I remember her name clearly. I am not going to post it.
She was our statistics lecturer. She had a pronounced rural accent when she spoke English – the medium of our instruction. Some of us – who had studied in English medium and believed that we understood pronunciation and sentence construction better – used to make fun of her, after her lecture, at the college canteen.
It has been a while. Twenty-odd years; when I was twenty-something. She taught us the basics of statistics and some complex methods of using data – in the context of computer programming. I remember one influence distinctly. Our journals used to be square-ruled sheets. To this day, I work better when I work with square-ruled sheets. Now you know, why I like Rubberband Products. (No, I am not being paid to say this) Of all the things a teacher can influence us, she had an impact on the kind of paper I like to work with.
I seek those kind of writing pads, but they are rare.
Statistics was a holy subject for me, when, I was trying sincerely to understand what makes a computer work. If it was in our syllabus, it had to make sense – because according to our syllabus and objectives, we were destined to write the software that would change our lives. Like all of us, I held lofty objectives and visions of changing the world to make it a better place. We were at some point in the year, dealing with Near Sets, I recall – and I was wondering if I could use Near Sets and the Five-colour Theorem in developing a colourful rubber-band algorithm. (It really does not matter if it makes sense)
The rubber-band algorithm requires you to write a code that enables you to ‘draw’ a line at any angle and of any length. The mouse was not an input device, then – we had to make do with the arrow keys. If you are still confused, think of a line that you drag-draw in PowerPoint. We were required to write code for that to happen.
She said, “That’s out of syllabus – and in any case, you do not have colour monitors.”
“I could test it on Prof. Datar Sir’s Computer?” (Only our CS teacher had a colour monitor and 20MB HDD. It was a super computer for us.)
“No. It’s out of syllabus,” she insisted.
My statistics teacher was a gold medalist from Pune University. The fact that she was an OBC, highlighted her achievement. I never wanted or want to take away the achievements from her, but I wish she was more receptive to my questions.
I am, recently, dealing with a situation that is looking to optimise human resources based on the density of users to define an optimal investment to help run a specific process. (Yeah, jargon and all – that’s not important) Not much from her lectures and learning is lost. But, if she had taken a bit of time to satisfy my curiosity – even if it was ‘out of syllabus’ I think, it would have helped me in what I am doing today – to solve a real problem.
And yet, when I am working and solving this problem, I cannot but help think of her. Most of us had written her off, because we believed she had got the job because of reservations that were rampant, then (and still are). Yet none of us considered spending time with her and seeking the knowledge she had.
It is unfortunate, that we had categorised a teacher by the manner in which she got her job, rather than what knowledge she had to offer us. Nothing, I am almost sure, has changed her life significantly. My classmates and I, however, have lost much. At the very minimum, we have lost contact with her. Today, our work and client requirements need us to extract the fundamentals of our education – unfortunately we wasted an opportunity because we were influenced by petty politics (Mandal Commission happened when I was in college and I say it with much regret; that I was carried away by the rhetoric.)
A young student may have the facts to develop an opinion; but often, doesn’t have the context.
I miss you, Prof. T, and I wish I had then, the inclination to learn more from you. I wish I had maintained my identity with you as a student, rather than the imposed hierarchy that our ex-prime minister Mr. VP Singh defined. It is unfortunate that I have to Google almost everything that you taught us, and remind me of what I already know.
It’s too late, after all the ridicule we bestowed on you; for what it is worth, I am sorry.
In that late morning lecture when you introduced us to Null Hypothesis, I was perhaps, far away, imagining of a date with the girl who sat on the third bench in the second row. The girl is long lost and married to someone I don’t know, but I am now having a torrid affair with Null Hypothesis.
Maybe I did pay some attention to that lecture.
I am proud of some work that I have done recently, and for what it is worth, let it be known, I owe it to you.