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Life and works of a reformer educationist, Principal Samir Kumar Bhattacharya

Vikram anand

First published in India in 2010 by CinnamonTeal Publishing Copyright © 2010 Vikram Anand ISBN: 978-93-80151-47-2 Vikram Anand asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of the work. All rights reserved. No part of the publication may be produced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the author, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser. Photographs: Author's own Cover Design: Vikram Anand CinnamonTeal Print and Publishing, Plot No 16, Gogol, Housing Board Colony, Margao Goa 403601

It’s said, ‘Education makes the man!’ History is replete with examples to elucidate this fact. Unfortunately, our academic setup is oriented towards imparting education only for grades and not for the enlightenment of minds! But ultimately, it’s education with the purpose of enlightenment that has made a difference to this world. ‘Education for enlightenment!’ has been the foundation of modern society. Dr. Radhakrishnan, Mahatma Phule, Dr. Ambedkar are a few individuals who used their formal schooling to educate society. For these great people, education wasn’t just about accumulating knowledge but a means of bringing about a sea-change in contemporary society. In this era, where teaching itself has become a lucrative business, where the emphasis is plainly on ensuring that students get the best of grades, where the teacher is least bothered about how the child performs in the overall tests of life, we have amongst us an educationalist who has demonstrated by his personal example that the perfect way of imparting education is by empowering children with life’s core values. The professor we speak of is Mr. Samir Kumar Bhattacharya, with whom my association started when he was the Principal of Nand Vidhya Niketan School of the Essar Group at Jamnagar, Gujarat. Inspired by his extraordinary contributions to the field of school education, this book is my humble attempt to script the biography of a man who has always given wings to his dreams! Principal Bhattacharya observes that the perfect way of living a meaningful life is by way of an excellent education. Indeed, education helped him to discover the purpose of his own life: giving his students a sense of direction, so that they could make a difference in the world around. He has been promoting this purpose first as a teacher, then as a principal. Principal Bhattacharya, himself has been the student of the

Wings of Dreams

legendary educationist, Padmashree JTM Gibson, or Jack Gibson as he was popularly known. The foundation of Samir Bhattacharya’s life was set during the glorious years of his schooling at the famous Mayo College, which is also known as the Eton of the east. His association with Mr. Jack Gibson, the then Principal of Mayo was so close that Mr. Gibson, in his book-‘As we saw it’, has devoted more than thirty pages to his favourite student’s struggles and achievements during his early days. Life moves on in phases, filled with good times, bad times and mundane times. But every phase of Mr. Bhattacharya’s life has been a thrilling experience. When we define an individual, we identify him by his merits and his shortcomings. Principal Bhattacharya’s finest aspect has been his deep connection with childhood that has made him recognized beyond the merits and shortcomings of his personality. He firmly believes that there’s a child in each one of us. Miracles happen when one gives wings to that child. In the pages that follow, the beautiful journey of Principal sahab’s life offers some of life’s greatest lessons. It’s the unbelievable tale of a village boy earning a place in one of country’s best known school, growing up with unusual experiences, following his heart to choose the purpose of his life, inspiring all those associated with him to make a difference in the world, doing things that are considered impossible, but at the same time not losing that vital connect with the child in him That’s Principal Samir Kumar Bhattacharya for you, the recipient of the American Medal of Honour for his extraordinary contribution towards education; a Samaj Shree for using education as a tool for bringing about revolutionary social reform, and a rare educationist featuring in the Limca Book of Records for his path breaking social initiatives with the help of the school children. A humble request to the reader: The incidents recorded in this book are based on Principal Bhattacharya’s life. If there has been any error in documenting certain events, please bring it to my notice so that corrections can be made in subsequent editions. My unconditional apologies for the same. Please note that few names, especially of the government officials have been changed for security reasons. Read on.

Chapter 1 the Felicitation Ceremony


ducation has been the backbone of our civilization, and had helped in the evolution of man since Stone Age. Irrespective of culture, geography and time, the motive of education has always been the same – to bring about a change in the mindset of contemporary society and to take human civilization to the next level of evolution. For this reason, progressive changes have been made in the methods adopted to impart education. In every nation there are committees working on the improvement of the educational system by incorporating periodic alterations. But here we have one man with us who has redefined the standard education system and used it as a tool to bring about revolutionary changes in the society. Through him, education has become synonymous with fostering leadership. Never before has the innocence of childhood been used as a powerful medium, to awaken contemporary society towards sensitive social issues like drugs menace, child labour, and religious disputes. For his revolutionary contribution in the field of education, American Biographical Society is happy to confer the American Medal of Honour to Principal Samir Kumar Bhattacharya.” There was a thunderous applause as Mr. A.T. Simmons, the U.S. Consulate General invited the Principal to receive the honour. The function was being held at the American Embassy Mumbai. Several dignitaries were present to grace the occasion. “Thank you for this honour!” was the humble reaction of Mr. Bhattacharya, on accepting the medal and the award certificate. “Oh! The honour is ours, sir!” Mr. Simmons greeted him with a warm handshake. Then facing the audience, Mr. Bhattacharya began his address. “Thanks to the blessings of Goddess Kali, I’m standing here,” Principal Bhattacharya seemed overwhelmed upon receiving this great honour. “It’s a wonderful feeling. Thank you.” The audience once again cheered him.

