A couple of days back, we celebrated Guru Pournima. (Full moon night to revere the Guru) It was celebrated with enthusiasm, the latest version. Every sadness, joy, reverence, fear is displayed by us, these days in the only way we can. Forward a label or a sticker and throw in a couple of emojis. We are not supposed to or are allowed to write anything in our own words. We are afraid that we will be stigmatised if we do not find an appropriate thing to forward or publish. Some poor souls can not find the “original” forward; hence they push a forwarded forward. Come on, Pramod! When I was in school six decades back, my teachers had taught me to push forwards. They had such foresight; they knew that social media would take over the world.
Coming back to the title, a Guru means an influential teacher or a popular expert. A teacher means a person who teaches, especially in a school. On Jaya’s school WhatsApp group, there was a bit of a discussion which was confused about who is a teacher and a guru.
My school was Ram Mohan English School, Girgaum, in Bombay. My education was in Marathi till 11th grade, after which I went to Elphinstone College and then Engineering at COEP, Pune. The photo above was shared by my classmate Ashok, and it made my day. I have seen enough things in the world now, but I can proudly say that these teachers were as good as any. They are from left Joshi sir (Sanskrit), Naik sir (He was the head-teacher and taught us Marathi), Sabnis Teacher (Science- we used to call lady teachers “Teacher”), Kundaikar Sir (Maths), Mayekar Sir (English). They were outstanding by any standard, but importantly they were great human beings too! They would accommodate over-energetic students like me, though I ranked first in punishments.
I could write pages and pages about these dedicated people, but I will write only a couple of incidents. Mayekar sir was a Professor of French at Wilson College, but due to some health reasons, he moved to our school. He was simply terrific in his language, both written and spoken. His handwriting was out of this world. When I was in the 11th grade, he once called me to his home on a Sunday. I went there with apprehension. When I reached there, he said, “Panvalkar, I will guide for a few Sundays because I feel that you are good at English.” He simply wanted to help and guide me. He had foresight about me. I had never dreamt during those times that I would become a blogger writing stuff in English. Whatever hints he gave in those days, I was too busy noticing them, are surely helping me. Though Marathi is my mother tongue, the language in which I communicate normally, I think, and write in English, as if English is my first language.
Other teachers who guided me in life were Wadke teacher- I used to interact with her during extra-curricular activities like sports. Somehow she took a liking for me and was like my mother to me. She was the epitome of softness. Her daughter Mangal was my classmate. Dr Satynarayna, my HOD in the Metallurgy Department at COEP, my guide for M E, taught me how to make decisions fearlessly. He ensured that I completed my M E in two years and joined the industry.
Unfortunately, we remember all these souls only on Guru Pournima day. We also make an error in understanding the difference between a teacher and a Guru. We interact with teachers for a small duration. But Guru is one person who is in your life and is around all the time. The Gurus are of different varieties, the Osho variety of 92 Rolls Royce fame. He was also famous for his commune with a “free” life. You and I may not agree with his thinking, but hundreds of thousands of disciples tell a different story. The Gurus have been controversial, they have lived in five-star hotels during their travels. In my view, nothing is wrong with that. It is how they improved the lives of their followers. Pandurang Shastri Athawale was one such Guru of fishermen living in northern Maharashtra and Southern Gujarat coast. We find that the language used by him in sermons is primary. But it was meant for the fishermen who were having a troubled life as they were caught in binge drinking. Osho used to give a high level of sermons because people involved were from different categories. Many Gurus like Satya Saibaba who have done wonders for the society with the help of his followers. His “Gora” followers from many countries come to stay in his ashram and would offer their expertise free e. g. surgeons would go and perform free operations. There are, of course, frauds who have cheated people of their property, and we hear many cases of sexual exploitation of women. The cross-section of Gurus is very similar to our society. There are greats, some are good, and others are bad to horrible. But one thing is common in them. They are continuously in touch with their disciples.
I was lucky to have one such Guru in my life, Mahesh Kothari. He was CMD of Exedy India Ltd. We met in 1981 and were regularly in touch with each other until his death in January 2017. I was his business associate and advisor. When we became close and family, it is difficult to say. He never told me, what I should do in life.
I have traveled with him from Pune to Aurangabad many times, and he used to love driving. He would always share the driving time with me. We have had many chat sessions with only two of us, at the guest house. He would never tell me to do something in any specific way. He would share his experiences, he would explain many things, and for me, they were more of training sessions of life. He would care a lot about his family, and he was 100%, family man. I would absorb his way of thinking all the time. He loved his drink, but I was an occasional drinker. He taught me how to enjoy a paan at Tara Paan House in Aurangabad.
Aurangabad was his second home. He was so much involved in work that if he needed to visit a vendor quickly, he would hop behind on some one’s bike, if required, and rush to resolve some technical issue. All the people at the Aurangabad plant were his family. When someone from the factory was travelling abroad for the first time for work, he would personally make sure that the person had the clothing, suit, and vegetarian food if required. He wanted to ensure that nobody ran into unnecessary trouble in a foreign country.
He was an epitome of a Guru by guiding me through his deeds. He taught me to manage work-life balance. He taught me how to be reliable but gentle at the same time. He taught me how to keep on working all the time, at the same time, enjoying the fleeting moments in life. He was also very open to asking me for suggestions on work-related matters.
Friends, teachers teach you a subject or a skill. Gurus share their experiences; it is up to the disciple to pick up excellent points. Disciples are associated with the Guru for a long time. They see all traits of human aspects in the Guru; do not forget that gurus are humans. But teachers are associated with only the teaching aspect; in rare cases, one gets an opportunity like that offered by Mayekar sir or Satyanarayan sir! In rare cases, the teacher becomes a Guru like in the case of Acharekar sir and Sachin Tendulkar. But here, the disciple was an exceptional human being and continued to play cricket all through his life!