A Kabir Das Doha on Teaching

By Kollengode  S  Venkataraman   (Published in January 2009)

Several months back, I attended an arangetram of Sravya Vishnubhatla in which her maternal grandfather, retired Indian Air Force’s Wing Commander K. C. Varma, who had come from India, spoke briefly. Instead of praising his grandchild for all her efforts on her arangetram and the teacher who worked with his granddaughter, he dwelled on teaching itself. “Teachers in India are very strict with their students,” he said. He further elaborated by quoting a 2-line verse (called doha) of Kabir Das (17th century in the Mughal time), using the poet-philosopher’s vivid imagery on what teachers does to their students:

Guru is the potter, the student, the pot

[The Guru] slowly removes the stones [from the clay]

Supporting from inside the green clay pot

[He] hits the pot from out!

Kabir’s imagery is brilliant. People only see the potter hitting the “green” pot from outside, similar to what parents see in Indian teachers being strict, and never satisfied with their kids no matter how hard they try. 

The potter first removes the stones from the clay, making it good enough for his use. He then works the clay into a “green” pot on his wheel, and let the pot lose its moisture a little bit.

Then, he hits the pot from outside using a mallet. But at the very spot where he is hitting from outside, he supports the pot from inside that others don’t see to make sure that the pot gets the shape and strength he has in his mind. 

Similarly teachers appear to parents superficially, to be mean to their children. But from inside their mind and heart, their seeming strictness is just to ensure that the student meets and exceeds their expectations.  Acknowledgments:  Surinderjit Singh of Monroeville for the word-by-word explanation for the doha.   — END


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