There will be one teacher in every school, who can be seen running around organising various programmes, who is more interested in the creative and artistic talents of students than their academic performance, and who is a favourite among the students, teachers and staff. Radhakrishnan Pottasseri, or R K Pottasseri as he is popularly known, is a teacher who belongs to this category. And that is why he was honoured by various organisations in and out of the school as he retired as the art teacher at the JDT Islam School on June 30 after 35 long years of service. RK, as he is fondly called by friends and colleagues, has been into art for as long as he can remember. He believes art and creativity should be given as much importance as academics in schools. He, with the help of students and a few teachers, has set up an art gallery in front of the JDT school, dedicated to the history and development of the JDT group of institutions. He credits the school for all his achievements, calling it a second home. For the students and staff, RK is more than a teacher. He is a friend, guide, counsellor and advisor.
“I’ve known him since I joined here. He is very approachable and treats us more like his children, than as colleagues,” says Haroon, a staff at JDT. Though he started out with painting, he is more into sculpting and researching on innovative ways of artistic expression.
“Painting has limitations. When you paint a lot, at one point or the other, it becomes imitation. I don’t like imitating,” says R K with a smile. He is the first person to introduce engraving portraits in granite. His terracotta painting Vidheyan, depicting man’s enslavement to his hopes, won the Lalithakala Akademi Award in 2006. He also introduced the first ever Akshara Chitram books, which help children learn by making simple pictures using alphabets.
These books were later adopted by many publications. Unfortunately, he got no recognition from the government for his work, though it was recommended by many. He blames casteist prejudices for this. “No matter how much we try to ignore it, caste and religion still infect our systems. I’ve faced a lot of discrimination from authorities due to caste,” says RK, a strong believer and propagator of secularism. He built a Mathamaithri Snehashilpam, symbolising inter-religious harmony, in his hometown Mukkam as part of Keralappiravi celebrations. Dressed in a simple white mundu and khadi shirt, RK draws inspiration for his works from the people he meets everyday.
The hope that simmered in a farmer’s eyes while looking at a plantain sapling, even when his other crops were destroyed by bad weather, was the inspiration for Vidheyan. Another well known sculpture of his, Vellappokkam, was inspired by a painting by one of his students. RK strives to help people in whatever way he can. He organised an exhibition called ‘Pratheeksha’ for the patients at Regional Cancer Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, while he was there for treatment. The exhibition had paintings depicting how illness can be overcome by strong willpower and faith. R K Pottasseri organises a district-level painting competition for children every year in the memory of his late son, Arun.