Abdul Kalam’s Maths Teacher..Ramakrishnaiyer.
(Tomorrow is my father’s 100 Birthday and I was just reminded by his old student,Dr.Gandhi Rama Subramaniam,an eminent Doctor from London,who is also the President of UK Tamil Association.I felt guilty and the least I cd do is to rush this Blog as a mark of respect to a great man.I was under the impression it isonly in 2014!)
Rameswaram,better known as the birth place of President Abdul Kalam,is not only an island of amazing awe-I cannot describe the architectural beauty of Ramanatha Swami Temple(if anyone hasn’t seen the same!)-in mere words.In 1790 the longest corridors-about 697 metres long have been constructed-none knows how they transported solid rocks thro’ the rough seas-as there was hardly any rocky mountains around Rameswaram!Genius work indeed of the Sethupathis.Naturally this place can only produce people of Abdul Kalam’s calibre as they are achievers thro’ their sheer grit and determination.What amazes me is the purity in many of them in public life.Corrupt free officials and simple living were the hallmark of those days.
Those days, there was no school any where near Rameswaram(till 1960s!)-and students used to come in the morning train and go back in the night train-Abdul Kalam was one of them.There were two reputed schools in Ramnad-Rajah’s High School & Schwartz High School-invariably many students who come from Rameswaram,Mandapam preferred to go to Shwartz HIgh school as it was nearer to the Railway Station and they can catch the train back home on time!
I remember a stout man in the late 50s -with white shirt&purer Dhoti-cycling every day with his forehead full of Vibhuthi-exactly at 8:30 -in front of our house -the Great Maths Teacher of Abdul Kalam,Ramakrishna Iyer!
Well,in “Agni Chirahuhal”-Abdul Kalam has been kind enough to have published Ramakrishna Iyer’s photo in the 3rd page-no wonder how great his Teacher must have been,indeed.A tough maths Teacher,I understood,sincere in his approach-but he was a great Family man more than anything else.He had 12 children-majority of them Girls!
The companionship of those days between school teachers of different schools were quite amazingly wonderful.My father Rajah Iyer was a Maths Teacher too and his books on Maths was quite famous and Ramakrishna Iyer used to come voluntarily and advise my father to include certain Maths Problems out of his sheer love of that Profession-tho’ Ramakrishna Iyer was in another school,Shwartz! Jacob,the suited & booted,British style Headmaster of Schwartz,with a Hat on his head used to come regularly to the Protestant Church behind our house every Sunday-after the Prayer,invariably he will call on my father&spend atleast an hour on Education,school, discipline etc., and then only will go back home!I cant imagine such a friendship in todays world!
One fine morning in 1963 if I am right-I saw Ramakrishn Iyer coming to see my father.My father had already earned a very good name as a Teachers Representative in the Madras Legislative COuncil and Kamaraj was the Chief MInister at that time-tho’ my father preferred to be an independent as he strongly felt he doesnt belong to any party but has come to serve all teachers,without bias or prejudice!
Ramakrishna Iyer was visibly in tears when he greeted my father:
“Mr.Rajah Iyer.I am distressed and feeling helpless!”
“What Ramakrishna Iyer.Whats wrong with you?”
“You know.Today is my last working day in Shwartz High School.Tomorrow,I dont know what to do.I have 12 children as you know.I am helpless.Though I can atleast ventilate my feelings to you.”
“You shouldn’t feel sad,Ramakrishna Iyer.After all you have taught many students Maths-a great subject,a difficult subject that too with reputation-so dont let your heart down.Something good will happen .Dont worry”…..after a few minutes of silence my father started
“Ramakrishna Iyer,I have an idea.Last week I was in Madurai.You know that man……… he met me.He said he has started a Madurai Tutorial College a few years back.He is minting money he says.As you know Maths is a tough subject.There is no Tutorial college in Ramnad area.Why dont you start a Tutorial college here.I can even get you the place just near your house .It will be a good venture I feel.”
“Rajah Iyer,if you think it will be good I will start one.I need your support.”
“For Honest Teachers like you & me,Ramakrishna Iyer,God is the only support.Dont worry.Start with enthusiasm.You will not regret.”
Thus came the Students Tutorial college started by Ramakrishna Iyer of Ramnad.I was in the 2nd yr engineering college at that time.
IN a few years Ramakrishna Iyer was able to make enough money to get all his Daughters married and he was comfortable-more than anything else He had the satisfation of COntinuously teaching the students-which is any(Good)Teachers’ main objective!.
Well in 1974 when my father passed away-there was a huge crowd-as many have benefitted from his benevolent attitude-but this one Man Ramakrishna Iyer came to me&my brother-said with stern authority-
“All expenses of Rajah Iyer’s funeral has to be only mine.Period.I cannot express my gratitude to this man in any other way.”
Also he was with us thro’ out the funeral ceremony of 13 days-which when I recall-Ican’t understand this type of amazing friendship!
Ramakrishna Iyers & Rajah Iyers never die!
(Originally Published in Sulekha)