Monday, March 26, 2007

The Days of the "Good old teachers"

I come from a family of teachers. I want to tell you about something new I discovered in my tutions last week. My mathematics teacher is a gaunt old man of sixty five years, with receeding silver hair and thick spectacles. He never was very significant to me, until I discovered this very same teacher had taught my father maths, thirty years ago! It felt strange to be in his presence, and there was a tingle which ran through my spine, because my father had been taught by this same man, many years ago...and now, all of a sudden, it was my turn. Time has moved on from the days long gone, when my father went to College, a popular and carefree little man to the new age of his daughter, who fails to understand maths properly. I think I am gifted to be a student of this teacher, because it is not often that one comes across the "old" and "experienced" teachers. Teaching is a profession that is changing. True, there are still great teachers, my mom is a teacher too, but I'd like to say there is no one who can beat the old teachers of thirty years ago. Nowadays, most teachers are not payed well, and for some, the profession it is a bread-earner, and nothing more. Many people become teachers, because they are forced to, and they are not truly interested in the subject. But the old lot, even though they are now pretty old, still love teaching. The teachers of the old times, from the Sharada Vilas of mysore, or the National College of Bangalore are one of the greatest that we can ever get...I think nothing can replace them.


GVK said...

What's his name, Lakshmi? And background, so that some others who have been his students can relate to your post. Does you dad have any anecdotes on his days as his student ?

Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

His name is MSVR, from the National college of Basvanagudi, Bangalore. He is now retired, but he has been teaching since the past thrity five years or so. My father remembers the first day of his college, when the "strict" mathematics teacher walked into class, and in an angry manner, kicked the first benches and beckoned my father, who was forever a backbencher to the front. My prankster of a father could never pull his tricks here...but he enjoyed the lessons nevertheless. MSVR sir was a "chalk-thrower" thrity years ago, and still is!

Nataraj KR said...

Laxmi's observation is true to every word. My father as well was a teacher and was renowned for teaching her favourite subject biology. When i think of my teachers and lecturers of yester years, i tend to run through a nostalgic phase . The very thoughts of them from the institutions of Mysore that i studied including my own late father, bring a sense of gratitude in me.

shanks said...

Oh yes we all very well look back with great sense of satisfaction that we have had some wonderful teachers.

Talking about MSVR, I am fortunate we are now in the same organization BASE. He is with us at Bangalore and I am with BASE Mysore.

CLEAN HAND said...

