To Sir With Love

Updated Nov 10,2013 – Pointed the video link on youtube to the second version of the video, that has a better sound quality. Thanks Kavitha Rajendran for getting that done.

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Thanks to 2 of my team mates, October 28, 2013 turned out to be one of the happiest days of my life.  Want to know why?

On that day, I gave a speech to the students of Lady Willingdon Girls School near the Marina Beach in Chennai. It is the school, the CAS Outreach Council [Cognizant's CSR Program is called Outreach and CAS is the Internal IT team of Cognizant] has been working with for several years. Please read this imagining yourself to be a higher secondary school student [I gave the speech in Tamil and have translated it for this medium].

The Youtube version of this speech is here. - Thanks Kavitha Rajendran for the recording. The sound quality is not that good. Sorry about that.  Sound quality is much better now. Please note that the first minute or so and the last minute or so of the speech is no longer in the video.

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Dear students, good morning to all of you. Today, I am here to share my experiences from my school life. I studied 6th to 12th grade in the Adyar Sankara School, not far from here.  I used to live near the Mylapore Kapaleeswarar temple which is also close by from here.

From 6th to 10th grade, I had 40-45 people in my class. What rank do you all think I would have gotten? [Several said 1st rank and a few said last rank :) ]

I was an average student usually ranked between 15-17 in the class. Never really considered studies important. Most of the time after school I spent playing – cards, cricket, pambaram (top), marbles, gilli thaandu [don't know tranlsation in english], kite flying. Depending on the season we would pick up a different game. Kite flying, especially making the manja, to cut the other kites down was a big fun then. We had to learn to how to apply the manja by crushing discarded tubelights etc.

While I played a lot, I never aspired to become the next Sachin Tendulkar in cricket (of course it was Gavaskar & Vishwanath then). Had no drive to achieve. My parents never asked me why I was getting the 17th rank. So there was no pressure at home.  10th grade public exams came by. Right after the exams I knew I had done badly. But the extent of the bad was known only after the results came. Last night in preparing for this speech I pulled out my mark sheet from 32 years ago and looked at it, so that I don’t utter any falsehood. I had scored a glorious 100 out of 150 (66%) in Math.

How many of you think you can’t do math well? [A majority of hands went up].

Yeah. I also thought I was a complete dud when it comes to Math. At the time I thought, the top rankers had some special talent that I didn’t have and hence I do badly in exams.

Given I was in the same school, they gave me the Science stream. As luck would have it, we got a new Maths Sir. His approach was entirely different. He made us practice sums till our hands hurt. He taught us some new kind of techniques that made math look much easier and amenable to all of us.

The quarterly exams came and to my complete surprise I scored 90%. Wow. If I can do that in a subject I thought I was a complete dud, why can’t I apply the same strategy of practice to other subjects also. I did that and in the half-yearly exams that came next,  I scored 90%+ in all the subjects. My confidence in myself had increased beyond measure.

The 12th grade board exams came. This time I knew I had done well. I scored 93% in math and got All India 18th Rank. Think about the journey from 17th rank in a class of 45 to 18th in all of India [BTW, in CBSE you only get All India Ranks].  I managed to get into BITS pilani, a prestigious university, for an electrical & electronics engineering course and passed out with a BE degree. Today I am speaking to you after completing 25 years in the workforce. [I did not mention this in the speech - V. Ganesh who writes on this blog sometimes, was my classmate in Sankara as well as a fellow SAST Wingee from BITS Pilani, was also a student of the same math teacher. He obtained All India 11th Rank that year. I am sure Maths Sir will be proud of him as well].

All these accomplishments happened because of one man – the  math teacher who changed the foundation of my life and rewrote my fate.

Who do you all think that man is? [Several students looking at me quizzically]

That man is none other than your own math teacher Rajendran Sir, who is right here. [It turns out Rajendran Sir had left Sankara 25 years back and had joined Lady Willingdon. What a coincidence that my team picked the same school for Outreach activities! ]

We then brought Rajendran Sir to the dais. the team was thoughtful enough to buy a shawl and a memento for him. That I could meet Sir after 30 years and speak about him to the school he is currently working is a special privilege/rare honor for me. I will cherish this experience for the rest of my life and will remain as one of the happiest days of my life.

Thanks from the bottom of my heart  to my team mates Jayashree Sridharan and Kavitha Rajendran, who have been working to get this event done for the past 3 years.  Thanks to Vivek and all the CAS Outreach volunteers who came. Thanks also to Laks and Nitty from Outreach PMO who came in person to attend the event.

Here is the photo that Kavitha snapped of me and my teacher.

sukumar-with-rajendran-sir

 

P.S.  the title of this post is inspired by E.R.Braithwaite’s brilliant work and also by the equally brilliant movie with the same title starring Sidney Poitier.  And this post was originally published by me in the internal blogging system. Given that this is a public speech I gave, I am excusing myself of any copyright issues.

