Today is September 5th , and in India it is celebrated as “Teachers’ day” , in honor of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan who was the second President of India and probably the best comparative religion/philosophy scholar of his time .
My late grandfather, R. Easwara Pillai, was a history professor in University of Kerala. He was the first teacher I ever met – and till date he remains the best teacher in my mind . His ability to explain History , Politics and Economics in simple terms with lots of examples and stories was what kindled a life long interest for me in those subjects .
In Kindergarten ( At Kayankulam St.Mary’s ), my favorite teacher was Ms Kochurani . It amazes me that I remember her name but can’t remember her face any more. But I do remember her visiting our home every few weeks and bringing story books for me to read !
In elementary school (Chinmaya Vidyalaya ) , my favorite was Mrs Nirmala Mathrubhootam. She would take us out of the class room and make us gather around the big trees in the school yard and talk to us about nature , how trees get their food and how they help clean up the pollution.
In junior high (Christ Nagar), there were two stand out teachers . Both of them taught English – Mr Appukuttan Nair and Rev Fr Berthold CMI . The former took away my fear for the language and the latter taught me the nuances of “Spoken English” . I had no idea at that time how impactful those lessons would be in my future.
Pre-Degree ( Govt Arts College ) had some super star teachers – the two I remember the most are Prof Mohan Kumar who taught Organic Chemistry and Prof Jayaprakash who taught Physics. They had absolute mastery over their subjects and demanded excellence from their students .
Then came four years of Mechanical Engineering (T.K.M college) and the first time I really understood that the world has as many bad teachers as it had good teachers. For me there is no doubt who had the most impact on me – that was Prof Nasser who taught us Automobile Engineering . What put him in a class of his own was his passion for the subject – he loved cars and it showed in how he would explain the design principles .
And finally MBA ( IMK , Kerala ) which was probably the two years I enjoyed the most as a student. There were two professors that I gave “rock star” status right after their first lecture, and I can safely say that I have not seen anyone better in those subjects ever since . One was Dr Kevin who taught financial management and the other was Prof Kalyanaraman who taught Statistics . Even today I refer back to my old lecture notes from their classes to refresh the first principles. A close second to these two was the late Dr MNV Nair who was the dean of management studies , and his classes on strategy management were brilliant . He – and Dr Kevin – encouraged us to challenge them and I (and many others) did and learned from that experience . I remember him telling me after a debate on business law that he lost that ” You did well,young man . I am fiercely loyal to my own ideas – but only till someone proves me wrong” .
I have left off several great teachers in the list – but I am grateful to all of them . I will echo Dr. Radhakrishnan’s point of view as my parting note – “Teachers should be the best minds in the country”.