My utterly teacherly family!

Anuradha C

Keeping up with the glorious and celebrated occasion of Teacher’s Day, I decided to turn in my story for the month as an ode to the teachers of my acquaintance. But when I turned my head to look around, I realized that I have enough teachers right within my family to fill a stadium! Now that’s an exaggeration and you know it, but you get the drift, right?

Instead of looking far and wide, I’ve decided to chronicle all the teachers among the daddies, aunties, and uncles around me. To say teaching is our family vocation, is not too far from the truth. Like you have the merchant clans, the political dynasties, the default vocation in my family is teaching. There are the odd ones who turned out to be ‘mere’ engineers or bankers, but the overwhelming majority are teachers.

Most of them are serving or retired professors from reputed institutions in India and overseas. It goes without saying that they are all PhD degree holders or beyond. But if you happen to catch up with them, all cozily huddled at a family wedding, you wouldn’t be able to guess that you are amidst a gang of doctorates! They just come across as simple, fun-loving folks with empathy for people and a crazy passion for books. Let me begin with a round of cheers to my utterly teacherly family!

You might wonder, why you should be reading about a bunch of teachers you don’t know. Every teacher that I talk about in my story exhibits some exemplary trait that is worth admiring and emulating. These are ordinary people with an extra something that makes them special teachers. Read on, you’ll know what I mean.

The patriarch who started it all: For a rural household living off farming income in pre-independence India, he broke the stereotype and became one of the first graduates of his village, in a remote part of Tamil Nadu. He then went on to become a celebrated English language professor, was instrumental in setting up new educational institutions in several locations across India. He even had a widely read newspaper column titled “Know Your English”! He left behind a legacy of family generations who caught on to the academic bug. He left behind an even greater legacy – as an ardent spiritual seeker and follower of Ramana Maharshi’s teachings.

My father-in-law, a hero for his students: In the early years of my marriage, I knew him as a straight-faced, reputed English professor with a fantastic vocabulary. But every time I encountered one his former students, I discovered a new facet to his character. He came across as a gregarious, highly sought after teacher who would regale his students with witty tales on language evolution and literature. He was also their hero who had stepped beyond his academic duties and helped many a student gain college admission or get a job offer just when they needed it most. He is 85 years old now, and finds it challenging to remember every happening from today or yesterday. However, you strike a conversation on Bernard Shaw and he is all fired up and ready with a twinkle in his eye! What I admire most about him is this – his literary knowledge, and the fact that his command over his mother tongue Tamil is even better than his English.

Illustration: Shilpy Lather

The teacher who has all the traits of a naughty student: He loved to bunk classes and take up sports. He prefers to read PG Wodehouse to serious heavy literature. He has a quirky sense of humor and a prankster image. He did his PhD with great reluctance! Sounds more like a naughty student? No, he is a popular English professor from a reputed foreign language institute. Newly retired and back to following his first love – sports!

Even the women married into the family are rock star teachers: One of them is an exemplary professor of media and communication. She is so passionate about teaching that she runs this magazine Teacher Plus with great gusto and inspiration. Since 1989!

Three small-town sisters who became pioneer teachers in an all-girls college: Young and bright sisters from a conservative household. Two of them pursued English and one physics. They served their entire teaching tenure in their alma mater. Even went on to take up the reigns of management at their college. But the student in them is still alive and kicking – one of them is pursuing her Masters in Sanskrit presently while another is a proponent of yoga and mudras!

The IISc prof who excelled in the industry too: It’s rare for excellent academicians to fit into the industry. Result oriented application of research and rapidly changing market dynamics are the reason. But this one transitioned beautifully from being a high profile IISc professor to a top-notch scientist at a leading pharma company.

The one who taught the Koreans their English: She invariably holds centerstage in every party with her witty repartee. An English professor who can give the native English speakers a run for their money with her flawless pronunciation! A challenging assignment in her long freelance teaching career was to train the Korean expats of an automobile giant setting up shop in India, in English! Since then, language tutoring to South Asian professionals has caught up in a big way in India.

Housewife to PhD scholar to celebrated micro-biology professor: Happy housewife, her husband’s sudden demise forced her to get back to work. She completed her PhD while caring for her two infants. She went on to become a researcher and professor of micro-biology. She is the darling of her students – has been a guide and mentor to scores of women pursuing this niche subject. A teacher who has sleepless anxious nights everytime her students are preparing for their thesis viva!

A techie engineer who found his calling as a teacher: After a career spanning several decades in one of India’s top PSUs, he still felt a void in his professional life. Post retirement, he landed up teaching under-privileged graduate engineers merely by accident. In a ramshackle building in a corner of Bengaluru, with modest teaching aids, he helped hundreds of jobless engineers get jobs in the tech industry. Students from the remotest parts of Chhattisgarh, Assam, Jharkhand, Odisha have landed their first job as a result. My father, I say with pride!

As the youngest member of the family and the least accomplished amongst all these haloed teachers, I have a unique distinction – of being the gadget guru of the family! How to connect over Zoom / GMeet, how to enroll into online classes of their choice, how to make YouTube videos of their favourite subject – such are our sessions.

I often ask my folks how they’ve kept their mojo going for decades. How they’ve overcome the typical problems associated with teaching – becoming obsolete with time, losing inspiration in a repetitive job.

Some quips from them that helped me unearth the secret ingredients to their success:
“Only a good student can become a good teacher. Why do you think we are sitting here learning all this tech stuff from you!”
“We’ve got to embrace the tech revolution. The richness of our subject shouldn’t get lost due to obsolete teaching aids.”
“Once out of college, my students become my buddies. They are a constant source of up-to-date technology trends and facilitate industry-academia partnership.”

The author is an IT industry drop-out after several years of slogging and money-making. She is now working freelance as a corporate technical trainer and content writer. She is hoping to channelize her passion for writing into a satisfying experience for herself and a joyous experience for her readers. She can be reached at

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