The other day a very shocking report of a professor being crudely talked to by a petty politician appeared in the newspapers. It was nothing but a despicable act on the part of a Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) who was invited as a guest in a felicitation programme at an educational institution where a minister of the state government and a Member of Parliament (MP) too were present. The crime of the professor was that in the vote of thanks he raised he made mention of every dignitary except the MLA. Annoyed, the MLA crudely called out to him and spoke to him in a very unseemly and uncivil manner asking him as to why his name was not mentioned.
This happened in front of numerous people, including students. Running down of a teacher in full public gaze is something extraordinary and only the present-day politicians, hungry for power, pelf and publicity, can do it. This only shows the culture in the midst of which he was nurtured where no premium was placed on education or respect for those who were imparting knowledge and understanding to others. That the minister and the MP, superior elected political functionaries than the MLA, kept quiet and did not administer a public rebuke to him, too, was strange but was, perhaps, dictated by political necessities. It should, however, have been the duty of the minister to educate the MLA about how he should behave with a professor, a guru in Indian Hindu traditions which the BJP politicians constantly keep harping on these days, and how he needed to be revered and respected. For all one knows, perhaps they too are unaware of the age-old practices in dealing with those who were teachers, regardless of their level.
In our time we have seen how the students used to revere their teachers. My father was a professor in the college at Gwalior. Because of his educational attainments, his conduct and his ways with the boys and girls in the College he used to be highly respected. For years together he remained in-charge of all sporting and students’ union activities. His illustrious students like UN Dhebar, a former Congress general secretary, and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, former prime minister, would touch his feet whenever they came across him on the streets or elsewhere. To top it all, in pre-independence era, my father and a couple of other professors had occasion to go and meet the Maharaja of Gwalior in the latter’s office in Jayavilas Palace. As they were ushered into his presence Maharaja left his seat and stood up. In those feudal times this was something unheard of. He was the sovereign and the supreme ruler and all his subjects regardless of their rank bowed before him. His huge gesture only showed his breeding. Again, at Jabalpur my mother was taken to a function by my friend who used to be the Additional Collector. As she sat down, a man sitting on the dais climbed down and came straight to her sitting in the front row to touch her feet. She could not recognize him. It was Late Justice Shiv Dayal, Judge of the Jabalpur High Court. He told my friend that she was his “Guru-Ma” as her husband used to be his professor. Those were the days when the tradition of Guru and his pupil was maintained without making any song and dance about it like they do today. Today it may look or sound very esoteric but in those good old days these practices were normal and were observed as a matter of course.
Our venal, crude and half-educated netas to whom courtesy and tculture are alien have dumbed down everything, including the standards of behavior. As education was extended to the hinterlands of the cities with more and more schools being opened the standards of education were progressively diluted as the governments failed to correspondingly increase the number of quality teachers. As the new generations of untrained teachers were not equipped to deal with the children in schools, the standards of education as also children’s behaviour saw a continuing decline. Products of schools and colleges were as good as half-educated, country louts, particularly those who came out of government schools. Paying school teachers a pittance, too, did not help – the amounts sometimes are less than those of a government peon. Struggling and living from-hand-to-mouth existence, they are not able to maintain a dignified life in front of their wards. What is worse, these netas think nothing of them – themselves being riff raff, they take the teachers as such – behaving as if they are the lords of yore. Keen on self-publicity and making money on the side they have done nothing to improve matters relating to education in rural areas. No wonder education at the ground level is nothing whatsoever to write home about. Things have so drastically changed for the worse over the last sixty to seventy years. The government schools and colleges have become decrepit and unpopular which even the so-called economically weaker sections of society do not prefer to put their children in them
Earlier, a man’s education and his values were admired and respected. School teachers and college professors never had enough yet they were highly respected, the more brilliant, cultured and committed they were the more the pupils would have regard for them. The thing have become different today. People worship money and power, seemingly, shunning all societal values. No wonder one can see a keen race to make more and more money any which way – ethical or unethical – as that brings power and position of influence in society. A man’s money power can swing many things in his favour or in favour of those who are his boot-lickers. He can actually go lording over others regardless of his intrinsic worth.
No wonder, the government is busy chasing unethical money the colour of which is black, the money that has severely damaged the country’s ethical and cultural value systems – with the venal netas being avid participants in the process.