NEW DELHI:‘Mukherjee Sir’ on Friday taught a lesson, ‘Political History of India’ — meaning contemporary India as it is obtained now — which took a lead over many other economically advanced nations to introduce universal adult franchise and developed from being a famine-ridden British colony to a developing democracy where food was not scare, but an exportable commodity.
Teacher’s Day was being celebrated, on its eve. And Mukherjee Sir was none other than President Pranab Mukherjee. Taking up a suggestion of Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal, he gave an hour-long lesson to 60-odd students of Class XI-XII at Dr Rajendra Prasad Sarvodaya Vidyalaya in the President’s Estate, New Delhi.
The role and prestige of a teacher in society could not have been better emphasised. Back in classroom as a teacher, four-and-a-half-decades after he left the profession, President Mukherjee was visibly pleased. What he taught was what he had experienced in his 79-year-old journey of life — the unfolding of the India story as witnessed by a boy from a small village school in remote Mirati, Birbhum in West Bengal, who had not only reached the centre of political life in Delhi but also the Rashtrapati Bhavan as its first citizen. Personal and public life merged, he said and added that sometimes, he had marveled at his own journey which paralleled that of the country’s. And who was his best teacher? His mother, who used to make her “naughty’’ child recount how he had spent time from dawn to dusk every day, thus sharpening his memory.
In short, it’s his mother, he told the students, who had taught him to be the excellent recounter of history — a subject he would study later along with political science and law in the Calcutta University. Mukherjee is often called a ‘walking encyclopedia’ of contemporary history. But on Friday, he modestly told his students, “Please tell me, if you are bored. Today I am not President of India but your teacher… Please call me Mukherjee Sir.’’ And then, he went on to touch upon the role of the civil society and the media.