At the opening ceremony of the Faculty of Arts University of Jammu & Kashmir by Prof Radhakrishnan then Vice President of India, on 1st August 1960, said that a university is a site of esteem, of academic brilliance and reverential educational discourses.
He impressed upon scholars, teachers and students to work and sweat under the umbrella of their alma-amateur for the promotion of creative ideas so that an inquisitive learner finds the right ambience to have a mind that is opened by wonder rather than the one closed by dogmatic belief. He had a lunch with the students in their hostel on that day.
He interacted and appreciated the workers who had worked day & night to complete the arts block in a record time (5th June 1959 to 1st August 1960).
He had desired that workers be placed among the august audience; while addressing them he said your blessed hands have made a light house for million years to come which will dispel ignorance, darkness and give birth to a promising dawn for your children.
These words were registered by post graduate student Pandit Janki Nath Kachroo, one among the audience in his personal diary. It is a pilgrimage to go through the golden memories of men that were seriously engaged in decorating and shaping the destiny and future of India and were working tirelessly for laying the solid foundation of her social, political and economic fabric.
When we go through the books of Professor Radhakrishnan, it leads us from darkness to light. His deep insight in whatever capacity he worked and performed was all-embracing and all that he wrote and said was for the well-being and revitalisation of the whole of mankind.
The teacher in Prof Radhakrishnan had a farsighted vision; his analysis and understanding of what had been ailing our civilisation is true even today; his diagnosis of the problems that scare and threaten mankind is valid even today.
He was gifted with vision born out of his accurate far-sightedness. He performed so cordially and reverentially in his challenging assignments as India’s ambassador to Russia, the Vice-President of India from 1952-62 and, later, as President of India from 1962-67 only because of the merits he cultivated and practiced as a teacher.
A nation is surely the best gainer from the personality of such a teacher, a voluminous writer with an uncanny flair for lucidity and epigrammatic strength. I shall share a very interesting case study about Prof Radhakrishnan school life which will be lesson for our children. He used to wake up at 4.00 am, offer prayers and leave for school on time.
On his way to school there was a scrap seller who used to collect old books. One day he found some good books lying in the shop of scrap-seller. He purchased them from the money his father had given him for picnic. He did not register his name for picnic, got those old books bound and donated to the school library.
On way he used to share his half lunch with the homeless elderly lady without bringing it into the knowledge of his parents. One day during the science practicals he broke the bottle containing chemical reagent, no one saw him.
When the teacher enquired in the class he stood up and admitted his mistake. He never hunted for excuses once he was late to school, other students cited bad climatic conditions for their late arrival, Radhakrishnan spoke the truth and admitted his fault for late arrival.
Once during an examination, invigilator moved away from the hall because of some urgency. Other students copied quickly but Radhakrishnan did not. He left the difficult questions unattempted.
Once during the sports competition his name was wrongly registered for the prize. On the prize distribution ceremony he was called to come on stage.
On reaching the dais he took the mic from the principal and told that ‘this prize does not belong to me; I surrender it because it is being awarded to me for the effort which I have not made.’
One thing which we can’t forget about him is that when he became the President of India, he accepted only Rs 2500 out of Rs 10,000 salary and the remaining amount was donated to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund every month. His life taught us to think and act above the statistical plane of profit and loss. We should try to understand why the birthday of Dr. Radhakrishnan, 5th of September, is celebrated as Teacher’s Day every year all over the country.
And the celebrations are uninspiring and dismal and have vanished into oblivion by and large. I have been shocked beyond endurance in the past few years, the Heads of the Institutions of schools and the faculty had to be reminded about the day which raised a lukewarm and even dead response. This dismal awareness of our rich cultural heritage among the academicians further reflects the sorry state of affairs.
However, when a full lecture on Prof S Radhakrishnan was delivered to the students, it roused their unusual inquisitiveness and the influence of the personality of this great teacher was visible in their behavior. We observe great formalities in organising teachers’ day, talking high ideals among the yawning audience and many eagerly waiting for their turn to speak.
