Nothing Nobler Than Teaching – Part 2

Desiring to be closer to work, I had moved my residence from Lajpat Nagar to Karol Bagh.  My children were studying in nearby Karol Bagh schools and when I thought I had finally settled down, I got deputed again in 1965 to establish another branch school, this time at RK Puram, another 25 kms far away from home.  A new adventure began, all over again, this time with renewed vigour and enthusiasm. 

First and foremost, I needed transportation.  There was no satisfactory DTS bus service between Karol Bagh and RK Puram those days as RK Puram had just come into existence.  Shri. K.V. Venkatachalam, Vice President MEA and Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce & Industry, feeling sorry for me offered to help get a scooter allotment for me from M/S Bajaj Auto, Pune.  My first challenge therefore was to acquire and learn to drive a two-wheeler scooter for the first time in my life.  R.K. Puram was an alien place and roads were unclear to me.  With one weekend of training, I braved all the way riding my Vespa scooter everyday, rain or shine, sweltering heat or wintry weather, to the RK Puram school that also started out in tents.  Comfort was out of question.

My stint at RKP school lasted about 8 years giving me an opportunity to lay a solid foundation with a well thought out plan from the beginning.  I had gathered sufficient experience by that time, and to know that the parents of some 1000+ students were looking up for leadership and motivation, my goals were clear and I was all determined to make a mark.  I was excited I could bring in my own style and originality based on proven experience.  Fundamentally, I gave all the children an assurance that their interests were always safe and taken care of.  I never gave up classroom teaching so that brought me into direct contact with the students.  I would keep the teachers motivated and instill the value of good teaching so in turn they would ignite the minds of their students.  I believed in giving the teachers freedom to plan & organize their work with the least intervention, thereby helping them become active participants in improving the image of the school.  While I would protect the teachers from unreasonable parent criticism, I was also the Father figure in understanding the grievances of the parents and promptly sorting out any day-to-day problems based on reasoning and goodwill.  Above all, I believed a human approach to administration is absolutely necessary in making a healthy institution where everyone felt heard and understood.  I practiced all the above tenets with utmost sincerity and won the hearts of every section of the community in no time.

The teachers were all very enthusiastic and a fun group to work with.  We were a very close team and worked together.  A couple of my past students – P. V. Santosh and G. Vijayalakshmi – joined the RKP school as first-time teachers with me.  Mythili was a student of mine from RKP, who also joined as a teacher in DTEA, after completing her M.Sc (Physics).  I am so proud of Mythili who currently heads the Lodi Estate school as Principal.  Mythili’s husband, Krishnan, also was a student of mine at RKP school, who went on to IIT.  Both of them are a wonderful couple, very humble and respectful by nature, and I’m glad they are in touch with me even now.

Of course, the parents of RKP school were very supportive of me.  On their initiative, I started a nursery department, the first in MEA, that was well received by the community.   

In the seventies, I moved on to the Lakshmibai Nagar school.  When all was going well, in 1972, MEA got changed into DTEA at the instance of the Chief Minister of Tamilnadu, who put that as a condition to release some token one time grant.  Around the same time, the Secretary of the DTEA also changed, who unfortunately brought in some rough waters into the smooth functioning of the 6 schools.  (Janakpuri school was not a part of DTEA then).  As is usual, there are ups and downs everywhere, and this was one such down period in the history of MEA/DTEA when differences arose between the staff and management.  The Principals and the teachers (majority of whom were women) after being used to a healthy administration for decades, started experiencing a sort of discontent across the board, feeling helpless and suffocated by and by.  Meanwhile, the Delhi Government had issued an administrative order requiring schools to open a separate staff account with a nationalized bank, and deposit their share of money in advance (5% salaries of teachers ) so that the Government could release their share of remaining 95% .  The order further specified that the Principal of the school was to operate the new account, not the Management.  But the DTEA took a stand that they were a minority institution and would not allow being governed by their order.  The matter took a legal twist and consequently, the teachers were denied salary pending a legal decision on the issue.  So the staff got further infuriated in an already charged atmosphere.  The teachers were so agitated that they came out openly sharing their grievances, which led to a situation of necessitating some remedial action.  It was decided to form a registered DTEA Staff Association to settle matters head on, following necessary legal procedures in order to restore the original glory of our institutions.  Elections were held and I was unanimously elected President of the Staff Association.

