Finding one’s raison d’être, a French word that means ‘reason for being’, is not easy especially when facing almost insurmountable odds. Meet Gobind “Veerji” Lal, the much-adored tutor in Moga district of Punjab who, at 2 feet 9 inches, is a little taller than a cricket stump.
Lal (49) has been teaching mathematics for 27 years at his home. He doesn’t even know the name of his condition that restricts his ability to walk and confines him to a wheelchair.
“I love this town. Here people have clean hearts. Not a single student or any other person has made fun of my short appearance till now. My short hands and legs have never discouraged me to take classes. I do not want any national or international recognition,” said Lal.
Till almost seven years back, Gobind was teaching daily for almost 12 hours at a stretch. He used to teach the science of numbers to at least 90 students who would come to his home. Doctors adviced him to cut short his classes as sitting for hours weakened his muscles.
“They even told me to stop teaching as it consumes lot of energy and stresses back due to sitting for continuous hours but that was not possible. Teaching is my soul, the only reason why I did not give up despite 90% disability,” he said. But respecting doctors, he cut his classes short by five hours.
Lal’s love for teaching began when he was in class 10. He had taught mathematics to a group of children who passed the subject with flying colours. From then on, he never looked back and despite his condition, grew as a teacher.
Schools in the district offered to hire him to teach mathematics for two hours a day but he did not take it up. It was comfortable teaching from home. “Moreover, it would be difficult to ask someone to drop and pick me to and from the school. I don’t want to trouble them,” said Lal.
Lal appreciates technology.
“In my condition, writing on the blackboard is tough. Now I use a tablet to write notes and display them on LED screen,” he said.
Family is his greatest inspiration. “My younger brother carried me in his arms and on his shoulders to school as I was unable to walk,” he said.
There is, however, one regret. The one time his condition proved to be a minor hurdle for this teacher was when he applied for undergraduate course.
“Colleges were ready to admit me. But they said that it would be risky for me to do physics and chemistry practicals. So they told me to do BA (bachelors in arts). I decided not to join college and with mathematics as my major subject I completed BA through correspondence from Panjab University. I wanted to prove that nothing is impossible,” says Gobind.
When his students get gifts like greeting cards, chocolates, a cake or few lines of poetry for him every Teachers’ Day, Gobind says that he forgets his disability.
“I tell them that I will teach on September 5 but they do not let me do so,” laughs Veerji.