Lessons for life
Teachers don't emerge necessarily from classrooms. Life presents us with these mentors at different avenues and crossroads. On Teacher's Day, The GUIDE invited five successful, gifted Indians across different walks of life to pick their favourite gurus who played a huge role in moulding their lives and passions
Virdas, 32, STAND-UP COMIC
I would fail in almost every subject except English. In Class 11 and 12, I was taught the subject by my teacher Surjit Khanna. She got me hooked on to debating, acting and theatre. I love the stage because of her. When I would fail in my exams, at PTA meetings, she would tell my parents that I would do something with my life. I had travelled abroad to be an Economics Major but took up an acting class just for fun. It was one of my teachers, Ivan Davidson, who told me that I am not meant to be in Economics and that I should become an actor. He told me to shut up for the next four years and to take every class that he asked me to take. He trained me to become an actor.
Arzan Khambatta, 46, ARTIST & SCULPTOR
Since I studied in two schools, I came across several teachers who with their own unique pieces of knowledge helped me carve my career. But one teacher whom I must credit for my current style of creating non-conventional pieces of art is my art teacher from Jamnabai Narsee School, Jignesh Bhai. I don’t think anyone knew his surname; even the principal called him Jignesh Bhai. While everyone had to do a set style of art projects like object drawings, he knew I was never interested in it and let me do my own thing. Even today, he attends all my exhibitions and together, we laugh at those times when he would allow me to create whatever I felt like, in one corner of the classroom.
Masaba Gupta, 23, FASHION DESIGNER
My favourite teacher is Mr Wendell Rodricks, who was a mentor for the fashion show that we were doing as a graduation show in SNDT College. He is one of the most secure designers that we have, and he wasn’t afraid to share his knowledge with us. He prepared us for the industry in a way that our other teachers couldn’t. Also, he is very humble. He took it up as a challenge to mentor 20 students and make really good products from them. He always told me that I should stay true to my style. I remember being criticised for my work in college, which is similar to what I do now. But I recall him telling me that I shouldn’t get discouraged and that I should stick to what my heart tells me to do. He taught me this because my teachers weren’t very happy with my using so much colour. They felt my work was a bit amateurish. But he really believed in it. He also advised me that I should never let anyone tell me that I’m too young to do anything. I remember when I was applying for the Mumbai Fashion Week for the first time, I was discouraged because I was termed as young, but he was the one who said, “Go for it”. I want to thank him because without him I wouldn’t be a designer today. He believed in my work, more than I did.
Sanjeev Kapoor, 48, CHEF & restauranteur
A teacher is someone who you can learn from and it needn’t be restricted to a school or a college teacher. I have learned a lot from my parents, late Surendra Kapoor and Urmil Kapoor, and they have influenced my choices in life. They gave me the freedom and believed in me and that I could do anything. I remember an incident that occurred when I was 15 years old, and studying in standard nine. I wanted to study Sanskrit instead of Hindi but since I was the only one who wanted to learn it, the school was hesitant to permit it. But my parents supported me and explained to my teachers that I should be allowed to make my choice. It taught me that you need not follow the herd and you should have the guts to stand up for your beliefs. This incident helped me make the unconventional choice of becoming a chef and even to start my own channel, even though there weren’t too many precedents for doing so. My parents also inculcated a love for cooking. I was lucky as my mom and dad could both cook well.
Kailash Kher, 49, MUSICIAN
My father (Pandit Mehar Singh Kher) has been my biggest guru and teacher. He was a priest and a mature singer. He was not a professional singer but his music was extremely soulful and divine. His music was about humanity; it had a very deep meaning that could move people. He introduced me to this kind of music and I shall always be grateful to him for that. He sang with immense passion — it was pure and beautiful. I learnt this strain of music from him. It was not about conditioning one’s voice or method of music, it was all about expressions through music. It was pure joy. He loved unconditionally; it felt like a breeze, yet it was felt by all.