No doubt, it was a difficult period for all of us.  Teaching had to go on normally despite the hardship faced by all the teachers in all the schools.  Problems kept compounding ultimately leading to a public outcry.  Agitations started and after-school public meetings were organized to build support.  As President of the Association, I stood tight for the cause of teachers and took up the issues in a constitutional manner and succeeded in releasing the salaries of the staff as per the new Government order.  The ill will between the Secretary and the teachers continued unabated, rather escalated.

To make matters worse, the Secretary issued termination of service notice to some of the class IV staff to spread a kind of terror.  I too was threatened with dire consequences for providing leadership but it hardly mattered to me.  I knew I was doing the right thing and could not be shaken.  Nothing worked in the long run.  The finale came on one very cold morning in January 1974 when all the 350+ teachers squatted on the pavement in ‘dharna’ outside the Moti Bagh school where the DTEA General Body meeting was being held.  That protest brought the desired result and the Secretary had to quit.

Soon after, all of us in the staff, of course got over it, left the whole thing behind and marched forward with the usual enthusiasm in serving the DTEA community.  We understood it was a time to show our solidarity and we had to do it in the interest of all of us and the institution.

I returned to the Lodi Estate school in 1977 for a second term, but this time my specialisation gradually got shifted to English.  I really enjoyed not only teaching the subject to all streams of students – science, humanities & commerce – for classes XI and XII, but also got involved in various projects with NCERT / CBSE in the wake of the introduction of the 10 + 2 scheme.  New syllabus was introduced and there was need for new textbooks conforming to the new courses.  In that context, I co-authored a textbook viz., Practical English Grammar & Composition in 1975 which was prescribed by a number of public schools in the country.  At the Plus 2 stage, more and more innovations were brought about in the English curriculum, which called for resource persons to train English teachers.  As a resource person selected by the NCERT, I organized seminars across the city to induct teachers into the new framework.  Recognizing that there was scope to secure very high marks under the new pattern, I conducted extra classes before the morning assembly to different sections of class XII.  With all these efforts, the results were splendid that year.  Out of 71 students, 20 students got distinctions (75% or more marks), and overall, 66 students secured First Division in English.  I was recognized by the Director of Education, Delhi Administration and was conferred with the Best Teacher of the Year award by the English Teachers’ Association of Delhi.

best-eng-tchr-award-1981

Today is Saraswati puja day, and as I reminisce of those days, I recall the beautiful marble Saraswathi idol placed at the entrance of the Lodi Estate school.  From the time I first joined in 1956 to my latest years in that school, and even today, that Saraswati statue has remained a landmark.  Anyone and everyone, including the visitors, said a silent prayer at that sacred spot when they entered the school, setting the tone of that Temple of Learning.  A tradition has been in vogue to celebrate Saraswathi puja every year in all the branches of MEA/DTEA schools on Vijayadasami day, when children in large numbers, along with their parents would participate and receive the blessings of the goddess.  The members of the staff would all be present on that occasion without fail.  In addition, the members of the Managing Committee of the MEA used to attend the function in all the branches starting from the Lodi estate school, and to facilitate their presence, the timings of the Puja would be conveniently staggered across all schools.  The puja was elaborately  performed by the priests, followed by devotional Devi krithis by the children and distribution of prasadam. An added flavour to the occasion was, quite a number of  4-5 year old kids would be inducted by teachers to formal education with blessings of goddess Saraswathi on this Vijayadasami day.  Many such parents would look forward to the ‘Vidhyarambam’ of their children on that auspicious occasion.  The sanctity of the atmosphere in each school on that day was truly depictive of our rich culture and the whole community had a sense of pride in their participation, lending a sort of  ‘oneness’ to the institution.

