September 5th of every year is celebrated as “Teachers Day” in India. What is Teacher’s Day about?
5th September is the birthday of a great teacher Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who was a staunch believer of education, and was the well-known diplomat, scholar, President of India and above all, a teacher.
When some of his students and friends approached him and requested him to allow them to celebrate his birthday, he said, “instead of celebrating my birthday separately, it would be my proud privilege, if 5th September is observed as Teachers day”. From then onwards, the 5th of September has been observed as Teachers Day, in India.
Unfortunately we don’t see any full page advertisements from government of India in newspapers remembering Dr. Radhakrishnan.
Teachers Day During My High School
During my school days the school captain & vice-captain would assume the roles of school Principal & Vice-Principal respectively. Other senior students would teach junior classes.
I must admit that teachers during my school days were very strict. Didn’t enjoy many things in school. We were subjected to capital punishment often. And joking with teachers was unheard of.
Professors In US Schools
During my graduate studies in the US, I saw the culture was a lot different, rather it was a culture shock. One could ask any question, disagree, have lunch with them, talk about common interests. We did not know how to make use this freedom.
But things have changed a lot in schools in India these days. Parents and teachers call each other these days very freely. A good development. Would like to see this happening a lot more in professional colleges.
I have been fortunate enough to have met Dr. Ernest Stokely during my graduate studies. Coming from India getting financial aid was critical (the exchange rate was $1 = Rs 12). I had done my home work on the assistanships each department in the university had.
Dr. Stokely had just joined as Chair, Department of Biomedical Engineering at UAB from Dallas. I had literally barged into his office within few hours of his first day at the university and requested him to take me as his research assistant. He replied “I have just joined today morning and I don’t know if we have any RA positions”, for which I instantly replied “But I know you have budget for ONE research assistant”. He was shell shocked and obliged after few days!
Became Curious About Naming
He shaped my life considerably. He pushed me into learning system administration of Sun Microsystem servers. “Naming” is one of my favorite subject now but I got interested in naming only after Dr. Stokely introduced me to his servers which were named “amnesia” (for “amnesia”) and “agnose” (for “agnosia”). It was a play on words in neurology for affective disorders.
May be naming was an important topic in corporate India in 1990s, I wasn’t exposed to it. I still read articles related to naming, logos with great interest.
My System Administration Guru
Dr. Stokely gave me those 2 Sun systems which he called them “pigs” because well, they were pigs. He said if I can manage them the job was mine. I had no clue on how to manage them but I confidently said “Yes, I can”.
Immediately I rushed to meet Bruce Williams who was Senior System Admin in our CS dept. I told him if he doesn’t help me come upto speed I would lose my assistantship.
I shouldn’t forget to thank my system admin guru Bruce Williams who told me “Maheeesh, you can do it, here goes the manuals”. They were one full almirah of manuals! I almost fainted. And this ex-Navy big guy chuckled and told me “Don’t worry, you don’t need to know all of it”.
Reunion with Dr. Stokely After Two Decades
I went to Dr. Stokely’s house few times to cook Indian dishes which he loved. Not sure when is the last time I cooked, I can actually but not sure if anybody wants to eat it. I have been in touch with Dr. Stokely every since I graduated in 1992.
This year I visited Dallas with my family. I hadn’t seen him for two decades. He insisted we spend the day with him and his lovely wife Joan. He picked us up from the airport. Before leaving India he had asked me if I was still a vegetarian, did we eat eggs, were we vegan. And here goes the lunch that was arranged for us. A perfect one.
We caught up over the day over all my dotcom experiments, my health barometer readings, world politics and what not. It was evening before we even realized, he dropped us back to the airport.
I knew the purpose of the visit was fruitful when my daughter was totally awed to see the relationship I had with my Prof.
Thank you Dr. Stokely. You have been a great influence in my life. And I have ensured to motivate many after I have returned to India.