Opinion

Why did you shoot my teacher?

I discovered I could do much more than I thought I could.

I realized it was alright when some things were harder than others.

Because I had a teacher, I found that challenges could be fun.

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I realized that some of the hardest things I did made me feel the proudest.

Because I had a teacher, I knew how good it felt when someone was happy to see me.

I knew I could always ask for help.

Because I had a teacher, I felt I had a friend on my side.

I saw that some of the most important things were said without words.

Because I had a teacher, I had whole new worlds to explore.

I discovered that what I imagined, could become real.

I felt I could do anything.

Because I had a teacher, I learn to believe in me’.

(Kobi Yamada, ‘Because I had a teacher’)

Why did you shoot my teacher?

My teacher taught me that we depend on each other for survival. She said that every person is meant to live both for and thanks to others. Her words refracted like light through a prism, revealing all the different ways in which we found ourselves in relationship with the world.

Has the time come for me to rethink what we mean when we say we belong to a particular religion or state? I thought peace and ethics meant appreciation of beauty, striving for truth, pursuit of justice and recognizing that some things are good and some are bad, because I had a teacher.

I think they shot me because I was a teacher. My road was not a path, not even a village cart road, my road was the razor’s edge. I evaluated objectively but related to each one of you with my heart. I encouraged but did not favor. I supported but did not create dependency.

I quietened your rages, dried your tears, lifted your fallen spirits, assuaged hurt egos, encouraged bravery. I tried to be human but I was expected to be more than human, because I was a teacher,

I also had an aged parent, a daughter of intellectual promise and cultural sensitivity to be educated. I tried not to look helpless, forlorn, vulnerable and precarious for you all looked up to me, because sometimes you felt the same way. It was not easy for me for I was human too, was I not?

I had dependences to support, illness, anxieties, despair, grief, likes, dislikes, prejudices, for I was human. I felt hunger, thirst, pain, and rapture like any other living being in creation.

“Society, traditions, customs expected me to check but not to dominate, to influence but not indoctrinate, shape but not stultify.

I was never in a position of power but always in a position of deep responsibility. I had views but I was never opinionated. I had affinities but was never partisan” (Gopal Gandhi).

Did you ever think that I did not always need to give but that sometimes I needed to receive?

I was expected to adhere to my ideals but no one saw my reality. I tried to attempt what was difficult, reach a sense of articulateness. Teach a love of language but not become insular. I meant to inculcate a love of community, a love of region but not become parochial, a love of country but not become jingoistic. I tried to teach patriotism which did not end up hating neighbours, instill a pride in swadeshi but not allow it to degenerate into cultural ghettoism.

My life was not easy because I was a teachr.

The killings in Kashmir have drawn in homes, schools and communities, which have become a melting pot of emotions, desires, attitudes, religious intolerance, caste and community feelings, creating an atmosphere of discord. A child’s mind is a garden that contains seeds of understanding, forgiveness and love along with seeds of ignorance, fear and hatred that will make him violent or peaceful, understanding or intolerant, depending upon which seeds are watered.

A thinking school can create a learning environment filled with compassion and communication. If teachers in schools are threatened, how will children learn to cope with anxiety, aggression, fear, express tenderness, trust and love.

In order to build a world where children are empowered, it is important to create a close and supportive relationship between the community and school. We can only give our children who we are and what we possess.

When will society come together to ensure that peace is not a set of dogmas that have to be taught? It is an entire approach to life, nature and oneself. Demonising the other on issues of identity, religion, class, caste will never help in inculcating in children a sense of sensitivity, social justice and peaceful linkages with the other.

I am not with you today, but always remember that education is about living life as a human being, about relations and relationships, about living together in a common understanding.

You need to imagine yourselves as broadcasters, tall beacons of ideas, pulsing out messages everywhere. All of you, stating, clarifying, discussing, debating, collaborating, filling space with thoughts that you care about.

If you do that, new fields will develop and with them, their wondrous capacities to bring energy, light and understanding into form. If you create a field of vision which is not coherent and sincere, you will encounter other fields of intolerance, hatred and dissonance.

It is important to remember that space is never empty. If you don’t fill it with harmony, joy, and caring, say one thing but do another, you will create discord in the very space in which you belong.

Remember these words “because I was your teacher”.

The writer is Chairperson and Executive Director, Education, Innovations and Training, DLF Foundation Schools and Scholarship Programs

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