Another occasion when the schools have traditionally invoked the blessings of goddess Saraswathi is the time when the final year students are to be given farewell from school.  An auspicious day was selected in the month of February to especially bless the outgoing students.  The admission tickets received from CBSE would be placed before the goddess and the puja would be performed where everybody prayed for the success of all our students.  As we believe in our culture, we put in all our efforts through the years to educate the children and we seek the blessings of God for that divine touch to help them perform well in the Board exam and in their lives thereafter.  At the end of the puja, the students received their admission tickets from the Principal personally where each student would be blessed individually.  A fervour of religiousness, devotion and sanctity would permeate all around making it a memorable day.

In the afternoon, there would be a social gathering when the junior students played host to their seniors to wish them ‘good luck’ in their ensuing exam.  A farewell party was held, speeches were made by the host students as well as the outgoing students, and the finale was the Principal addressing the seniors sharing his words of wisdom, and blessing the students.  Year after year, I have seen the outgoing students rushing to get autographs from their teachers, exchanging pleasantries with fellow students, and taking a tearful farewell from their dear alma mater.  While the students reach far and wide, my belief gets only reaffirmed time and again – there is indeed nothing nobler than teaching!

More on MEA / DTEA story to follow…

Addendum to Teachers Day Special:  The omission was inadvertent, but I would like to duly acknowledge the services of Shri S. Srinivasan (Head of Physics Dept), who proved himself as an effective classroom teacher, and ably assisted by Shri. R P Sarathy in the fifties at Lodi Estate school.

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5 Responses to “Nothing Nobler Than Teaching – Part 2”


  1. 1 S. Gopal October 9, 2008 at 2:49 am

    Dear Natarajan Sir,

    My name is S. Gopal. I am the son (the only child) of late Shri V. Subrahmanyam (this is the spelling he used), the ex-principal of DTEA, Lakshmibai Nagar.

    Today, as I was surfing the world wide web, I chanced to read your blogs. While your writings took me back to my student days, I liked the tributes that you have paid to my late father.

    I did not know that my father had declined an offer from UPSC. He never used to discuss any such matter with me.

    I have with me a photograph of the foundation stone laying function of DTEA Lakshmibai Nagar. It has, apart from Pandit Nahru, Mr.Shivasubramaniam (engineer), my father and you.

    I am now settled in Bangalore with my wife and mother.

    Please send me your email ID so that I can be in touch with you.

    With respects,

    S. Gopal

  2. 2 gkamesh October 9, 2008 at 9:00 am

    Thank you sir for this wonderful post. Indeed Saraswati puja and Vijaya Dashami are special days for teachers and students. Pranams to all our teachers on this auspicious day.

  3. 3 Srinivasa October 9, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    Namaskarams to you, Natarajan Sir, on the occasion of Vijayadasami. Every year on the occasion of Saraswati Puja, I fondly remember the Saraswati Statue in Lodi Estate school. Yesterday was no exception.

    Please keep writing,

    LN Srinivasakrishnan

  4. 4 V.Thirumalai October 10, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Natarajan Sir,

    On Vijaydasami day, My pranams to you and the Teachers, who guided us through our school days.

    The above write up was, as usual, a wonderful account of so many things that we are getting to know new about the school and its Teachers. I for one can not imagine the soft teachers of the school sitting on a dharna but i guess they would have been pushed to the limits.

    I don’t think any of us would so easily forget the white Saraswathi statue. It had a magnetic effect in so far as we used to get dragged for a short prayer early morning immediately after getting through the front gate. The picture of the statue is still very vivid in my memory.

    Thanks for reminding us of the great tradition of prayer in front of the statue prior to handing over the hall tickets by the principal himself. How much everything has changed over the years with Computer doing most of what used to be manually done and with so much of fun, enthusiasm and personal touch attached.

    Great writing sir,

    Respects –

    Thirumalai

  5. 5 K.S.Ramachandran October 29, 2008 at 8:55 am

    Natarajan Sir,

    What impresses me the most is your naration of all the incidences with full perfection !!! It is really great !!!

    K.S.Ramachandran


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