By Mandetira N Subramani
The teaching profession is one of the noblest professions on this planet, indeed! You may agree or disagree with my point of view. Being a teacher, myself, you may say that I am biased in my opinion. But, every teacher gets emotionally touched in their aging days whenever an old student goes up to a teacher and says “I was your student”. I am not an exception.
I chose to be a teacher because I love teaching. Being a teacher in a Girls College, I always begin my first class, with every new batch, by telling the students that, “I am an ex-military man. I want all my students to excel in their studies as well as in cultural activities. Firstly, you are my students. Secondly, as you are all in your ‘fifteens’ & ‘sixteens’, you are also like my own children. I will spend three long hours every day teaching you. I don’t spend that much time even with my children, who are as old as you. Most of my days go by without talking to my children even for five minutes. So, this proves that you are most special to me. No mischief in the classroom or outside it. However, you are always welcome to come to me for clarifying any doubts that you may have or for any other help which I as your teacher can provide”.
After teaching my students, Accountancy and Business Studies, for two long years, in the last class of II PUC, I would bid them good-bye by saying, “Remember, I had addressed you in the very first period of my class last year, and said that you are all like ‘my children’, and whenever you face any problem after you complete your graduation, or complete your higher studies, please do call me over the telephone or on my mobile. Now, you can have my Residential Telephone No. & my Mobile No.”, and I write my telephone numbers on the black board for the students to note them, if they want to. A few old students do call me up with their problems, some asking me to look for a job for them. Many students forget their teachers and of course all teachers don’t remember all their old students. After all, I am only a old fashioned ex-military man and therefore, I am no exception.
One such student of mine, Sarala by name, brings tears to my eyes whenever I think of her and the hard times she’s been going through. I wept bitterly and unashamedly when I came to know of her sorrowful plight just one day prior to the bygone Republic day. Even now, I cannot control my emotions being a teacher in a Government Pre University College for Girls, where majority of the students are economically poor. The reason is not anything peculiar. It’s common with some Armed Forces personnel who do not have emotional stability, maybe. It is paradoxical, though I am a tough person mentally; I am very weak at heart. I thought I could ease my emotions by penning down the episode and share my emotions with my ex-servicemen brethren, my present colleagues in teaching fraternity and the public.
I had proposed and mooted the concept of honoring ‘War Widows’ (Veer Naaris) on Republic Day at Mysore during ‘National Festivities Celebration Committee’ meeting which was convened by the committee’s Chairman and Head of District Administration, i.e., the Deputy Commissioner and District Magistrate of Mysore. The present District Collector of Mysore District, Shri Manivannan, IAS, who has a lot of concern towards ex-servicemen fraternity, appreciated and acceded to my proposal and constituted a sub-committee to identify the war widows residing in Mysore District and to make necessary arrangements to honour all the war widows after hoisting the flag by the Minister, during Republic Day celebrations by the District Administration. I was appointed as the Chairman of the Sub-Committee, which I had to accept with a bit of hesitation initially because of some protocol issue. I would have been just happy as a member of the committee.
In all, only five Veer Naaris from Mysore district were indicated, in a photocopy of the list provided by the Office of Deputy Director, Department of Sainik Welfare and Resettlement, Mysore creating some confusion. However, from the ex-servicemen and widows of ex-servicemen’s data bank which I maintain, I had identified included three widows of gallant Officers names to Mysore District’s Veer Naaris list. Strangely, the names of widows of late Lt Col Yogesh, Sena Medal (Posthumous), Late Maj Ganesh Madappa, Shaurya Chakra (Posthumous) and Late Maj Shafeeq Mahmood Khan Ghori were found missing in the list made available to one of the members of the committee, unofficially, totally ignoring to reply the letter and directions originated from the office of Deputy Commissioner, Mysore.
As per the verbal instructions of the District Administration, I personally handed over the District Administration’s letter-cum-invitations to all the Veer Naaris at their residents in Mysore inviting them to attend the Republic Day Celebration, and receive the honour during the Republic Day celebration at Chamundi Vihar Stadium, Mysore. I started with Veer Naari, Mrs. Nirupa Madappa and completed the task of inviting all the Veer Naaris. However, I could not locate the address of 22 year old Veer Naari, Mrs. Sarala, widow of 2793385-L, Late Sep BN Kiran Kumar of 9 Maratha Light Infantry, despite spending hours in trying to do so.