 


Comments

  1. Quote

    Sukumar – Indeed this is very very inspirational. Thanks for taking the time. Reflects the genuine gratefulness of a student to his teacher.
    Its great to see you emphasis the importance of practice in one’s lives to attain their goals.

    Thanks again

  2. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said November 3, 2013, 4:18 pm:

    Thanks a lot Kavitha for the kind words. I am indebted to you for making this event happen by tying for 3 years.

  3. Quote

    That’s so gratifiying. It is very true I had a english teacher in my 8th and 9th who did that to me. Made me the talkative guy I am who got me out of my shell. It did have a ripple effect on other parts of life.

  4. Quote

    Its very much inspiring to read this post again and again… Learnt so much from you and here’s another thing I learnt – remembering our teacher.. Thanks for always sharing your experiences with us Sukumar !

  5. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said November 3, 2013, 9:08 pm:

    Thanks for the kind words Vivek. Thanks for being a great volunteer for Outreach activities.

  6. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said November 3, 2013, 9:10 pm:

    Thanks Kumaran. Glad to know about your English teacher. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Quote

    Sukumar – In fact its my blessing that I got to be an instrument in this whole process of connecting the master and the student :)

  8. Quote
    Ganesh (subscribed) said November 3, 2013, 9:48 pm:

    Awesome Sukumar. The students must be privileged to listen to someone like you, and your tribute to Rajendran sir was very well done. As I was reading through this, I was reminded of a few other teachers at Sankara School who made us, and am noting the first few thoughts that come to my mind as I think about them –

    - Commerce sir (even though we were not part of the commerce stream) – his happy demeanor and the smile on his face at all times
    - Panchapakesan sir (Sanskrit master) – His kindness and his passion for this language
    - Vasantha miss (English teacher) – Her mastery of the English language and being available to her students.
    - Vasantha Balasubramaniam (Chemistry teacher) – She gained a lot of joy in her students’ success. There was a time after we graduated from 12th std when I met her on he street. She was so genuinely happy to see that we did well in school and had gotten into good colleges
    - Sundari miss – She was the one who christened our cricket team as “Kennedy Cricket Club” and her jolly nature even while dealing with a bunch of gregarious students will always be in my mind. If you meet her in the morning at school, you know your day will start with a smile

    And then there was our biology teacher who knew how to deal with a bunch of prebuscent kids, physics teachers, and even our Tamil teacher (who was kind enough to let “Sanskrit” students take part in a Tamil essay competition) and then our music teacher (the first teacher I can remember who got married and came to the US and let me and KG even sing movies songs in her class). And I am sure I am missing a few others.

    As you can see, this post of yours has evoked a wave of emotions in me. Thanks for the write-up and the kind mention in this blog as well.

  9. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said November 3, 2013, 10:59 pm:

    Thanks a lot Ganesh for the kind words. Coming from you it means a lot to me. Yes all the teachers you mention have had an impact. When I looked back what Rajendran Sir did for me was pivotal. I am passionate about physics even today because of Sundari Miss, no doubt.

  10. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said November 3, 2013, 11:02 pm:

    Thanks again Kavitha. Very kind.

  11. Quote

    Inspiring Story Sukumar. Another real life example of teachers impact in shaping the future.

  12. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said November 4, 2013, 7:26 am:

    Thanks for the kind words Vamsi.

  13. Quote

    Splendid speech Sukumar. Direct and straight from the heart. So inspiring it must have been for the audience. I am sure that your speech will trigger off a transformation for greater achievements in them.

    Job Mathew

  14. Quote
    Ganesh (subscribed) said November 5, 2013, 2:03 am:

    Sukumar,

    Sundari miss I mentioned was not the physics teacher. I am not sure if she ever taught us any class, just her gregarious nature is sufficient to remember her after these many years. And yes – both out physics teachers – Sundari miss and Vasundhara miss gave us a lot during their tenure. I wish I had retained more of what they taught us :)!

  15. Quote
    Harish Dorai said November 5, 2013, 3:42 pm:

    Thanks for sharing this Sukumar. Very touching and inspiring.

  16. Quote
    Hari (subscribed) said November 5, 2013, 6:06 pm:

    I have the greatest of respects to my Maths teachers also. I had studied in Sankara School during my 11th and 12th and I can recall that I had never liked Maths at all. I can recall that in one of the internal exams during 12th, I had gotten 1/2 on 50 (1 on 100). I still cannot recall how I got that also! Maybe I got awarded 1/2 for writing my name correctly! :) Also, I was one of the last rank holders.
    When everyone truly believed that I would not pass my 12th, including the principal, Mrs.Subala ma’am had volunteered to teach me Maths and she kept me after class to teach me all days after school. No, she would not accept any form of remuneration. I recall she taught me simpler methods and tricks of doing maths.
    My uncle, Venkataraman would also teach me Maths. I tried to trick my uncle by coming home late and he would end up coming in the evening and taught me late night.
    Between both of them, I got to like Maths once I understood how it worked.
    In 12th, I got 63/100. I can still recall that my principal Meenakshi Sundaram sir, who called me to the room and congratulated me. All 1st rank holders and top rank holders were brushed aside were totally surprised when he did that!
    Only in my 12th did I actually study maths, after that it went to mere glancing as it had given me so much of confidence.
    In my B.com, I secured 84/100. I recalled that I just brushed through just 1 day before the exam. I recall I taught Maths during my MBA to others! ;)
    I now work at IBM as a Solution Leader for Media and Entertainment. My Maths teachers have made a positive difference in my life and I am eternally grateful to them for their love and sacrifice.

