of what your seniors tell you about your teachers and what you experience yourself. In Animesh sir’s case, the legacy was glowing, and the observations were equally illuminating. His dedication to instilling discipline, time management, and his insightful classes made him one of the most revered teachers in our college. Although he has retired from academic service, his presence at college events reassures us that neither he has changed nor has our beloved college.
Chapter 4: Further Academic Pursuits
Prior to joining South Asian University (SAU), New Delhi, I was enrolled at the Central University of Gujarat. This is where I had the privilege of learning from Umesh sir. This association has continued for a decade now, and I consider him not just a mentor but a close guide.
At SAU, I was mesmerized by the aura of Prof. K Muralidhar. Murali sir taught biochemistry like storytelling; he made complex topics come alive. The way Murali sir narrated the stories of scientists and their contributions to the field left an indelible mark on my understanding of biochemistry and molecular biology. Mrinal sir resembled Murali sir in his ability to captivate the class. His profound knowledge of genetics and insights into molecular biology were truly remarkable thus making it like a piece of cake for us. I fondly remember his classes and greatly miss the learning experience he provided. I would love to convey to him that I am determined to make him proud.
Ritu ma’am played a pivotal role as my first academic mentor and guide. Her teaching sessions on virology were both engaging and enlightening. It was through her guidance that I delved into the fascinating world of HIV biology, setting the stage for my journey into the field of biomedical research. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to her.
Chapter 5: PhDing and thus philosophical tributes
As my academic journey progressed, I found myself at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, as a Ph.D. scholar. Here, Dr. Karmakar became my guide, offering unwavering support and guidance. I consider myself truly blessed to be his student. While I could go on at length about my relationship with my guide, that deserves a separate space in my thesis acknowledgement. I am deeply grateful to him for everything he has done for me. Prof Anurag Srivastava, my co-guide and mentor, is another figure I look up to. His humility and passion for patient care are awe-inspiring. I consider myself fortunate to receive guidance and support from Prof Mathur, whose expertise in immunochemical studies and breast cancer research has been instrumental in shaping my doctoral studies. Besides these mentors, I am grateful to the clinicians, basic scientists, and surgeons whose inputs have significantly shaped my Ph.D. research. Their valuable insights have been instrumental in guiding my research in the field of breast cancer.
In the grand embroidery of life, every experience stitches a valuable lesson. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to all those who have played a role, no matter how small, in my journey of learning and growth. In the Western world, teaching may be seen as a profession, but in Bharat, it goes beyond that. Our Gurus hold a special place in our hearts, guiding us not only in academics but also shaping us on a personal level. Our Gurus shape us and create a bond that extends beyond the boundaries of professionalism. My profound pranams to all those who have illuminated my path.
September 05, 2023