"It has always been a mystery to me how men can feel themselves honoured by the humiliation of their fellow beings." - Gandhi
No human being is inferior to another just because of his birth or because of his work.
Teachers are the backbone of a nation. Next to parents, they are most instrumental in instilling good values in children. Those values shape not only the children’s future but that of a society as a whole.
Our Principal in school, Vajubhai, was one such great teacher. He believed that education was more important than just literacy. He introduced curriculums that were not just focused on class room book learning but also on real life education.
One such “educational” event that happened annually was an Appreciation Day for all the educators. That was the day where students were to thank all the people who made it possible for their education, every individual involved in keeping the entire system operational.
On Appreciation Day, we would gather in an Assembly hall or an open field. All those who made our education possible; teachers, administrative assistants, book keepers, bus drivers, yard cleaners, janitors and others were recognized and students would thank them.
There was one part of this event that was controversial. This is where our janitor, Trikam, would be invited on the stage and asked to raise the school flag. Then we would sing the school anthem and after that, salute Trikam. This was to be followed by a handshake with him. There was not a year when I did not notice tears in Trikam’s eye during this part of the ceremony.
Now many would wonder what was so controversial about this? Well, Trikam was not only a janitor but he was from the lower class of society classified as an “Untouchable.” To have upper class kids, most of them from wealthy families, salute a “lowly” worker and then shake hands with him was not something that was tolerated by some people in those days.
When this event was first introduced, it had created uproar. Some wealthy donors had cancelled their money contributions and also pulled their children out of the school. Additionally, every year some parents were displeased that their children were being asked to participate. Some had even asked or warned to keep their children away from the “Hand Shake” part of the ceremony.
However, Vajubhai did not give in, and in the process he taught some very important lessons about life that many years after, some of us still fondly remember and talk about during reunions.
The lessons (education) that Vajubhai instilled in students were:
1. Every human being must be treated with respect and recognized for his or her contributions.
2. He did not compromise on his believes and values even when pressured with cancellation of crucial donations.