‘President Mukherjee Sir’ dons a teacher's mantle
By R C Rajamani
05 September 2015

New Delhi (The Statesman/ANN) On the eve of the Teachers' Day — a day celebrated to honour teachers across India — Indian President Pranab Mukherjee donned the teacher's mantle to lecture high school students

Going down a sentimental journey of five decades ago, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday took time off his duty of minding the state of the nation to train the minds of the nation's future.

Donning the mantle of teacher, the President lost himself in an hour-long return to his first love and first profession. He was no more the first citizen but “Mukherjee Sir”, a teacher, pure and simple, as he lectured students of XI and XII on India's political and constitutional history.

The President took to the Delhi government's ‘Be A Teacher’ programme on the eve of Teachers’ Day on September 5 with the passion of a pedagogue and the fervour of the teacher on his first day. The beneficiaries of his lucid account of the evolution of India's multi-party democracy were the students of Dr Rajendra Prasad Sarvodaya Vidyalaya in the President’s Estate. The unique feature of his lecture was that his account was from his personal experience; as he had seen the “many events unfolding before my eyes”.

Marvelling at India's democracy, the President said it was because of democracy that he could reach Raisina Hill.

The President asked the students to forget he was the president. “Today I am not any minister or a President. I am your teacher. Just call me Mukherjee sir”.

The President said he had been a teacher of Political Science in Presidency College of Kolkata and he was happy to go back to his role as a teacher after many years. He also fondly recollected his days as a student. He said his best teacher was his mother who instilled in him the importance of India's ancient civilisational values.

In a lighter vein, the President impishly recalled that he was an “unparalleled naughty boy” who used to trouble his mother but credited her for all the success he has achieved.

“My best teacher was my mother. As I have said I was an unparalleled naughty boy. I was a trouble for my mother... After a day of mischief and other things, I used to receive a good deal of thrashing from her.

“And after that she used to come and fondle me with all love and care and ask me what I had done from sunrise to sunset, which I had to tell in chronological order.”

In a self deprecating tone, Mukherjee said he was not a bright student. “I was just an average student. I had to walk three miles to my school and used to complain to my mother about the distance.

“She used to tell me that she had no other option and always advised me to work hard.” .

The President said he walked to his school in the company of village boys who went with cow herds, and used to play. “But, as the sun would appear to set, I used to rush back home as I was mortally afraid of darkness despite being a village boy.”

As he answered questions from the students after his lecture, the President realised he had overshot his time, a habit of his when he was a college teacher.
Mukherjee once revealed that his teacher colleagues used to complain that he was taking their time too as he continued to lecture beyond his time. So, he later agreed to take the last period so that he could go on and on. The students never complained as the lecture was most interesting.

Today, some five decades later, President Mukherjee received a similar response from the students who said they were not at all ‘bored’ and wanted him to continue fielding their questions.

But a presidential aide opened the doors of the class as Mukherjee had other engagements to attend to. “I must leave now, thank you very much,” the President told the students and waved to them with a warm smile.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked good people from all walks of like to join politics and urged students to serve the nation by making small efforts.

Interacting with students on the eve of Teacher’s Day, for the second time after becoming Prime Minister, Mr Modi regretted that politics has acquired a bad name and good people are avoiding it. “This has harmed the country a lot,” Mr Modi said while replying to a student’s question.

In democracy, political parties are an important constituent and it is crucial that good, intelligent and talented people from all spheres participate, he said. The more good people join, the better it will be for the nation. When Mahatma Gandhi was leading the nation, people from all sections used to join politics but unfortunately now people’s perception against politicians have changed a lot, the PM said.


  • Teachers' Day, India

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