An ocean of humanity and humility

Prof Bandi Balaswamy(June 30, 1970-May 7, 2021)

Prof Bandi Balaswamy(June 30, 1970-May 7, 2021)


Teachers are undoubtedly the most important members of our society because they are the creators of future generations. They are expected to give a purpose to students, impart knowledge, clarify doubts, help chase dreams and inspire to succeed in life.

Teachers are undoubtedly the most important members of our society because they are the creators of future generations. They are expected to give a purpose to students, impart knowledge, clarify doubts, help chase dreams and inspire to succeed in life.

Broadly, teachers, based on my personal experience as a student as well as a teacher, are four major types: The duck-buck teacher, the howl-growl teacher, the whine-moan teacher and the jolly-pally teacher.

The first type (the duck-buck) teacher is a lazy bone avoiding teaching but involving in all other irrelevant things for personal gain or vicarious pleasure. Since being damn bored with teaching, they look at the calendar for holidays or strikes to bunk classes. Pandemic-forced holidays are most welcome. They are least bothered to update their last year's PPT and they prefer giving silly, useless assignments to the class to kill time tactfully. Fully focused on the monthly salary and a timely promotion, this type doesn't mind in encouraging students of their own community, region or religion. Well, they are into chit fund and real estate business for additional bucks by leaving the motto of the pious profession to the winds.

The second type (the howl-growl) teacher is a one-way communication specialist. They keep on announcing that they are 'very strict' and they expect 'pin drop silence' in the class. Sticklers for accuracy and punctuality, they focus on rules and syllabus scrupulously. Attendance is very important and deadline is sacrosanct. The kind of harsh and insulting words they use to admonish students directly fall under 'abuse' category but they go scot free. They are also called accent teachers because they give utmost priority to punctuations and pronunciations more than meaning. Every hour is designed in tune with the academic almanac letter and spirit. There is no space for creativity or out-of-the-box thinking and no questions are asked. Students get respect from this type of teachers based on the marks they can score in examinations.

The third type (the whine -moan) teacher is born to make complaints and comments on everything under the sun. Spreading negativity and injecting pessimism are the twin objectives of these masters. The park they frequent for a walk, the road they travel, the persons they meet, the colleagues they work with, the institute they belong to, the state and country they live in are in for a severe scrutiny in the class. They vent out frustration coupled with venom in the form of a debate or discussion with an agenda. They project their viewpoint as the best and those who fail to think on those lines are dubbed as fools and useless.

The fourth type (the jolly-pally) teacher is very jovial and friendly come what may. They make learning a pure joy and every effort is made to encourage every student to participate in the class. They treat students with love and affection. Lesson is taught in a story form and students are encouraged to come up with alternative ideas or viewpoints. There is enough scope and space for students to play around and experiment. Ranks and marks are just numbers for this type of teachers. They don't mind spending time to create fun and frolic to cheer up the mood and boost up the morale of the students. These teachers act innocent and comedown to the level of the students to untap creativity and unleash hidden talent. Extracurricular activities are encouraged and this type of teachers exhibit their skills like mimicry or singing to create a jolly atmosphere. As a result, alumni remain in touch with them to seek guidance as well as to share good and bad developments in their careers and lives.

Prof Bandi Balaswamy, who passed away on May 7 after waging a 20-day long battle against Covid-19 in a hospital remains a classic example for the fourth type of teachers. He won the hearts of scores of students and colleagues with humanity, humility, understanding, compassion and knowledge. He lent a helping hand to solve their problems and patient ear to fix their issues, either on academic or personal front. A cool cucumber and fun-loving Professor, he was always willing to help students by going an extra mile at any given point. Prof. Balaswamy's hallmark is, bestowing the same amount of respect and love to everyone he met, a layman to an office boy to a student to a senior professor.

None of them ever watched Prof. Balaswamy yelling, frowning or cribbing in the department. Power didn't corrupt him. Even as the Head of the Department (July 2013- August 2015) and the Chairman of the Board of Studies (July 2008- 2012 and from September 2015-till date), his value system and character didn't change a bit. A multi-talented Prof. Balaswamy would imitate film stars and recite toughest dialogues from plays like 'Satya Harischandra' with aplomb.

Born in a poor Dalit family of Abbarajupalem village of Pedakurapadu mandal of Guntur district on June 30, 1970, he grazed cattle and worked as a daily wage worker to support his family. Having lost his father in his childhood, he realised the importance of education to come out of the distressing conditions. He fought against the all odds to get B.A (History, Economics, Politics) degree from Nagarjuna University in 1991. He was the college topper!

His dream to study in the University of Hyderabad, a Central University, came true when he got admission in M.A. in Communication through an entrance examination. He passed out MA in first division with a gold medal for his academic performance in 1993. He got Doctoral Degree (topic: Role of Communication in Sustainable Development: A Case Study of Medak District) in 2002. Till he qualified for UGC JRF and NET examination in 1993, he had to face financial hardships.

Prof Balaswamy is a teacher who was close to completing a silver jubilee in his career. He had started his teaching career at the Department of Mass Communication of Assam University, Silchar, on May 13, 1996. He joined OU in 2004 as an Associate Professor and became Professor in 2010. He used to claim that his knowledge was enriched in the company of stalwart faculty such as Prof.PL Vishweshwar Rao, Prof. Padmaja Shaw, Prof.Stevenson, Prof. Nageshwar and Prof.K.Narender. He proved himself as a future leader of the department.

I have a memorable experience with Prof. Balaswamy. A few days before the submission of my PhD thesis on Ethics and Journalists, I wanted to give it up due to a stupid reason. On my way home, I accidentally met Prof. Balaswamy on the stairs of the Arts College. He sensed my mood and came my way to stop and ask me as to what happened. I explained my predicaments and told him curtly that I want to terminate my dream project. "Sir (that is how he would address people), you worked on the topic for about seven years. Don't give up at this stage. Please come with me to my room. Let us sit together to fix the issues," he said with genuine love and affection. His soothing words and timely help did a world of good for me. Had I not met Prof. Balaswamy on the day, I would have ended up without a PhD. Many students have had similar experiences with him. During his stint as the Warden of Old P.G. Hostel (January 2005-2009) and NRS hostel (2009- 2012), Prof. Balaswamy could solve issues on a priority basis. He demeanour and approach won applauds from agitating students too. Even the leaders who were incensed by regional feelings during Telangana agitation couldn't see Prof. Balaswamy as an outsider.

The death of his childhood friend and classmate, Dr. P.Kennedy, Associate Professor in the Department of Communication, UoH, a day before was said to have a telling impact on recuperating Prof. Balaswamy. The sensitive professor perhaps couldn't bear the tragedy.

Prof. K Stevenson, Head of the Department, the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, rightly pointed out that the 'cellar', where the Department is located in OU's picturesque Arts College building, is not the same without him. However, Prof. Balaswamy remains immortal in the hearts of students and faculty forever.

(The author is a senior journalist, journalism educator and communication consultant)

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