The controversy or should I say controversies over Teacher’s Day 2014 has filled me with sadness and even a sense of hopelessness and that for more reasons than one. September 5th is Dr Radhakrishnan’s birth anniversary and he is the one who wanted it celebrated as Teacher’s Day. He himself was a teacher in the true sense of the word. I had the honour and privilege of having been blessed by him at my birth. Dr Radhakrishnan was on an official visit to Prague in April 1952 and he heard of the birth of an Indian child he insisted he had to meet mer even if it threw the protocol haywire. He even named me Anuradha. I think my mother had other names like Mandakini in mind but both my parents accepted his suggestion with joy. I met him subsequently a few times and he never failed to impress me by his gentle and erudite ways. Today, I am sure he must be feeling some hurt at all this drama around a day that should be celebrated with dignity and decorum.
But though September 5th still has to dawn, the controversies are in full swing: be it the renaming or attempt to as Guru Utsav or the row about whether the Prime Minister’s address to the children is compulsory or voluntary. And in the case of the later, would the ‘voluntary’ entail any detrimental action. The problem is that the timing of said speech does not coincide with regular school timings, something that has far more consequences than what one can imagine. And then of course will the market meet the demand on said day: I mean TV sets, set top boxes, etc. And what about the funds required: who will foot the bill. It is really sad that a day made to remember a great and humane personality and celebrate teachers has come to this. Whether you call it Teacher or Guru, Day or Utsav, what difference does it make. What is important is to express gratitude to those who have taught you.
In India today, a country whose constitution has adopted a Right to Education for every child born within its boundaries, I feel that Teacher’s Day has to also ‘remember’ all the children who do not have teachers, not because of any personal choice, but because we as a society, a State, a Government have not been able to ensure sufficient schools for each and every child and not been able to contain aberrations such as child labour, begging etc. I believe this day to be the one where we commit ourselves to ensuring that these lacunas and make it possible for every child to be visible and have the right to have a teacher.
However let us get back to the famous speech. As a child I would be very excited to have the Prime Minister address me! Wow! In times where children have no role models, no people to emulate, no hero barring Bollywood ones, a connect between the head of the Government and a school kid is far more important that one can imagine and again I would like to reiterate how sad I feel about the controversies and the attempt by politicians to hijack a sacrosanct day. How I wish it could have been better organised.