All are there in a holiday mood, a much awaited departure from the routine! These loud messages sound hollow because there is little or no practice to bring about a qualitative change in personal and public life. There is a noticeable mess everywhere and the real lot of man is bleak.
On such days, it should send a clear message to the audience that they have to certify a unique sense of fulfillment pledging to the honest pursuit of truth and social justice. Prof Radhakrishnan lived all his life with great concern for the freedom of human spirit and human dignity; and at no stage, he negotiated this dignity and freedom for material glamour and the dazzle of power.
It reflected from his behavior that the quality of education was determined by the quality of teacher. Such teachers are a living quotation even when they are physically non-existent and are remembered with great reverence. Even today it reflects from writings that his total stress was on the quality of life.
He was a man of strong convictions whose faith in the democratic ideals never wavered whose hope for man’s better and happier future never dimmed in spite of the fog of fear, ignorance, insecurity and anxiety.
Professor Radhakrishnan’s candid, frank and fearless expression of views has left behind a legacy that will continue to radiate love, respect, sympathy and understanding in the ages to come.
His love of learning, his broad compassion, his heart-felt concern for man’s misery, his vision of a balanced man, his constant pursuit of truth matched by his limitless humility are an answer to the puzzle and mystery of human life.
How ironical that we let such luminaries pass into oblivion so callously and, if at all they appear in the back chamber of our mind with the glow of their light, our crass materiality makes it obscure and bizarre.
This is our real tragedy today. We are in the best of times and in the worst of times; intellectual deceit, politics of manipulations, willfully promoting ignorance despite free availability of rich resources, unmindful of negligence of professional growth, ever in search of cozy nooks as escape-routes, unfair use of academic authority and powers to serve our own prejudices - all to be in the social and economic swim of the razzle-dazzle of daily life- this is what ails our academia!
Whatever be the conditions or environment, we can’t escape our accountability as teachers. Today the teachers are working in an age marked by fast-track development in every field, resulting in escalating fears, worries, anxieties and tensions; also the priorities of all, including teachers, have changed. However, there exists a mechanism to regulate such a chaotic life.
There is everywhere a stress on positive outlook meaning thereby that there is something seriously wrong somewhere in our configuration of living and working. Of all the segments of society, teaching still is significant wherein responsibilities are challenging and demanding.
Once a teacher learns this and responds to the professional obligations, with unpunctuated faith on his convictions things are sure to change for a better tomorrow. We also observe spiritual hollowness, intellectual shallowness, personal arrogance, greed, jealousy and selfishness. Focus in all our activity is on mundane success.
The need urgently is to ask ourselves where we are lost. Coercion has taken the place of persuasion; the moral fiber of society is slackened, and broken. The rantings of spiritual wisdom are inaudible in the deafening shouts of prosperous hee-haws.
Helplessness, despondency and frustration have struck deep into the sensitive minds. The learned, honest and relentless guide of humanity issued forewarnings also on this count. And they have gone unheeded all along!
Before any disaster overpowers humanity because of casual and callous approach of teachers history will record it as an unpardonable wrong. Let us wake up to our onerous task, happily chosen or fallen upon us by chance. This determines the role of the teacher in the present situation.
In the end, I hope that the teachers working in schools, colleges and universities will knock their conscience; what it is to be a visionary teacher and what essential solid inputs can make their performance meaningful, purposeful and commendable.
This is a time for self-introspection. It may be noted that ever-freshening zest for learning, unobstructed pursuit of truth, sense of mission, capacity for taking pains in disseminating light and knowledge, standing like a rock in the face of human degradation are some of the essential traits of a real teacher.
Such a teacher shall produce men and women of immense moral and intellectual prowess and strength of character to guide and shape the radiant flow of humanity.
It is sincerely hoped that the inspiring and enriching influences of luminaries like Professor Radhakrishnan will help us to align our compass in the direction of righteousness.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.