A Lesson in Humility

March 4, 2024by Rajeev Hora0

‘I realized that I had gone to motivate but was coming back with a lesson in humility.……’

Latur. The name of this city in Maratha land evokes two memories in recent times. One is of the water trains which are often sent to this drought prone region during the summers. The second is of the massive earthquake it experienced just over three decades back. So much so, that there were over 10,000 fatalities and thousands of houses raised to the rubble during the unexpected crisis.

Not many people in the country know that Latur and the surrounding area is also the Sugar Belt of India. Another rather unknown fact is that Latur is a major educational hub in Maharashtra. Very frankly, I was totally oblivious to this piece of information till the time I met Dr Shendge at the Air Force Academy in Dundigal. We both had been invited for the grand Bi-annual Passing Out Parade (POP).

I had come down from Bidar, an adjacent base which I was commanding at that time. Dr Shendge had arrived from Latur along with his wife. A common friend introduced us, and we got chatting. As we spoke, I was a bit shocked to learn about the doctor’s association with the Academy. The couple had lost their only son in an air crash some years back. He was a trainee at the academy at that time.

As a mark of respect, the Academy had been sending them an invite for the POP on a regular basis. They tried to honour the invite whenever it was possible. I also learned that not withstanding their personal loss, they had been encouraging local students in their city to join the armed forces. It was a brief and chancy meeting. We parted ways with the kind doctor taking my mobile number and a promise to be in touch.

A few months later, true to his words, I received a call from Dr Shendge . He said that the Rajarshi Shahu College in Latur would like to invite me as a Guest Speaker for a motivational talk. Frankly, given my commitments on the base, I was a bit reluctant to undertake the long road journey as it promised to consume my whole day. I however agreed as the cause was noble, and the doctor was quite insistent.

I set course in my staff car on a Saturday morning to a city I was visiting for the first time. I was not too sure about what was in store for me. I also did not quite know Dr Shendge’s standing in the city. He was probably a trustee of the College. To my surprise, he in an escort vehicle, intercepted my car on the outskirts of the township. I was taken to a government Guest house to freshen up and offered a cup of tea. A few govt and police officials had also come down to say hello. I must admit that I was made to feel quite important.

At the appointed time, we drove towards the college. Once again, a very warm welcome by the Principal and senior teachers. We moved to the Principal’s office where I was given a brief about the Latur system of education. I was quite intrigued by the unique pattern of study. From what I was told, it had helped thousands of students from rural and semi-urban background to excel in competitive exams.

The system had been created and evolved by two former principals of the college, Anardan Waghmare and Aniruddh Jadhav. Because of their contribution, these two gentlemen are literally upheld as legends in Latur society. Just as the briefing finished, tea was offered, and a surprise awaited me.

I was told that Mr Jadhav had been invited to meet me. He joined us in the office. A very unassuming, frail and humble looking man. I estimated him to be in his early seventies. Dressed in a neat dhoti-kurta, he was simplicity defined. On being introduced, I told him, “Sir, it is an honour for me to meet you.“Oh no Sir, it is the other way around”, he returned the compliment. We exchanged a few thoughts before I was taken for a brief tour of the college.

The discipline that I saw all over in the institution could put any army campus to shame. Thousands of bicycles parked in impeccable fashion. Students continuing with their academic pursuits even where a teacher was not in a class. No litter, super-neat toilets and an overall feel of calmness and pervasive lovability. This place was something special I could sense.

I was led to a very big hall for my talk to the senior students. Anticipation and energy all around. Numbering around three hundred, the children were seated on the carpeted floor in an absolutely orderly fashion without anyone bossing over them. The stage in front accommodated the rostrum and also the seating for the so-called VIPs for the day. Rest of the teachers occupied chairs on both sides of the hall.

I was taken to my designated chair and all other senior functionaries also took their respective seats on the stage. The Principal introduced me to the congregation and called upon me to deliver my talk. As I gathered my gaze to look at the audience, I was taken aback to see Mr Jadhav seated amongst the children on the floor. He had picked up a spot somewhere in the sixth or seventh row and appeared totally at peace with himself.

Feeling a bit embarrassed and not knowing how to react, I invitingly said, “Jadhav Sir, it will be nice if you could take your place on the stage.”

With folded hands, the great man very politely declined my offer and replied,“ हमारा समय बीत गया. अब आपके विचारों का आनन्द यहां से ज़्यादा आएगा.” Loosely translated as, “My time is past. Now it will bring me greater joy to listen to your thoughts from here.”

I nodded respectfully and insisted no further. I went on to deliver my talk and acknowledged the vote of thanks. As I bid farewell to the staff at the college portico, I looked around for Mr Jadhav but could not spot him anywhere. He had probably departed without a fuss after the discourse.

As my car sped away from the echoes of a ‘sitting ovation’, I was overcome with a profound sense of having interacted with a great teacher. I realized that I had gone to motivate but was coming back with a lesson in humility.

If all the learning in the world has not made you humble enough, there is obviously far more to learn!

Still learning no doubt,
Horax (Casper)

Postscript: Lest I forget, my compliments and gratitude to Dr Shendge and his loving wife for this unforgettable experience. There is no nobler cause than turning your personal grief into emancipation of the lesser privileged. Your journey too is inspiring and incredible indeed!

First published at seekmediation.com on 04 Mar 24.

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