D Mahajan speaks about his love for teaching
Octagenarian S D Mahajan can often be found pottering about in his garden in Budhwar Peth,rearing rare plants,or some times just sitting and reading a book. Come Saturday,and he can be seen strapping his bag and leaving to teach sustainable resource management at the Ecological Society at Senapati Bapat Road.
More than half a century ago,Mahajan took up his first teaching job at Pune University,in the Botany department. He spent 30 years teaching in Kolhapur,before retiring from regular teaching and return to Pune 20 years ago.
Grey-haired,dressed in a loose shirt and trousers,Mahajan is the picture of a wise and patient teacher. His teaching techniques are of old school,he admits unabashedly. When I started teaching,we did not have powerpoint presentations or even whiteboards. We used the good old blackboard. Using presentations and other such modern tools often distracts the act of teaching itself, he says. His rejection of modern appliances not withstanding,Mahajans classes are all conducted with a flair,as he takes classes outdoors in fields and forests as often as indoors in a classroom. Learning should never be restricted to a classroom,especially for Botany or Environmental Science. After all,if I am teaching about nature,it should be done while we are surrounded by it, he says.
It is not just teaching methods which have changed since Mahajan first began teaching in the 1960s. Students have changed so much,they hardly attend classes, he says. Mahajan laments the fact that students dont study for the sake of learning anymore. Rather,it is all exam-oriented and they simply want to score the best. Education has become about scoring and then getting a job. Education should be for the sake of knowledge, he says.
Speaking about Teachers Day ,he says,Teachers are a big part of who we are today,one day does not cover their importance. I still remember my teachers from NMV high school with fondness and respect,especially Mr Joglekar who taught me about forests in Germany. Even today,when I talk about forests or Germany,I remember him. It is nice,however,to see that people still appreciate teachers.
For me,teaching is the one thing that gives me the greatest pleasure in the world and the feeling I get when someone else takes pleasure in learning from me is indescribable. It is not about my students at the institution,anyone who asks me about plants gives me the chance to share my knowledge makes me happy, he says. Now in his 52nd year of teaching,Mahajan does not intend to let age get into the way of his two greatest loves – teaching and environment. I will continue teaching as long as I can and as long as I am invited by those interested in learning, he says.
(Professor Mahajan is author of four books about the indigenous and exotic species of trees in India and is at presnt president of conservation organisation,Maharashtra Vruksha Samvardhini.)