Culture & Society

Teachers' Day 2022: The Becoming, An Ode To Those Who Teach Us To Dare

On Teachers' Day 2022, a student looks back at how a professor taught her to believe.

Guiding students through the world of dreams

College was one of my becoming years, you know, when you really meet yourself. This story dates a few summers ago just at the start of my second year at Delhi University (DU). Like a mediocre B.Com student with a convoluted headspace battling constant FOMO (fear of missing out), my only connotation in life was to ‘chill’ like Heer in Rockstar. While my study graph fell sharply over semesters, the everyday bickering reality of adulting hinting closer made me question my pathway ahead. The backbencher that I was, cocooned in my pretty bubble, it was time for some divine intervention. 

It was our very first Marketing lecture and the professor was running late. Our excitement of a free lecture period was quickly replaced with an authoritative aura taking over as the professor stormed inside like Dumbledore and the entire class settled into silence. She introduces herself with poise like no other, and in turn asks each student to come forth and present themselves. As more students participated in this exercise, my fear of public speaking was resuscitated from the pockets of my past. As I started discussing my script with a friend as a safety net from embarrassment, it caught the professor’s attention. In no time, she asked me to stand up and introduce myself to the class, out-of-turn. I stood there, blank for a second until I began speaking, ‘Good morning, I am Noorpriya and uuumm I’d like to become uummm no, ummm pursue a career in the media.’

The murmuring around increased as the audience questioned why a student studying business wanted to ever get into the media, when the professor interrupted, “Noorpriya, nice to meet you, I am Shuchi Priya” she smiles, “but all I can see was red nail paint, red nail paint and red nail paint” she gestures. “Stop fidgeting with yours hands, and say it like you own it.” I was living my worst fears I thought as I felt myself melting in the heat of that summer like a softy on the cone. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, tightened my arms, and focused on my vocal chords,  “I am Noorpriya Chawla and I want to pursue my career in journalism.” The professor smiled again, this time it was in satisfaction with how her new student followed the guidance and delivered. “That’s very promising,” she said. Her confirming tone gave a validation like no other. There was a sense of relief as I confirmed an abstract thought that once lingered in the back of my mind like a floating cloud. The only difference being, that this time I managed to pin it down. 

The remaining time of the lecture, I quietly sat with my thoughts, and a newfound admiration for my professor. As she left the class, I hurried after her to apologise for my behaviour and thanked her for the courage she gave me. In turn, she said, “I looked at you and saw your potential being wasted. This is a good time to start building yourself.” I nodded. “Bachche, volunteer at the Women Development Cell” she said and I did not waste a second to sign up. It was decided, no voluntarily self-sabotage hereon, now, we embrace all opportunities coming our way, I thought. 

Not only did the professor award me with a designation in the society for my work but chose me to host at events going forward. Gone were those days of fear, I excelled academically, I spoke with a candour and consciously refined my oratory and writing as the professor took me under her shadow. I had a different beat to my walk, my eyes shone as I looked at myself in the mirror with a sense of pride, every day sending gratitude to the universe for setting my course right. 

As we observe teacher’s day on Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan’s birth anniversary, I marvel at teachers who have shaped us without seeking any material rewards. I wonder, if we as a society, really do understand the extent of their contributions in our lives. That their presence is really as good as intervention from the heavens. That they’re but an embodiment of the institution of learning, beyond the stiff pedagogical structure. That while we worship Goddess Saraswati for her empowering us with knowledge and talent, we continue to ghastly undervalue the very vehicle of empowerment. 

My professor not only instigated my spirit, she reminded me of the wings on my back which always felt alien to me. Like I was birdie, the world had trained me into believing that they were only a burden to my existence. 

The same Noorpriya of school, naive and shy, documented in every school report card, with an anger up her sleeve, at war with the world as she was mocked for her name, for her appearance, for muddling up her English - it was time to step out of the cage of obscure to carve her niche.  Now, every time, I opine a little more unapologetically, love myself unabashedly even in my mistakes, I laugh a little louder and make some more. My professor mentored me into dedicating myself to Me-first,  before self-love was really a part of our everyday literature, she told me to soar higher and bedazzle everyone with the grandeur of my Noor-ness, as always said. And everyday, I try to keep up with that promise. 

(Noorpriya Chawla is a lover of Delhi, poetry and all things cosmos. Her works can be found on @thatzanygirl on Instagram and her audio shows Dastaan-e-Noor and Love Voice Notes)