Every country has its own date in the calendar to mark Teacher’s Day. India chose Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan’s birthday. Radhakrishnan was a rare breed—a profound, if not critical, scholar and professor of Hindu philosophy. But he’s not an archetype for teachers in India, simply because, being such a cracking good example, he won’t provide us with what we also need to keep in mind: the guru’s fallibilities. Because the guru plays such a crucial role, it warrants us to remain alert to his old follies too.
Our archetypal guru, the real contrary blend of supreme talent and glaring flaws, is Dronacharya. It was Drona’s partisanship—his blind fixation with making Arjuna the greatest archer—that fostered jealousy (in son Ashwatthama and the Kauravas) and produced victimhood (Ekalavya). His paternal love then made him fight on the other side, even though he was with the Pandavas on principle. By the end of the war, Drona cut a sorry figure, accused of unsavoury behaviour by all sides. Even Krishna reproached him for exemplifying all the wrongs as a guru. Today, the Drona syndrome is all-present: in the systemic partiality towards a class of students, who claim to monopolise talent; in the privileging of filial ties that smoothen the road to higher education; in the lip-service to justice and equity, while it is everyday withheld or violated; and yes, in subtle or open discrimination along caste lines.