A composition on ‘a person you admire’ was one of my favourite assignments whenever I got a substitution period in school. Despite the staleness of the topic, I felt it would help students to think beyond themselves and get a perspective on admirable qualities, besides finding a role model that they could want to follow. I’m sure the students considered me a spoil sport, depriving them of a free period to play x and zero or pen fights or chat.. All of them invariably chose Gandhi or their mother or Mother Teresa. Not that these great people were less than admirable, but the choice seemed so much like Priyanka Chopra’s inability to find any other hero.
For a long time my hero was Helen Keller. Her tenacity despite multiple disabilities amazed me. Her exhortation ‘Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow,’ always inspired me. And this was coming from a person who never saw a face, sunshine or shadow. Maybe Keller appealed to me because from childhood I had been infinitely grateful for my eyesight. My prayer for myself to God has always been to retain my vision, for when I’m old and have throat cancer or some such horrid disease, I’ll be able to read books and forget the pain.
Years later I happened to watch The Miracle Worker , the story of Ann Sullivan, Keller’s teacher, and I found another hero. This woman was just twenty when she was appointed to teach Keller, who at that time not only suffered physical challenges, but was also wild and given to terrible tantrums. The education of the disabled being in its infancy, Sullivan devised her own method of correlating sensations to words written on the palm and the vibration of the vocal chords. Keller’s mind opened to language with the gush of water on her one hand and w-a-t-e-r spelled out on her other one. Ann Sullivan was as relentless a teacher as Helen Keller was a tireless student. Sullivan showed me the true purpose of a teacher.
Of course, Gandhi, you are the greatest for me; but then today is woman’s day and all….....