Saluting friends, philosophers and guides

  • Col Avnish Sharma (retd), Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Sep 05, 2014 09:23 IST

I couldn't agree more with Alexander the Great when he said, "I am indebted to my parents for living, but to my teachers for living well." Going down memory lane, I remember our class teacher in fifth standard. Plump and amiable, she would already be in the classroom while we trooped in after the morning assembly. Sitting in her chair with a smile on her face, she would acknowledge the greetings from the 40-odd students. Working like a child psychologist, she made sure our day started with no embarrassment, sarcasm or disconnect. We learnt values like punctuality and calmness. She made going to school, an otherwise torturous activity, a real pleasure.

Our history professor at college was quite a character. He never marked our attendance but believed in infusing an interest in students with his well-researched topic and interesting anecdotes on the subject. For example, a lecture on Akbar the Great would commence with an interesting background to his family tree and an exciting reference to a Hindi film relating to the personality. All this was a precursor before he touched upon the actual subject as per the requirements of the syllabus. We looked forward to his lectures. His art of presentation that held the interest of an otherwise disinterested college fresher was unique.

Bahadur Singh, our drill instructor at the Indian Military Academy was a stocky five feet four Kumaoni havildar with a classic moustache. Nobody ever saw him smiling. His sole aim, we were convinced, was to convert a bunch of sloppy and undisciplined boys into military mould. He would go about his task without frills, leaving no opportunity to give us a dressing down. He had a subtle sense of humour. His occasional remark, especially to sloppy fellows like me, "Gentleman cadet, you walk like a pregnant duck" would leave us in splits. He was the first one to salute us heartily the day we got commissioned. His dedication to duty and professional honesty were exemplary.

My desire to emulate our instructor at the war college, who stressed the importance of having a thorough knowledge to be a good leader, got me a chance as a leader of young officers. His favourite saying, "Eyes cannot see what the mind does not know" was my guiding principle. The pleasure of learning from young minds was a bonus. During a routine interaction, I asked my students if they were enjoying the course. All, but one young major, nodded in the affirmative. He was candid, "Sir, since I did not come prepared for the course, I am not really enjoying it."

The strictest of the lot, my self-appointed mentor and my better half, however, thinks I am still naive and needs to learn a lot. The learning, therefore, continues. On Teacher's Day, I salute all my friends, philosophers and guides.

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