Over three decades after I parted ways and a decade after he passed away, I find today a perfect occasion to pay my tribute to Col PS Satsangi who discovered a teacher out of me. The 5th Sep, in India, is celebrated as the “Teacher’s Day”.
It was in the year 1982 when I met Col PS Satsangi in Allahabad, a holy and an intellectually fertile city, under the instructions of my Professor and research guide, the Late (Prof) Bipin Kumar Agarwal, University of Allahabad. Like any youngster of my age, I was on the top of the world with a Masters degree in Physics under my hat and a research scholarship. Very reluctantly, I accepted the offer to join Colonel Satsangi, who was then in his early fifties, blessed with an imposing personality and possessed an out of the world vision on education. Initially, it was a non-commital migration to Delhi to see the world a bit and probably to keep flirting with several career options, a fashionable chore in those days.
But what happened was a fall in love and never look back, as they say. Col Satsangi’s ability to inspire, to convince and to motivate one to commit to a cause was amazing. Personally, for me, he created a “Self belief” and changed my view on “work”and “enjoyment”. I began to enjoy the process of learning and growth in me and in the students under my charge. A record of the sort was made when we spent nearly 18 hours working with the students without making a fuss. Obviously, the energetic Colonel was leading from the front. I had my moments of frustration, dejection and inner calls of ‘quit’ but they all vanished like a water bubble every time I interacted with him.
My colleagues and I, all in our twenties, developed a deep insight into education. ‘Self-motivation through nil punishment’, became our mantra and we chanted it more number of times during the day than the Gayatri Mantra. Under the stewardship of Col Satsangi, we experimented with the effects of “Self-directed Study”, “Open book test”, “Enduring long hours”, “Personalized instruction” and “Counselling” on learning outcomes, much before they became commonplace, with great success.
My contemporaries were envious of the fact that Col Satsangi treated me with favour and special treatment. The truth is that I was his favourite but he did no favour to me. It was a very intimate relationship of mutual admiration. For me his sterling leadership and educational philosophy and for him my deep, unconditional commitment to new learning and unlearning. I had my quota of intellectual differences but they were sorted out before the sunset. All these years I never adequately expressed my gratitude to the erudite Colonel who dedicated himself till the end to shape the personality of thousands of students and hundreds of teachers. I did write, though, a tribute when he turned 75. I have every reason to cheer and salute him for his lessons in my early years as a young teacher. I salute him for his uncanny ability to refine the pulp we were made of and for the way he moulded us to become evolved, compassionate teachers and better human beings.
I will be failing in my duty if I do not mention with reverence here the enchanting influence of his wife, the Late (Smt) Kiran Satsangi. She was more of a mother figure on the campus of Rotary Public School, Gurgaon than anything else, much less a boss’ wife. Her sudden departure from our midst as a result of a horrible road accident was a blow that many of us have not fully recovered from. It remains, a terrible loss till this day. Her midnight arbitrations between her husband and the young teachers, exhibiting rebellious streaks at times, with a topping of choicest dishes from her 24X7 kitchen, did wonders to cement our relationship.
A real tribute on this day to any teacher would be to cherish Col. Satsangi’s philosophy of focused hard work and to apply the scientific principles of educational management to achieve learning outcomes. His unshakable faith in the empowerment of teachers is a lesson for today’s leaders to learn. My grateful homage to you Sir! For you are the one who cured many of us of our jaundice of avidya (ignorance).
Ashok Pandey is heading the prestigious
Ahlcon International School in Delhi, India