  17. Quote

    Sukumar, that was inspiring information. Most schools I recall make the 90% perform to 99% but there is only a handful of dedicated teachers who can make a poor performer to a top performer.
    I have the greatest of respects to my Maths teachers also. I had studied in Sankara School during my 11th and 12th and I can recall that I had never liked Maths at all. I can recall that in one of the internal exams during 12th, I had gotten 1/2 on 50 (1 on 100). I still cannot recall how I got that also! Maybe I got awarded 1/2 for writing my name correctly! :) Also, I was one of the last rank holders.
    When everyone truly believed that I would not pass my 12th, including the principal, Mrs.Subala ma’am had volunteered to teach me Maths and she kept me after class to teach me all days after school. No, she would not accept any form of remuneration. I recall she taught me simpler methods and tricks of doing maths.
    My uncle, Venkataraman would also teach me Maths. I tried to trick my uncle by coming home late and he would end up coming in the evening and taught me late night.
    Between both of them, I got to like Maths once I understood how it worked.
    In 12th, I got 63/100. I can still recall that my principal Meenakshi Sundaram sir, who called me to the room and congratulated me. All 1st rank holders and top rank holders were brushed aside were totally surprised when he did that!
    Only in my 12th did I actually study maths, after that it went to mere glancing as it had given me so much of confidence.
    In my B.com, I secured 84/100. I recalled that I just brushed through just 1 day before the exam. I recall I taught Maths during my MBA to others! ;)
    I now work at IBM as a Solution Leader for Media and Entertainment. My Maths teachers have made a positive difference in my life and I am eternally grateful to them for their love and sacrifice.

  18. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said November 5, 2013, 8:23 pm:

    Thanks Ganesh. I think the Sundari Miss you are referring to was also called Darling Miss if I remember correctly? Yes Vasundhara Miss was excellent also. PN Sundari Miss actually is responsible for making me passionate about physics. I still remember some of the creative questions she used to ask during exams.

  19. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said November 5, 2013, 8:23 pm:

    Thanks a lot Harish.

  20. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said November 5, 2013, 8:24 pm:

    Thanks for the kind words Job.

  21. Quote
    Rama Sudheer said November 5, 2013, 9:08 pm:

    Wow, its so surprising to here that you are an average student in Maths. Nice to here your story Sukumar, its so inspiring for every one.
    If you permit me I will use this as an example in all the schools where ever I take some special classes.

  22. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said November 5, 2013, 9:20 pm:

    Thanks for the kind words Sudheer. Yes sure you can use my example.

  23. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said November 6, 2013, 7:16 am:

    Thanks for the kind words Hari. What a turn around from 1 out of 100 to teaching math. Kudos to you and your teachers.

  24. Quote

    Thanks Sukumar for sharing this. I feel this is very much needed for today’s students.

    What a great teacher he is… There are many teacher that students are thanksful to them.. I salute Rajendran Sir.

  25. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said November 7, 2013, 11:47 am:

    Thanks Shivaji.

  26. Quote
    NEERAJA (subscribed) said February 24, 2014, 6:59 pm:

    Hats off Sukumar, Its simple and piercing as well. Everyone has weekness in one or the other subject. It is mastered only when u strike the way and come across with a Teacher of dedicated and compassionate nature. This happens only when your karma edited by past fructifies at the right time with right person. This doesn’t occur to all. I too was very lucky to have my father as a Teacher to frame my personality mainly to face challenges in the main stream of life, at right stride. Well, going back to school days, I remember many teachers of various subjects from 1 to 10th, except one, the PT Teacher, nobody inspired me. Rishi has read and watched the link and said that I am not lucky enough like Sukumar Chachu to have a good maths teacher in KV at RK PUram, Delhi. But his CS Teacher in 11th STD was very good but has gone on child care leave for a year and a half and joined back when his study holiday declared for 12th Board. So everything is based on our own deserving-ness. But above all, ones sincere and hard efforts will certainly create wonders. Thanks Sukumar.
    Neeraja

  27. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said February 25, 2014, 1:17 pm:

    Thanks a lot Neeraja Manni for the kind words. Yes I am lucky to have had a great teacher who changed my life. The larger point I am trying to make to Rishi is that doing well is just a matter of hard work and that it is much less about “talent”. It is not always necesssary for the trigger to come from a tough teacher. It can also come from within which is the case with many bright students.

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