It was the first Saturday of my sophomore year in college. Excited as I was for the year to actually start, I knew I had gotten off on the wrong foot with many of my classmates the previous year. And facing them again made me anxious. I am a socially awkward person. A very self-aware, socially awkward person and my flight/fight response screams run! in every new situation. And I felt like everyone in the class hated me. And I needed to be someplace else. Thinking and overthinking my situation, this Saturday, I cycled to college early, you know, the kind of motivation you have at the beginning of a new year had kicked in and my mother wanted to take full advantage of it. She confiscated my two-wheeler keys and asked me to walk, run, fly to get to the other side. So I had to take out the rusty old bicycle for some sunshine. And I left so early. I would be the first person to go into the class. Or so I thought.
That day was the first time I had a conversation with my teacher, Mr Prakash Hegade. I thought I was EARLY that day, but he was already in the class preparing the board. Sir has always been that way, taught us by doing. He instructed us all once to come on time. Didn’t scold or acknowledge if we joined in late. But he was always there. And he didn’t wait to start. So if you walked in late, you would regret missing minutes of the class. After exchanging pleasantries, I expressed my concerns about my peers and fitting in into the class. I was ready to change my division to stay out of trouble. So he asked me to give it time, moreover, with the summer break, it would be a clean slate. He said “Don’t change your section. I am teaching your class. Others who teach aren’t that good. You have the best set of lecturers possible”. And just like that, I stayed and my life took a turn for the better.
That Semester was the best I had. Someday, I wish I have the confidence to say those words to a student. There are clear, visible lines between confidence and arrogance. And I heard confidence that day, with a flavour of pride but PH is the most grounded person you can meet. And he made sure we worked our asses of the Fall Semester of 2018. Prakash sir is a man of many hats and his many talents do visit class all the time. He has an absolutely ideal internet presence (you cannot stop stalking) and we used to spend hours exploring it all. Many take inspiration from his writing style, genres and presentation (and fail, mostly.) I used to record what happened in each class in little cryptic insider poems, in an attempt to be “inspired”. I guess I did an okay job, owing to all the love I received in response. Which was definitely all for PH, not Vibha. but by the end of the semester, I felt home, I had made friends that would last for life. That Saturday morning conversation had definitely saved me.
In the next 15 years, you are all I aspire to be. Huge shoes, I have always exclaimed, but selfish me, when my feet fit into those, I’ll be expecting these letters too, for them, I go on.
Disclaimer: This is going to be a cheesy list of how great you are and how much you mean to us (there, cheesy already) but I know you would enjoy it and take pride in it, being the Slytherin that you pretend to be.
In this short duration we have been able to set sail in the same boat (the one you tirelessly take each year, making the ride better and better.) You have grown on us, seeding love and respect for you from our conscience for all the effort you put, to educate us newbs, no matter how frustratingly stupid we are.
It’s a joy to wait for DSA class each day. Exciting is the anticipation of what’s new. There is so much more to PH than the course. Professionalism, passion, dedication, creativity and wit. Topped with modesty. Best combination of skill set in the universe. I will always look up to these qualities, and swear to make them mine in the course of time. It is the way you have lived that has set an example for us. A great teacher inspires.
We had to summarise/write what we picked up from the book ‘The Design Of A Programmer’. I wrote my first fan mail. To know that it reached whom it was meant for, feels like an accomplishment in itself. I go back to the book again and again. It reminds me of my role as a programmer, engineer. An anchor to the happening in my student life.
I take pride in my 100% attendance. Not a single class did I sit for the sake of attendance. Just happy to see the comfortingly uncomforting face of PH. Thank you for reminding us that Education cannot be measured in marks, learning is never complete and what we learn will stay forever.
How we already feel so possessive of you, how you have grown on us in this short duration and sadly, how quickly it is all going to end in a few days. Someone else is going to feel the same pride, will commit to you with the same devotion, but how much can it matter to you? For a teacher as great as yourself, it is probably easy to be the students’ favourite. (Now I know how stupid that sounds. Sorry. It is not easy, it is your commitment to make it better and better that makes you great.) And you will always be remembered throughout our lives. But we students are always in a difficult situation. It is hard to stand out, in the thousands you have taught and be remembered for how good a student one is. (I know I will always be one or two steps short, but I will get there someday.) But you surprise me, in the way that you have seen us progress, remember each of us for who we are and help us grow.
We are forever indebted to you sir. Our love and respect pure and voluntary. I feel proud, lucky, elated even, to have been a part of this experience. The next time I see you in class, I will have earned it. I promise. See you in semester 6. DSA by PH will stay in hearts more than brains.
A fan. Student. Dreamer.Fanmail, circa November 2018
As the semester was coming to an end, I started “conducting” (let’s stick with that word) these interviews with sir, a question a day. I am grateful to him that he obliged in spite of his busy, busy life . I keep going back to those answers for comfort and directions from time to time.
Semester succeeding was a total bore after a shabang! sem with PH. And I obsessively did what I could to stay connected. And I was the happiest person on the face of the Earth when “Knit School 2019″ code camp was announced. My loud mouth and my conscience would not let me do this alone. I literally told everyone around me about the internship, asked them to check the details out and urged them to apply. (Even though I knew I would have a better chance at it if they didn’t participate.) I don’t mean they would not have applied if I had not told them, but I really do like being the broadcaster. Ubuntu, after all. And I was a proud one of the eight, and I carry the learnings of the camp for life.
I have seen PH in the different roles of a teacher. In a single week, he had remembered each name in the class with their personalities and stories. As a student it is such a validation that I am recognised for what I stand for. Since Knit School times, PH is also my project guide. And all of us have imbibed his spirit in our thinking, presentation and expression in the year we have had as his students. A great teacher inspires. PH has inspired me in a lot of ways. I have learnt so much from him inside and outside the classroom. No matter how good a teacher you are, you won’t be able to connect with the students if you don’t stay relevant. If you don’t listen to, stand up for and advocate for your students, you will still pass as just a good teacher. Here, Prakash sir won in a big way. Those qualities set him apart. And someday, I aspire to be a teacher to many as Prakash sir has been to me and hundreds of others.
Thank you so much for being so patient and kind to us sir.
Seeking your blessings on this auspicious occasion of Guru Poornima,