I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well.
– Alexander the Great
1. My geography teacher used to say this to us, everyday. ‘You are where you are because you choose to be there.’
When I first heard this, I swear I was blown away, by the sheer power of those words. I was, perhaps, too young to decipher the whole meaning behind those words. But I wasn’t so young that I could not realize how true those words were.
Aren’t we all the by-products of the choices we make? Don’t our choices make us the people we are? My geography teacher used to quote those words in the context of studies and exam. He minced no words in telling us that if we don’t score well in our boards, we and only ‘we’ will be responsible for our results or our fate. His intention was to bully and threaten us with his harsh words motivate us. We cannot and should not blame our teachers, our school, our problems, our parents for our poor grades. We choose not to study hard enough and thereby we choose to get poor grades. The choice was always ours to make. We always had a choice to do better.
That sentence has had a lasting impression on me. Years later, till date, I remember those words. Perhaps, I understand them better now. The weight of those words. Whenever I feel like blaming others, I remember these words and do a reality check. When I feel like blaming others, these words ring in my ears. Didn’t I see this coming? Did I bring this upon myself? More often than not, the answer is ‘yes’.
Even the bestselling book, ‘The Secret’ (If you haven’t read this already, you must… Its life changing… believe you me) says the same thing. Whatever we are, whatever we have is our own doing. We have attracted these things, these circumstances, these people, and these events in our life. Thank you Sir, for telling us so early in life that we alone are responsible for the way our life shapes up.
2. ‘Today a reader, tomorrow a leader’.
There is one other incident that changed me for good. I was in class 9. We had an English teacher, of who we all were in awe. Impeccable is the adjective for her. She was an awesome teacher, her story telling skills and narration par excellence, her animated way of talking and explaining had us glued to our seats. Many a times our mouths would be left gaping wide open, when she was talking. Her logic, her explanations, her rationale, her thoughts were so elite that it gave us all a minor inferiority complex. To add to this, she was beautiful. Not just presentable, neat beautiful. But beautiful beautiful. Bollywood beautiful. She wore the prettiest Kolkata sarees everyday, and she carried them with such panache that we couldn’t help but notice. Not one but all students. And she wore a round red bindi on that fair face of hers and a dash of kohl in her eyes that added so much character to her face. She had beautiful handwriting too. Was there anything that was less than perfect about her? Heck, no. So you can imagine that she was nothing short of a role model for young, impressionable girls like me.
Now, why I went this deep into explaining her persona is this. One day, she was suffering from a bad throat infection. So she was unable to read. I was a class topper, and I would like to believe that I was her blue eyed girl. Which is why, I am assuming, she asked me to read a paragraph to the class. I was good with my written word. Not necessarily with the spoken language also. As I started reading, she cut me short. I was repeatedly mispronouncing a word. She corrected me. Sometimes we don’t realize how much our mother tongue influences our spoken English. Talk about MTI, sigh! A clique of girls behind me burst out in giggles right at that moment, in front of my favorite teacher. I was so embarrassed at that moment I can’t really tell you. These insensitive girls, laughing at my mistake, barely managed to scrape through their exams themselves.
I was red in the face. You can imagine how it feels when you are trying so hard to impress your favourite teacher and suddenly you become the butt of everyone’s jokes. And it doesn’t help that the teacher is oh-so-perfect! It makes you even more embarrassed. Obviously those girls were rebuked by the teacher for giggling and behaving over-smart. Good, they deserved. But, I had already taken it personally. Now, I was only a little girl. There, that moment I decided that I will do what it takes to improve my language, to better myself and work on my pronunciations. You can say it was a rude jolt, a kind of turning point that made me think. I realized that presentation was more important. No one will care about how many marks I scored in school. But people will sit back and notice how well I speak. Today, I am glad that incident happened.
This very teacher used to egg us to read newspapers daily. She nagged us to read papers, literally. She used to tell us how handy those little tit-bits of information from newspapers come, when we are amidst a discussion, when we want to make a point, when we want to sound intelligent :P, when we want to impress someone. And most importantly, reading is the only way we can improve our language. Thanks to her, I am what I am today. We were like clay in her hands. Completely malleable. She shaped us into good citizens. There isn’t a day, till date, that I don’t think of her at least once. And it’s been over a decade now. Every time I pick up the paper, I think of her, cross my heart and swear.
(P.S. I admit reading papers is very depressing these days, I’d rather read your blogs my readers.)
3. If you think your teacher is tough, wait until you get a boss. He doesn’t have tenure- Bill Gates
Then there is one more person, who I think of as my teacher, who also played a major role in shaping my personality. My Boss. On my first job. As I stepped into the big, bad corporate world, with my certificates and resume in tow, I was unsure, skeptical, confused, scared, nervous, and all-those-things you associate with newbies. My boss, who wasn’t more than a couple of years older to me, was a gem, a real motivator. He used to say, ‘If you have the will, I will give you the skills.’ I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I say, he literally taught me everything. Right from how to answer a phone call, to how to close a big deal. He was a charmer, his energy infectious. I realize now, how important it is to get a right start to the career and to be surrounded by right people. How important it is, to be nice to people and be patient with the newbies. If not for his belief in me, his support and his ‘will’ to teach, I wouldn’t have accomplished half of what I did on that job. If I became ‘Top sales person in the whole office’ 4 times in 11 months, it is because of him. I realize you don’t have to be a snob or rude to make an impression. You can be nice to people and yet make an impression. That you have to let go off all the pre-conceived notions to really learn something/someone.
If I am walking with two other men, each of them will serve as my teacher. I will pick out the good points of the one and imitate them, and the bad points of the other and correct them in myself.
The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.
– Khalil Gibran