A teacher who favoured all

Vaidya Viswanathan | Updated on September 04, 2012

S. Raghupathy Iyer would sweat his heart out even for the dullest pupil

“A yellow primrose was to him. And it was nothing more…” “To me, the meanest flower that blows can give thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.” Thus wrote William Wordsworth.

In sharp contrast to the present era where only the high scorers are preferred for admissions and later nurtured, here was a legendary teacher who sweated his heart out to propel even the dullest of the students without leaving them far behind. To him, their intrinsic worth was all that mattered. In the same breath, he kindled and enthused the brightest of students to strive beyond their innate capabilities. An appreciable number of his proud students went on to sparkle in their higher education and occupy prime job slots both in India and abroad.

The Trademark Dress

The resplendent teacher was the late S. Raghupathy Iyer, former head master of E.R. High School, Trichy, who was easily identified with his trademark kudumi, milky white shirt and panchakacham. He joined the school as a maths teacher in the 1930s and thanks to his extraordinary teaching prowess, became a blue-eyed boy of the correspondent-cum-head master, Natarajan, a stalwart in his own right.

Raghupathy Iyer’s erudition was such that he never carried a book with him to the class. While his freehand circles drawn on the blackboard were a delight to watch —what with his faultless circle putting a compass to shame — his students dreaded to see that shape on their test papers as score for any of their answers. In such a case, the students would have to duck for cover, dreading their disciplinarian teacher’s knuckle power and his cuff that would land on their heads.

The Pancha Pandavas

The success story of a school is not scripted by just one teacher. It is the team work of many great teachers and a fertile ground that is laid out for them to thrive on. Four other extraordinarily committed teachers were his contemporaries — T.M. Narasimhan, R. Ramanathan, the silver-tongued Valadi S. Srinivasan and P.S. Ramaswamy. The students branded the clique as Pancha Pandavas, as all of them stood by ethics and impeccable values and were wedded to the school. They started their career in this school and served it with distinction till they signed off on retirement. They cast magical spells wielding their wands of knowledge and dedication. These Pandavas, too, needed a Krishna and the correspondent Natarajan perfectly fitted this role of a friend, philosopher and guide.

Raghupathy Iyer co-authored many maths books with T.M. Narasimhan, all of which sold in a frenzied way. He received a rare honour of being appointed as the review committee chairman for the writing of mathematics text books in Tamil Nadu.

Birth Centenary

He lived in a joint family with his two elder brothers whom he revered like Rama and Lakshmana. After retirement as head master of the school in the 1970s, he played a stellar role in guiding the younger generation and led an organised life: reciting slokas, reading newspapers, relishing Carnatic music and dramas on his transistor, washing his own clothes and living on a frugal diet.

He was deeply attached to the intricate network of his children (nine in all) and their families and would constantly update their status, sans Facebook and mobile phones. For him, every loop had to be closed out. No wonder then that he closed the loop breathing his last in 1995, eighty days of his treasured wife Chellama’s death. September 18 brings the curtain down on the birth centenary year of this legendary teacher.

(The author is AGM, Powertech Engineering LLC, Muscat, and is the first grandson of Raghupathy Iyer.)

Published on September 04, 2012

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