Finally, I could contact her on her mobile phone. She told me that, she is at Bangalore desperately hunting for a job as she could not find any job in Mysore. I extended the invitation for her to attend the Republic Day Celebration, and receive the honour during the Republic Day celebration at Chamundi Vihar Stadium, Mysore. Mrs. Sarala asked me to handover the invitation to her elder brother, Mr. Shailendra, who works in a small business establishment on Ashoka Road, Mysore. I handed over the invitation to him and asked him to get me a passport size photograph of his brother-in-law, the martyr, as I was under the instructions of the District Administration to provide the details of all the martyrs whose widows were being honoured on Republic Day.
Shri Shailendra, instead of bringing a photograph of the martyr Sep. Kiran Kumar, brought me a photograph of Mrs. Sarala. I insisted him to bring late Sep. Kiran Kumar’s passport size photo as I was to release a press note to make the public know of the noble gesture of the District Administration much before the Republic Day Celebrations, so that Armed Forces fraternity and the public would know that the Martyrs and Armed Forces fraternity are remembered by all on important occasions.
But, some strange feeling started haunting me about this 22 year old Veer Naari, Smt. Sarala, with a small child of little over one year old. What she would do with a small baby, which was born after the soldier attained Martyrdom? How could I help her through VeKare Ex-servicemen Trust? I could not find any answers to my questions, especially with me not being that big or influential a person, holding an insignificant retired rank of Indian Air Force, – ‘Ex-Sergeant’.
I decided to contact this Veer Naari, Smt. Sarala, once again over the phone. I asked her about her educational qualifications. She said that she is a commerce graduate. To my question where did she do her Pre-University, she said that it was in the Government Pre-University College for Girls, People’s park, Mysore. I asked her, casually, who were all her lecturers. She just mentioned, “My lecturer was MNS, who used to teach Accountancy & Business Studies”. I asked her, “Does your MNS teach well? I heard he is a military man and not a good teacher”. She replied, “No sir, he is my favorite lecturer, and he teaches very well”. I again asked her, “What is the full form of MNS?” she said “I don’t know sir”. which took me by surprise.
For a moment I thought of the Armed Forces and my trainers and wondered whether I was a good combatant soldier or after all only a really good teacher! If a soldier cries he would demoralize other soldiers, but I cried as a military veteran. I cried aloud as a teacher for a long time in the Trust’s Office ignoring the presence and very much to the surprise of the Trust’s Office Manager Mr. Somashekar.
What a way to meet one of my old students who is a Veer Naari! She is anyway my student, and I remember addressing all my students who step into the college on the first day, as children. Once a child, always a child. I am not trying to sound philosophical – I really mean it. A student of mine – a child of mine, becoming a Veer Naari at the age of 22 years with a child in the womb?! A tear or two would certainly roll down from the eyes of any person who has a human heart. I am no exception as a military veteran and as a teacher for 17 long years, albeit with a very weak heart.
However, I realized that, the responsibility and the job assigned to me by the District Administration, Mysore, is worth doing. My responsibility has increased towards this old student of mine. A student among my students, whom I collectively address as my children in the classroom. This Veer Naari, Smt. Sarala, just did not know with whom she spoke over the phone though I repeated my name many a times while speaking to her over phone.
On 26th Jan 2010, when I received her at the venue, as the Chairman of the Sub-Committee with the respect that she deserved as one of the Veer Naaris, she greeted me Good Morning and very innocently asked me “Sir, how come you’re here. Isn’t there a Republic Day celebration at our college?” – The rest is history.
I as an Ex-Air Warrior (Ex-Sergeant) salute District Administration, Mysore and District Collector Shri Manivannan sir for having acceded to all my proposals and honouring eight Veer Naaris on Republic Day-2010 which has really become part of the history in this historic city of Mysore.
On behalf of Ex-servicemen fraternity, we also salute the Honourable Minister for Transport, Govt. of Karnataka, Shri R. Ashok who in an unprecedented noble gesture announced free bus passes from Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation for all the dependent family members of all Armed Forces martyrs who hail & belong to Karnataka State soon after honouring the eight Veer Naaris in a emotionally filled Republic Day celebrations.
JAI JAWAN, JAI HIND, JAI KARNATAKA