Wings of Dreams

“I wish to share this award and the honour with all my teachers who went out of their way to support me, then with my friends who always stood by me, and most importantly, with my dear students and their parents. Without their wholehearted support and participation, none of my ideas would have been successfully concretized. I owe them my success as a teacher, as a principal, an educationist and as the recipient of this honour.” His eyes turned moist with deep feelings of gratitude.

Principal Bhattacharya receiving the prestigious American Medal of Honour from Mr. A.T Simmons, the U.S. Consulate General


Vikram Anand

The Distinguished Leadership Award certificate


Wings of Dreams

The American Medal of Honour certificate presented to Principal Bhattacharya.

As the function ended, numerous people from different walks of life greeted Principal Bhattacharya and congratulated him for his glorifying contribution to education. In the audience was an aspiring writer, Vikram Anand. Vikram was attending the function along with a journalist friend who had briefed him about Principal Bhattacharya and his work. Since Vikram was interested in causes related to children, he was very keen to meet the founder principal of Chandrabala Modi Academy, Ankleshwar Gujarat. When Principal Bhattacharya was about to leave, Vikram sneaked in, breaking the barrier of dignitaries surrounding him. “Congratulations sir! I’ve heard a lot about you.” “Thank you,” the Principal replied, wondering who that gentleman was. “Sir, I’m Vikram Anand, a freelance writer.” “Pleased to meet you, Vikram.”

Vikram Anand

“Sir, there’s something I want to take up with you, if you can spare some time.’ “What is it regarding?” Principal Bhattacharya was curious. “Right now, with so many dignitaries around, it would be difficult to talk. Sir, can I get an appointment with you, when you are free?” Mr. Bhattacharya sensed the honesty in Vikram’s words. “All right, young man! I’m in Hotel Regency. I’ll be leaving tomorrow by the morning flight. You can join me for dinner tonight.” “Thank you so much, sir!” Vikram shook hands with Principal Bhattacharya and left the embassy hall, excited. At 7 pm Vikram reached Hotel Regency. “I’m looking for Mr. Samir Bhattacharya. I had an appointment with him.” He inquired at the reception. “Oh Bhattacharya sahab? He’s out there in the lobby. You can catch him there.” In the lobby, it was bit of a surprise to see Mr. Bhattacharya engrossed in a storytelling session with a few kids. They were laughing and clapping their hands and enjoying their interaction with him. “Good evening, sir! Can I join you?” Vikram butted in. “Hey Vikram! How are you doing? Please do join us. It’s wonderful to be in the company of children. I tend to forget myself when I’m with them. Just made these new friends! Okay children, another friend of mine has come. I’ve to go. See you!” “Bye uncle. We enjoyed your stories.” They seemed to be thrilled following their interaction with their ‘storyteller friend’! “You know, Vikram, children love stories and I love storytelling! That’s how the equation goes.” Mr. Bhattacharya continued speaking, as they moved towards the Hotel’s cafeteria. “It’s bit cold outside. I would recommend a spicy soup. You’ll love it.” They grabbed a cosy table. “‘Sure sir! Thank you.” The ambience was quite relaxing. “Ideal place to talk!” Vikram thought. As they waited for their soup, Principal Bhattacharya broke in. “So what brings you to me?” Vikram explained, “Sir, first of all, thank you so much for

Wings of Dreams

giving me your time. I’m a freelance writer. I keep writing articles and poetry, and updating blogs. Of late, I was exploring the idea of writing a book. I tried various subjects ranging from philosophy to fiction. But each time, after penning a couple of pages, I would tear them off and consign them to the dustbin. I haven’t had the motivation I desire to complete the task at hand.” The Principal was intently listening as Vikram continued, “But when I heard about you and your revolutionary initiatives in the field of education, I finally found my inspiration. I’ve been studying your work, and I know I can have complete faith in my gut feeling. My inner voice is compelling me to go ahead. Sir, please allow me to pen down your life’s experiences. I’m sure to find a lot of inspiration, which I intend to pass it on to society through my humble attempts by scripting a manuscript based on your life.” Principal Bhattacharya was engrossed in thought. “So you want to write about me? Interesting! I never thought that someone would come to me with this odd request.” “Sir, please give me a chance. You’ve done so much for education! You’ve brought reforms in the system and changed the thought patterns of society, that too all with the help of children. In fact, you’ve given a newer and bigger dimension to childhood and school education. Sir, not many people know that your name figures in the Limca Book of Records or that you are a ‘Samaj Shree’ awardee or that you have been presented with the latest American Medal of Honour. How will people get motivated by your story, if it remains under wraps? That’s why I believe that a biographical account on your life and work would serve a big social purpose. Trust me sir; the society needs to know about it!” Vikram was so convincing that Mr. Bhattacharya was left with no choice but to agree. “All right, Vikram. You win!” is all that he could say. “Thank you so much, sir!” Vikram’s excitement knew no bounds. Principal Bhattacharya interrupted, “But I cannot stay here for more than a day. I don’t mind giving you time. But I’ve to go back tomorrow.”

Vikram Anand

“No problem, sir! I would be happy to go with you and see your style of functioning in your school.” “Okay then. We’ll fly back tomorrow. Chandrabala Modi Academy would be happy to welcome you!” “I’m ready! Thanks a ton again!” That indeed made Vikram’s evening and he had an enjoyable supper with Principal Bhattacharya.