To Sir, With Love …

Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well.
~ Aristotle

This article is a tribute to my teachers who shaped me into being a socially acceptable human being. I am sharing some anecdotes from my past life – the ones I believe have changed my life. These are instances that influenced my thought process in multiple ways.

To begin with, I wish you and your teachers a very very Happy Teacher’s Day.

Happy Teacher's Day

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Turning off the “shy button” …
I was a very shy guy in my high school. I would never appear on stage, won’t participate in events and won’t talk to folks outside of a closed gang of 4-5 people. And this is how it changed ..

There was an inter-school debate competition – the usual war of “Houses” and the campus was abuzz with activity. My job was simple – like most others, be a part of the milling crowd. A day before the finals, one of the members in our team fell ill, got hospitalized and his family informed to my house master (our teacher) that he cannot speak on the D-day.

I have no idea what made my sir believe that I can be a replacement. He gave me a 750 word article and asked me to rote it in 5 hours and be ready for rehearsals on the eve of finals. Given the kind of subjects we have to “study” (Sanskrit, Geography, History etc to name a few) to get good marks, I had trained myself into being a rote champ. So, that job was easy. However, there was a lot of humiliation to follow. I kept forgetting those words while rehearsing in front of team/teachers. When I tried to do it alone, I did fine.

My house master turned up and said, “I know your problem. It is easy to solve”. He pointed at the tiny audience during rehearsals and said, “Look at these people. They are not human beings. They are vegetables. He is a potato. She is a ladyfinger .. What are you afraid of? Veggies? Come on. They are not living beings. Go ahead and speak your mind!” It sounds silly. Right? Yeah, I know. But that changed me for my life. I learned to express myself, unhindered. I did well on the final day – spoke too fast though 🙂 .. We didn’t win the competition. But, I was a changed person ..

Thank you Sukhdeo Sir.

Knowledge gives you wisdom (and wings)
I used to hate Physics in my +2. Mostly because of the teacher who taught us the subject. His idea of Physics was simple – find a formula, fit the variables somehow and match the answer in your index. Woohoo! Thankfully, this was set to change.

During the course of preparation for IIT-JEE, I started visiting Professor Abhay Singh. His classes were a refreshing change. Physics became Mathematics. And everything started making sense to me. I managed to (just) clear the JEE. However, the long lasting impressions those lectures have had on me, go beyond Physics tutorials. I started daring myself to Olympiad problems – something that I never had the confidence to do before.

And then, I realized confidence only comes from knowledge. Which in turn comes by exploring beyond the obvious. Before I joined ISM-Dhanbad, I helped Abhay Sir co-author the fourth edition of his undergraduate book Problems in Physics.

Thank you Abhay Sir, I am glad to have met you – I would have never understood the meaning of “no depth in knowledge is deep enough. there’s always room for more“.

When on a mission, insulate yourself from rest of the world
For me college days were mostly about being a retard and an arrogant asshole – the guy that  people love and hate at the same time. But you know what, there’s this one thing that I was truly in love with – those mean machines that were used in mineral processing and metallurgy. Their sheer scale and size used to fascinate me.

My Professor Bhattacharya Sir saw that in me and prompted me to take one of his long pending ideas further. Since it involved physical modeling, I jumped in. Well that was the start of an agonizing journey. I got so much into it, that I skipped classes, sat for hours creating programs and models – some friends thought I was faking it while others thought I had lost it! Irrespective, I got my work done.

To get a patent on the idea, we had to create a prototype and prove our model with data. Given the minuscule R&D budgets that colleges in our country have, we had to run throughout India seeking support from industry.

We failed to raise money. But I won – in many ways. I learned how to insulate myself from the surroundings when I am on a mission. Thank you Bhattacharya Sir.

Sirs, some day, I’ll make each one of you proud. I promise. I am on it.

– Avlesh

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