On 6th June 2015, I had been recognized as President's Inspired Teacher by the President of India, Dr. Pranab Mukherjee. I stayed at Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi for a week as part of the invited in-residence program for Inspired Teachers by the President.
Brief Report: My stay at the Rashtrapati Bhavan
Compiled by Dr. Felix Bast, President’s Inspired Teacher, Central University of Punjab.
Inspired Teacher’s In-Residence program at Rashtrapathi Bhavan is a brainchild of Dr. Pranab Mukherjee to recognize top performing faculties at the Central Universities and to give a platform to have their voice heard among the top bureaucrats. Selection consisted of student feedback, teaching quality, and research output analyzes. I am glad to have been nominated by our Vice-Chancellor.
I was surprised to have received invitation to state banquettes and other programs to be held at Rashtrapati Bhavan almost two weeks prior to my journey. I started my journey from a small town in Punjab called Bathinda as a representative of teachers from the Central University of Punjab, on 5th June 2015. I received WiFi login credentials on the morning of my scheduled check in. Representatives from RB was there at the platform at the railway station to receive me in person, and I rode on Toyota Land Cruiser for the first time in my life. I was in Japan for 5 years doing my Ph.D. and visited a number of countries for research including US, Canada, UK, France, Netherlands, Thailand, and China, but I have never been treated the way I was treated at home in India, that too at RB by the president. I am humbled to have treated in such a dignified manner by the Presidential staff at RB, and through us, all teachers in India are honored.
At RB, I was utterly surprised to discover an atmosphere of austerity rather than the luxury I was expecting from a head of state. I have fallen in love with the majesty and parsimony of the RB complex at the first very sight! Though simple, RB was spotlessly clean, aesthetic in design and has a caring community. I would see myself befriending with 33 people representing every single state of India in this program. In contrast with the Whitehouse that has no WiFi, Rashtrapati Bhavan had ultrafast, net-neutral WiFi connectivity. RB also has a vibrant social network presence, with daily updated website and Facebook page with pics from events of each day of the program. One of the greatest treasures of this visit is an autographed copy of the book by the President, Thoughts, and Reflections. I interacted with him on two occasions that I will take back as a legacy for a lifetime. During our interactions, I observed the President carefully jotting on his notepad. On one occasion, I saw him filling three and a half pages within 30 minutes of interaction with us, we teachers. With around 5000 people, RB community is a role model portraying the efficiency that other government institutions in India should try to emulate. Especially I was impressed with the caring RB community have extended their attention to two of the most neglected groups of human society; senior citizens and cognitively challenged persons. Senior citizen support group is being volunteered by the spouses of high-ranking RB officials, and the special need school has occupational therapists from CGHS. I was also impressed with the inconspicuous Sarvodaya school that, probably, is the best in the country with its kids playing with Arduinos, moot court, and a personal financing school by SBI complete with a mock branch, among other state-of-the-art facilities.
Over the course of my stay, I had been given chance to relay my opinion on how to improve university education to several high-level officials including Vice Chairperson, NITI Ayog, Chairman, UGC and Minister of HRD. Also, we had productive interactions with heads of education wings of Intel, Microsoft, IBM, FICCI, ASSOCHAM, and CII. We also visited two private universities in Gurgaon to explore possibilities of public-private partnerships. I had also been invited to the swearing-in ceremony of Central Vigilance Commissioner and Central Information Commissioner at the famous Durbar Hall and was given a chance to interact with Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. As part of the cultural activities of Indradhanush banner of Rashtrapati Bhavan, I attended classical music (Hindustani) concert by Begum Parveen Sultana and a special screening of movie Piku. During the screening of Piku, we were given a chance to interact with Amitabh Bachchan and Abhishek Bachchan.
I am going back to my small city in Punjab not only with handful of gifts from the President of India that include a priceless treasure, a statue replica weighing 15 kg of the bust of Lord Buddha that is kept at the Durbar Hall, but also with fond memories of Pranab Mukherjee. I am amazed at the dignified manner that he has treated us all, and I think all the teachers in India are honored by his humbleness. The experience I had was dream-like, and it gives me more force to be an Inspired teacher throughout my life. Thank you, Mr. President!
Presidential gift to me, that I have donated to the Central University
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