Showing respect to teachers has been an integral part of the sub-continental heritage for centuries. Irrespective of the social echelon to which a learner belongs, he or she used to demonstrate unalloyed esteem for a teacher. On occasions, they used to be regarded as persons much above their parents. An instruction or advice from a teacher would normally be viewed as sacrosanct. Students normally considered the words from a teacher more valued than that coming from their parents or other elders. With the teachers placed in an esteemed place, they were given emotion-soaked honorifics such as 'gurumoshai', 'ostadji' etc.
The proverbial scene of pouring ablution water on the feet of his elderly teacher by a Mughal prince is an ever-living instance of showing respect to an 'ostadji'. The episode doesn't end here. The magnificent scene of his son's style of showing honour to his 'ostadji' did not satisfy his father, Emperor Alamgir. He was passing by the venue at that time with his retinue, and had noticed the spectacle. The emperor stopped advancing further, and asked the prince to wash the feet of his teacher with his own hands. The boy complied in full submission. The warm scenario is found in a famous poem by Kazi Qader Newaz, a Bengalee poet of the 1930s. The piece highlights the honour a teacher deserves from his students as well as society.
The sub-continental societies have never shown any dearth of their respect that a teacher deserved. It has been seen in the eras spanning from the Vedic period to the later Gregorian years. Even after the British Empire colonised the sub-continent in the 18th century, village based teachers had continued to enjoy a dignified place in society. At the higher seats of learning in the cities and towns, the clergy-turned-teachers received the honour and admiration similar to that reserved for English-educated native educators. In the following decades, that witnessed the creation of India and Pakistan (1947) and the birth of Bangladesh (1971), the respectable position of teachers among the students had not waned even a little. The educational institutions here included those ranging from schools to colleges to universities.
Greeting the teacher with 'salaam' or 'namaskar' or getting down from the bicycle while riding past a 'sir' or a 'madam' are among obligatory norms even today. Barring a few derailed ones, teachers are still viewed as impeccably perfect figures. To the majority of students, they are incapable of committing anything wrong. With communities endowed with such a great legacy, the recent humiliation of a senior university teacher by a section of students gives a distressingly wrong signal about the society in which we live.
This sub-continent, the Bengal region in particular, has produced dozens of great teachers. Teaching, and imparting knowledge and wisdom was their life-long mission. In spite of being a poet in the main, there had been a teacher ever alive in the subconscious of Rabindranath Tagore. His Shantiniketan and Visvabharati are the living proofs of this mental bent of the poet. In fact, the penchant for taking the role of a teacher at certain critical times is an innate quality of most of the educated and enlightened persons. Side by side with professional teachers, these inborn and natural teachers take societies several steps forward. This was what had been accomplished by philosophers, creative people and sages through the ages. No one nurturing even a tiny bit of human virtues and promoting human wellbeing can ever think of disgracing a senior, peaceful teacher --- be one attached to an educational institution or gifted with the passion for protecting the youths vulnerable to misguidance.
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