Few minutes spent with Mr Murugan on my way back from Kohima on 25th July 2019 enriched me as a teacher educator. What is special about Murugan? He won National Award for Teachers in September 2018, a Tamilian representing Nagaland.
After being in the 2018 state selection committee for the National Award to Teachers, I was in the committee again for the 2019 teacher selection. During the process of selection I expressed with the Principal secretary, Ministry of Education and the Director School education, that we could have invited the last year’s winner at the National level. They immediately arranged my meeting with him on my way back to Dimapur airport the following day. He reached Chumukedima High School from his school Peren at 11 am and I reached the school on time. The Principal Ms Karen Sema was pleasantly surprised and showed her eagerness to listen to our conversation when she came to know the background of our visit to her school.
Journey of Murugan from Tirunelveli to Peren is unimaginable, more so his journey from an ordinary teacher to a national award winning teacher. