Monday, July 30, 2018

Student Teachers

This is an inevitability - I am going to sound much older than I am.  But indulge me for a few moments.  It seems like yesterday that I stepped into a convenience store to buy Alpenliebe chocolates for Krishna.  And now the fellow is a second year student at the prestigious Stanley Medical College in Chennai.  Along the way, he achieved the little task of being the best student of his graduating high school class.

It seems like day-before-yesterday when I sat at the dining table of Radhika Aunty’s house when Krishna’s older sister Samyu decided that she would comport herself as an obedient, studious 3-year old.  She sat on one of the chairs and doodled her way to glory while I tried to convince myself that Aunty was teaching physics and not the language spoken in Greece.  A few minutes into the class, Samyu gently whispered something in her Mum’s ear.  Even gentler was the way Aunty then requested me to write a little less vigorously because I had been shaking the table too hard as a result.  Little Samyu probably wondered if an earthquake was in progress.  A couple of years back when I visited the kid in Germany (where she is studying), she took me to a local eatery for dinner.  I ate slowly, moving my utensils very carefully - the table seemed quite sturdy and immovable.  After all, history doesn’t repeat itself every time.

As I reflect on people that have inspired me deeply and abidingly, I see that I have gravitated towards people older than I am.  People who have seen lady luck turn her back on them only for their grace and equanimity to almost force Ms. Luck to regret her initial decision, and return to them with a sheepish, apologetic grin.  Other ‘inspirations’ have been eminences grises in their fields, excelling as individual contributors but also possessing a certain magnetism to attract and sustain their followers.  Samyu, Krishna and their ilk fall into a third group, whom I’d like to call student teachers.  By virtue of exhibiting certain traits that truly belie their age, they practice the best form of teaching – doing.  Let me explain.

One of the traits these youngsters possess is unconscious assurance.  Relaxed assurance in oneself is a tremendously liberating gift.  It allows one to love their loved ones in a complete manner and in a professional setting, gives them a laser sharp focus on their goals, while not robbing them off a competitive edge.  Whenever I have congratulated them on any stellar accomplishment, there is a certain joy in their voice at being acknowledged.  But in that voice is also an innate humility about their success.  All of this without an ounce of false modesty.  The air of quiet dignity that they exude while making great strides in their academic lives will stand them in great stead as they grow older.  Given how rare this trait can be, it is bound to make their older cousins continue to wax eloquent in blog posts!   

Besides being grounded, the way they stay close to their roots is another quality that makes me glow with pride.  I have seen Samyu and a couple of other kids her age all leave their homeland to study in a foreign nation.  They rightfully enjoy their independence, travel when their schedules permit and in general, immerse themselves in the culture that they find themselves in.  (As a quick aside, during my trip to Germany, it was sheer pleasure to see Samyu give the cabbie directions in German.  He understood her too!)  But they seem to subconsciously know that ‘modern’ is a way of thinking that extends much deeper than the trivialities of fashion choices or partying.  Let me hasten to add that I am not trying to dismiss trifle pleasures – I am just trying to applaud the depth of thinking that these perfectly balanced youth seem to possess.  The way they guard their core while broadening their exposure in multitude of ways, certainly inspires my awe.

Over time, they will realize that due to the strength afforded by their roots and their willingness to daringly branch into new areas that they will not only strike a picture of stability but also be deemed as a provider of a secure shade to their near and dear.  That the children of my guru are ‘teachers’ in their own right is one of the sweetest ironies of my life.  That taste of pride is bound to be sweeter than even those root canal-inducing indulgences manufactured by Alpenliebe!


Ram Murali said...

Comment received via Whatsapp from a friend's Dad...

Beautifully written blog, Ram. I enjoyed reading about the anecdotes relating to Ms.Samyu. I think the kids outsmart and outwit the elders most of the time.

Unknown said...

This reminds me of my relationship with Camille, our Swiss Exchange student. Camille graced our home with her presence for 10 months, that was 10 years ago, and I continue to be awed by her in the way that you describe.

Well done and thank you so much for sharing. I will have to share this with my dear friend, and student teacher, Camille.

Ram Murali said...

A tweet on the write-up:

We are inspired,influenced by so many people without even knowing it but when we sit down to write,that’s when things become clear and visible.Felt that reading this one.

Ram Murali said...

Thank you all for your kind responses.

Jess -

I am so glad that this piece resonated with you. Yes, I do remember you sharing how wonderfully enriching your experience with Camille was. Thank you for reading.

I suppose inspiration can come from the most unexpected of sources, regardless of age. As Sara mentioned on twitter (see comment above), we just have to introspect a little in order to fully appreciate the value of those around us.

Ram Murali said...

Comment from Rishi (a friend) on WhatsApp...

Very nice Ram! Well written!! Reminds me of the quote Child is the father of man. I liked your observation on unconscious assurance. It’s a trait that shows up in great leaders.

Zola said...

Hey Ram ! So the younger generation has some redeeming qualities after all :) Just kidding

Very true what you've written. It's nice to see assurance in a person but seeing it in a young person is heart warming. You feel the world is going to be okay after all.

I'm really envious of the kid who could speak to a cabbie in German.

I remember the first time I got into a Lufthansa flight and proceeded to greet a flight attendant in my best Hollywood German "Gutentat"

And she replied swiftly in some alien tongue basically directing me to my seat. Seeing my blank look she sussed me out and repeated the same in English.

That's one on my bucket list !