Thanks GVK, for drawing my attention to Lakshmi's post and thanks Lakshmi, for the offering on your blog. I was a student of MSVR, too. If I took a liking for mathematics, one of the teachers to instantly take credit for that is MS Venkataram, who taught us trigonometry in PU.
There is another thing that he was best known for: terrorizing students. Of course, he became mighty pally with us once we passed PU and got into B.Sc. He had some distinct distaste for rank-holders. He perhaps had nothing at heart against them, but it was his way of creating a level playing field for all the students, so less-than-bright students like me could be tuned up. He must be complimented for this unstated, noble intent, but I did not like the way some real bright students got a raw deal from him.
I had had the benefit of being sufficiently briefed by my sister, two years older than me and an alumnus of the same National College, about MSVR. Naturally, when he stormed in for his maiden lecture for us, some of us were curious to see him. From the vantage point on the dais, he scanned the classroom, bench by bench - the way a cop would do for identifying a most wanted criminal from a group. "There he is," he exulted, on finding the guy, a puny teenager, too frightened for words and not knowing why he was being singled out.
Gopal, a timid-looking boy, barely out of school like the rest of us, was given a dressing down. His fault was that at the time of admission, he had stared at MSVR (without knowing who it was, perhaps). Gopal didn't even look the type who would stare at anybody. The treatment meted out to him appeared too harsh for a crime that appeared imaginary even then. He later sought to be introduced to all "my friends" (meaning rank students). He bombarded them with questions until each of those two-three students said, 'I don't know.' He then chided him that they must know their limits and that getting a rank did not make them any better than the others. This was how he always treated the meritorious, according to seniors known to us.
A year later, when we were in second PU, a new girl, Samyuktha, had joined us. MSVR treated her the way which had become familiar to the rest of the class. Samyuktha, unlike Gopal, was confident. She replied to the few posers with complete assurance. Then, just to put her on the defensive, MSVR twisted the question, related to Pythogoras Theorem, and wrote a Greek letter (which was really Greek to us, including the new girl). She said the theorem did not change just because the angles were named differently, only she did not know the letter. She even mildly accused him of attempting to make her nervous.
Later, it was the turn of S. Madhura, another rank-holder in SSLC, who was irrepressible and was invariably the first to solve any mathematical problem. MSVR had warned her not to do it, but for Madhura it was a habit. When she did it again, MSVR decided to do something new: He started solving the problem methodically, verifying from Madhura after every step whether it was okay. Madhura kept nodding her head in approval only to find at the end of it that the answer did not match with hers. "What went wrong? How could I go wrong? You tell me, who is correct; you or me, you or me, you or me," he advanced towards her in mock-menace, as if in a film. "You are only correct," a distraught Madhura said. "You write this answer," MSVR said, pointing to the answer on the blackboard, "and you will be booted out."
All this did not take away from MSVR that he was an excellent teacher. He made the last student understand the supposedly most difficult aspects of Mathematics. I decided to take my studies seriously with much less than a month to go for my second year BSc exams. A cousin of mine who had just completed engineering was baffled that I had decided not to attempt any calculus-related questions in my exam. Unluckily, MSVR did not teach us calculus. That apart, I studied quite hard, and even taught maths to my cousin (not the one mentioned above) who was studying elsewhere and had complained that he had missed many classes. When the results were declared my scoring in maths was 27 and his 72. Bangalore University had done me in. I never took my studies seriously again. A relative attributed my failure, the only time I failed in an exam, to my mother's death which occurred during the run-up to the exam. I vehemently denied it. But for the bungling by the valuator, I would have gone on to study physics, which used to be my favourite subject, thanks again to some brilliant physics lecturers like RK Jagadish, KV Sridharamurthy Rao (whose daughter married my cousin years later and Rao had come home once with my uncle), to name just two.
MSVR was not the best-dressed man. He came very casually dressed. His shirt was always short enough for us to get a view of his long comb that peeped out of his hip-pocket whenever he lifted his hand to use the board. He was aware of this, and perhaps his shirts were designed to be short and not that they had shrunk or he had outgrown them. When he turned back to face the students, he gave what was a half-smile, his folded tongue wickedly licking the palate. It was signal to the students that they dare not laugh at his idiosyncrasies - itself an idiosyncrasy.
Once, when he was strutting across the length of the longish blackboard, one of his slippers - the Hawaiian type - gave way. Srilakshmi (who now lives in Mysore), sitting in the third bench, was one of the very few who could not resist laughter at the incident. He took strong objection to it and said that he could also make her cry. The remark reduced us all to silence.
Srinivasa Raghavan, a studious front-bencher, carried no notebook but only a file that had sheets of paper from a ledger notebook. Spotting that, MSVR asked him to spare a couple of sheets for him to carry his slippers. When he was about to detach a sheet or two MSVR assured him that he would make good the sheets that he was borrowing from the student. Raghavan said if that was so, he would refuse to give. MSVR stood his ground and refused to take the sheets. After the lecture, which was the last hour of class for the day, he went to the college reading room, collected a sheet of outdated newspaper from attendant Govindaiah, packed up his chappals and exited from the college bare foot.
Yet another occasion was when friend Venugopal and I went to nearby Uma cinema for watching 'Candidate for a killing,' an English movie which turned out to be quite salacious. During the break, we found MSVR sitting in the auditorium, a few rows in front of us, browsing some book under the light that the exit door brought. Another streak of eccentricity!
When a couple of us, his students, approached him to demand sweets when he got got married, his reply was: "What, you guys are demanding sweets now. I have already got a derivate." That was MSVR, the brilliant mathematics teacher, for you.
When you meet him next, Lakshmi, please give my warm regards. We all loved him, admired him, and benefited from him.

Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

Thank you for telling me so much about MSVR sir. I am still new to his teaching, and hence I don't know much about him, but now, I do! Yes...he is a very srtict man. If someone twirls a pen in class, or even holds his heads in his hands, he can expect a nice scolding. But, I must say I admire him much because he teachers in a wonderful, clear manner...and he makes me understand stuff completely. Maths is my most difficult subject, but I think I enjoy it better now, because he teachs me so well.

CLEAN HAND said...

Thanks, Lakshmi. Your nice post encouraged me to write so much after a long time. Keep it going.

Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

Mr. Clean Hand sir,
I do not know your name, but my father can relate to all those people you have talked about in your comment. He remembers Samyukta, the rank student you have talked about. I think both of you were in the same class at college. My father studied in National college from the years 1975-1977. My father's name is HS Mohan, do you remember him?? Were you in the same class? My Grandpa HSM, was the principal of national school quite a while ago, are you from national school too? My father would like to know you.

CLEAN HAND said...

Dear Lakshmi,
I have been a using the Internet for over eight years now and every day, it amazes me with the wonders it brings us or the possibilities it opens our doors to.
Your father, HS Mohan, and I were bench mates in ninth standard; Your grandfather HS Murthy taught us algebra the previous year. Your mother's father, Krishna Vattam, and I worked in the same office twice. The last I met your father was at a get-together at the City Institute in Bangalore, some six years ago. If we had been in touch, we wouldn't be running into each other like strangers in the cyber world. Anyway, my point in giving you an elaborate account of MSVR was to see if I would draw the attention of any alumnus of National College, Basavangudi, feeling a similar need to bond with the past. You have made it possible. Your grandpa keeps telling me that you conduct regular e-learning classes for him.
Ask your papa whether he recall my name.

CLEAN HAND said...

Travelling? Busy with studies? Not blogging? No response? A friend in Mysore tells me that Mohan was in Bangalore on a holiday recently.
My e-mail ID:
Just in case he wants to correspond directly.

RAMESH C N said...

Dear Vijendra,

Nice to see your post in response to Lakshmi Bharadwaj's post. One of the names referred by you in the post is Mr.Srinivasa Raghavan. I know one Mr.Srinivasa Raghavan who works for Kamla Dials & Devices as Managing Director. I'll check out whether be belongs to National College.

I also need to know whether A H Rama Rao and Sudha Rao are known to you.They used to publish II PUC guides under Excellent Publications.I guess they A H Rama Rao could be Physics Dept faculty at National College and his wife Sudha Rao used to present programs for AIR-Bangalore

CLEAN HAND said...

My interactions with AHR were restricted only to the physics lab and to 1978. He was a good teacher, too. I remember him asking me with well-veiled sarcasm: 'Where did you buy this T-shirt - I want to buy one for my son?

Gokal Das Garments had for the first time in Bangalore launched their sale of export-reject garments at the Visvesvaraya Museum and attracted by the prices - a good cotton T-shirt cost only Rs 10 - and I had bought quite a few of them. Not that they qualified for college wear, but I had no inhibition wearing them. The same day AHR tried to floor me, my batch mate, Venugopal, who, like me, did not excel in studies, was curious to know how my poor performance in academics did not stop me from being so fashion-conscious? "I am not good at studies, but I am not bad at fashion," was my reply.

Manjunath said...

it happened to me too, one of the guest lecturers in class 12, named Padmanabhan, for Physics was also the teacher for my mother while she was at pre-degree !

Manjunath said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A Murthy said...

It was really nice reading about MSVR. I had the privilege of having him as my teacher for both years of PU Course at National College. His treatment to some meritorious students was appalling as mentioned by someone here. He would wear 'hawaii' chappals to school. Once he got married, he started dressing up really nice.

By the way, did your father HS Mohan study at BMS College too (is he from NR Colony)?

-Arun Murthy

Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

Yes he did!!
do you know my father?

Raghu said...

Hi Lakshmi,

I could go back 30 years, reading the postings on your Blog about National College and in particular, MSVR.
Thanks to Arun for pointing me to your Blog. You have a very good flair for writing. Keep it up.

Incidentally, your Dad and me were classmates in BMSCE. Your parents' marriage was on the same day as mine in the adjoining choultries in Mysore. We had quite a number of common guests. To add to the confusion, your grand father and my father share the same name, Srinivasamurthy!

