I do not usually go to political meetings and rallies and listen to politicians. But I do not regret listening to a politician from Kerala on Republic Day of India. The Republic Day in India happens to be also a religious feast day of the Christians. The Malayali Catholic fellowship at Ahmedabad MACAF invited Mr. P.C. George, the then Chief Whip of Kerala government to address them on their annual day and Republic Day celebrations.
Addressing a predominantly Christian audience Mr. George said that in Christian religion there is a commandment to respect one’s father and mother! We consider our parents as equal to God. So we say, ‘Pitrudevobhav’, ‘Matrudevobhav’ – let father be (considered as) equal to God, let mother be (considered as) equal to God.
Recalling the comment of respecting parents the Chief Whip of Kerala government said something new and unique. “Teach your children to respect their teachers considering them ‘Gurudevobhav’. Tell them to respect and consider their teachers as they respect their parents. Our parents are also equal to God,” Mr. George said.
Our children from play school and kindergarten to the college studies spend a lot of time and learn from their teachers, who are both ladies and gents. During this time of 10 to 15 or more years our children learn from their teachers much bookish knowledge and wisdom. Our children may forget what they learn in school after leaving their studies. But the values and the culture, which the teachers have cultivated in their children, remain with them shaping all their lives.
The teachers with much love, patience and commitment get unique opportunities to inculcate values of life in their children. This is a great responsibility and a noble privilege of the teachers. Every parent needs to understand this fact well and tell their sons and daughters to respect their teachers as equal to God, ‘Gurudevobhav’. The parents themselves need to respect and love the teachers of their children and be models and examples for their children in to respecting their teachers.
This message of respect for the teachers to their children is to be passed on not merely with words but the parents need to show this respect in their words and in their behavior. Let me present an example which I read in a Gujarati monthly entitled ‘Bhoomiputra’ (Son of the Soil) magazine dated August 1, 2012, I am quoting from ‘Bhoomiputra’
The new collector of Erode in Tamil Nadu with his 7 year old daughter reached a government school for admission in the 3rd week of June, 2011. The collector’s wife also went to the school close to their government bungalow and stood quietly in the queue for the admission seeking parents. When the teachers and the headmaster saw the collector and his wife standing on the queue they were upset. With much pleading they persuaded the couple to go to the school office. When a lady teacher offered them chairs the collector requested her to tread them as ordinary citizens.
When the news that the collector and his wife were standing in queue for the admission of their daughter in a government school, the media people got interested. When they approached the collector with a lot of questions the collector said, “Friends, this any family matter. Please do not make it a big issue.” But the journalists did not leave the collector in peace. To their persistent questions why the collector is putting his daughter in an ordinary government school, the collector simply said, “Friends, I have studied in a government. Now what is wrong if my daughter is also going to study in a government school” (Bhoomiputra, August 1, 2012).
This is the story of 33 years old young collector R. Anandkumar and his wife Shreevidhya. Their 7 year old teenage daughter will not need to tell her that she should respect her teachers; that she should accept all religions and the people who follow them with a sense of respect and equality. She does not need to be told to treat all people with love and respect. For, she will walk the same path which she sees her parents treating everyone with love and respect as their equal human beings.
In our country it became big news that the collector R. Anandkumar and his wife Shreevidhya put their daughter in a government school to study! In my travels to Europe and America I have seen that the parents have to put their children to the nearest school to their residence. In Switzerland the small children have to be walked to their school; they are not to be taken in a vehicle! Without any distinction of rich or poor black or white the children have to reach school, by walking.
Then, the children of play school or kindergarten need not carry with them any note book, snacks or water to their school! The school will provide them everything needed. There the children of all races and colours mingle and interact with one another without any inhibition or difficulty. The children with personal experience learn respect each other. Equality and fraternity are inculcated in them as natural way of life in their daily living.
For years we have the law of compulsory education in India. Still in many states there is still 30% to 40% illiteracy! The illiteracy is mainly found mainly among the poor, the minorities and the tribals. Taking this fact into consideration the central government has enacted the Right to Education (RTE) act. In the act there is provision that every school should reserved admission of 25% for poor students. The government will meet the reasonable expenses of these 25% reserved seats.
In our Indian culture we hold that “Vidhya daanam maha daanam” which means that the gift of education is a great gift. Hence we consider the teachers beyond education as a ‘guru’, a master and we say gurudevobhav – a teacher is equal to God. We give the divine status to our teachers.
Expressing this divine status of our teachers we also say, ‘gurubramma’, ‘guruvishnu’, ‘gurudevo maheshwarah’. As gurubramma, the creator God our teachers are creator of knowledge and wisdom, as ‘guru vishnu’ our teachers keep and cherish knowledge and wisdom; and finally, as ‘gurudevo maheshwarah’ the teachers destroy the ignorance of our children.
When we cherish and keep these noble sentiments and vision, then there will be 100% literacy and our children will never become violent. On the contrary, our children will walk on the path of values of life and uphold high moral and ethical standards. This will lead to pave the way for a corruption-free nation.
Finally, remembering the words of Mr. P.C. George our teachers should be respected and loved as equal to God as we love and respect our parent. Let us uphold the highest respect for our teachers. ‘Gurudevobhav.’ Let me end this essay on the respect for teachers with a quote from British poet William Blake (1757-1827):
“He who shall teach the child to doubt
The rotting grave shall ne’er get out”.