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Sunday, October 9, 2016

Two teachers connected by a dotted line.

My mother, Vimal Chavan, loved me very much. That was obvious to everyone around me. But beyond that she believed I could be the best at anything if I tried or was coached.  So, she tried.

She thought I wrote very well and she took me to meet her professor, a very popular and respected author of Maharashtra, Professor N. S. Phadke (ना सी फडके). She wanted him to give me a few tips but the two of them were so excited to see each other after perhaps 30 years that by the time they were through exchanging news it was time to leave. (He even asked her if she had married the "same guy" and I did not know where to look until I heard her say "Yes".) No tips. Relief.  The next time she took me to a public program of the wonderful Pt. Jitendra Abhisheki because one of his Gurus Jagannath Bua Purohit was going to be there. I was assured that Jagannath Bua used to visit my grandfather's home in Kolhapur often whenever he was at the nearby Deval Club  and he would recognize my mother. AND HENCE, my mother was going to request him to ask his disciple - Abhisheki - to train me in singing BECAUSE I was such a good singer. We met and he did recognize my mother and I was introduced to Pt. Abhisheki but that did not go anywhere either.

So, those two potential teachers lost a great disciple and the world lost a novelist and a singer.

My mother was very upset that my math grades were not good in Std 9. One of my cousins who lived in Matunga that NGK's Academy was a good coaching class. NGK's stood for N G Kulkarni's Academy. My cousin, I think, had benefited a lot from the coaching. I was very reluctant for the same reasons that most adolescents would be. But, like the previous occasions with the very famous potential teachers, I went along.  NGK, as he was known, met us. He asked me, "Do you want to learn? Or, do you want to waste your parents' money? If you want to learn, you are welcome. If you do not, do not come. If you do not learn, you will be thrown out. Do we understand each other?".  I thought about it. My grades weren't good but more than that the man had challenged me. So, I joined NGK's academy. Left home at Bombay Central early morning by N2 route bus and reached Hindu Colony, Dadar for the 630 am class. Came home around 8.30 and left by train at 945 to reach my school at Khar before 11. Schooling is hard work!

NGK was a great teacher and communicator. I learned math in no time. More than that I got really interested in math. In fact, I got interested in learning. He did not have to throw me out. I went and met him some twenty five years later and he said. "Wait, I should remember you... Chavan!" I was stunned. I was not an outstanding student but he clearly had a phenomenal memory.

Of late I have been watching a lot of physics lectures by Professor Walter Lewin of MIT on the Net.  I love them. Yes, relearning a bit of physics and learning things that I had never learned is great. But, it also gives me ideas about how we might introduce basic concepts of physics to children who are disinterested. He is a communicator. We need to communicate science better so that kids want to learn more.

So, one is a teacher I met face to face every alternate day for two years in the late sixties and the other I see only on the Net. Admire them both tremendously.

But there is a trivial connection between the two. NGK, when he drew geometry diagrams on the board would draw dotted lines where necessary  without lifting his hand. The chalk wend drrrrrrr and there was neat, straight dotted line. He was particularly proud of his 'art'. He would turn around and wink to make sure we were appreciative.  And, guess what? This is exactly what Walter Lewin does! Also, in one of the lectures I recall him turning around to pat himself on the back for his skill.

Very trivial indeed. But, it says a lot about the teacher. Unless you love what you do, these things never happen. As far as I can tell, NGK just loved teaching. So does Professor Lewin.

No one every recorded NGK's lectures but luckily Walter Lewin's lectures are available. Someone has even compiled various shots of the dotted line on a 1.5 min video and it has got 22.29 million hits!!!



So, the Pinball is amused that this trivia connects two remote points separated by distance and time. I am sure there are thousands who went to NGK's and were amused, even impressed, by his dotted lines. May be they will see this post and raise a toast to a good man and a great teacher, the late N G Kulkarni.


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