Please convey my regards to your parents and and ask your Dad to get in touch with me urgently. Where is he, BTB?


A Murthy said...

Yes. I do know him. Actually, I was trying to contact him for a reunion. Can you please send me his email id?


-Arun M

A Murthy said...

Yes. I do know him. Actually, I was trying to contact him for a reunion. Can you please send me his email id?


-Arun M

Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

Sure. Contact him at Mom was remembering you, Mr. Raghavendra. He'll be here in May Mr. Arun Murthy,

P Naik said...

Wow, I came across this blog and the recollections of MSVR and the other teachers at National College were wonderful to read. I too was a 'victim' of MSVR during my PUC years in NC (74-76). If any of the readers or writers remember me, do shoot me an email at My name is Pramod Naik and I live in Atlanta, USA. Take care and hope to here from someone of my batch...lots of stories to tell and share.

Narasimha said...

Dear Lakshmi

Your father HSM was my classmate in IIT,M.
Your grandfather HSM was my teacher in NHS.
Thank you for giving Mohan's id.
I too had the privilege of having been taught by MSVR.
Wish you all the best


vmurali999 said...

Stumbled across this blog just by accident and went back to early 70's. I do remember MSVR (was it Venkatram?) as a "new" lecturer when I did my Physics Honors way back (1971-74).

Just happen to remember my Physics lecturers/professors more- Mr. HR KVS ANR RR, RSS, AHR and of course, HN who took classes for us in 1st year before becoming VC of the University. Also remember STS (Chemistry) and MSS (Mathematics)

Lost track of all my classmates in NCB and would be happy to re-connect.

Karthik said...

Hey am MSVR tution student who attended maths. I don have words to tell about him. First time ever in my life i thought maths was interesting. The way he takes on the subject is fantastic. He never wanted Rank students or so called Toppers, he wanted students who were having pass percentage as he would make them score a decent 75 - 80%. I really admire him...

Dreamers in Action said...

I am delighted to draw the attention of all the alumni of National High School and National College, Basavangudi, to, an ambitious and sincere attempt by a band of distinguished alumni to collectivize all past students of our great institution. I had the pleasure of meeting them in Bangalore over the weekend and was readily convinced of the concern they have for restoring the glory the school and college once were. It is payback time for all the alumni. Let's get together. Please spread the good word about Udayam.
PM Vijendra Rao
Batch of 1977-80
8553375375 (Mysore)

vallisha said...

Nice post.
I am blessed to be a student(tuition) of great teachers like MSVR, SD(S Deshikachar),RSS,AR all from National College Basavangudi.

My dad explained MSVR's behavior("terrorizing students") has he had experienced earlier. But I did not notice anything of that sort during my 2nd PU Math tuitions. He was very friendly with the students. He used to cook up lot of jokes ,make fun of students and himself, just awesome. MSVR sir is a stress buster.

And MSVR's aim in chalk throwing is just great.

I keep in touch with Sir, and its just great speaking with him.

Great teacher

Prakruthi Vivek said...

Hi all I am prakruthi vivek studying right now ncb proud to be part of it even till date we have great teachers yo spoke about!! Proudand fortunate to be a nationalite!!:-)

ganga said...

I am proud to say that I was also
a student of MSVR.His English was also fantastic. None of us would ever miss the Maths classes.In all the portions that he handled I got good marks.My respects and regards for our Great MSVR

ganga said...

I am proud to say that i was also
a student of MSVR.hIS English was also fantastic.We would never miss his classes,My respects and Regards to Sir.

paddy said...

I cannot believe there is a forum discussion on MSVR. An incredibly humorous man a kind person and an exceptional teacher. He made it seem so easy , he took out the rat race hustle bustle in math. Ode to you Sir.
I remember he used to call himself "Moorusavira" because of his initials MSVR.He had his unusual ways of teaching! The "Kirchoff's law" which implied he expected us to shout out what we had learnt and him holding the railings of the window just so he'd not faint listening to us all scream nonsense in the pretext of reciting L'hospitals rule, Oh those were the days!