Teacher’s pride

The Hindu
Interview by B. Hridayakumari

Scholar and author B. Hridayakumari writes about Arun M. Kumar, her former student who has been nominated by President Barack Obama to a key administration post

Many of the old teachers of the University College in the city would have felt a thrill of pride and joy on reading in the newspapers the news that their old student Arun M. Kumar has been selected by President Obama to a very important post in his government. Arun is now Assistant Secretary and Director General of the United States and Foreign Commercial Service, International Trade Administration in the Department of Commerce. The President has spoken appreciatively of the new team he has chosen.

A rare honour indeed and a well-deserved recognition of merit. How I wish Arun’s parents were here to enjoy this moment, to feel a sense of fulfilment as nobody else could. I got to know them through their children. Renjith, Arun’s brother, was outside my ken in those days – early seventies and, if I remember right, – but Arun and his sister Sailaja drew me to their parents, just by being what they were. I can boast of a precious friendship with the family. Madhavan Nair and Kamala Nair were a noble couple with unusual qualities of head and heart.

Arun did his three-year undergraduate course in Physics in the University College. I taught that class their English prose. It was a very bright class with some of the students brilliant without any self-consciousness of their brilliance. And Arun was among the most brilliant. Well-read in many subjects, keen in understanding, quick, sensitive, and cultured beyond his years in his responses, it was a privilege and a pleasure to have him in my class, and sometimes to discuss things with him, outside the class. Over the years as his mind matured, his sense of language has become fine – a sure pointer to deeper changes. Confined to my academic pursuits I know little about the wider world of Arun’s enterprises. To see him trusted with the intricate problems of international finance is enough to make me feel that his choices and decisions were right.

Arun and his friends were responsible for starting the Science Society of Trivandrum for the benefit of school children. I may be mixing up seniors and juniors, but I remember Rasheed, Kumar, Parameswaran, Thanu Padmanabhan and quite a few more. Thanu Padmanabhan was a quiet self-effacing boy in class, and though I knew him to be very bright, I had no idea he would emerge as one of the top ranking scientists in the world. Old University College was indeed a promising place, to put it very mildly. Some of these young men nurtured the Science Society and after their leaving the city, Pratibhaposhini came into existence, propelled again by Arun ad his friends. It has done a lot of good to school students both in terms of financial help and academic training.

To an old teacher it is pure pleasure to recall her students and maintain communication with them. Those books, those authors, those marvels of words, idea, and perspectives turn communication into communion. And one feels so humble before a student whose mind is at times glimpsed at in its beauty and power.

My congratulations to Arun and Poornima, their sons, and also Renjith, who is somewhere in the depths of Physics, and his sister Sailaja. Do I speak for myself? Yes, and of course for my old college too.


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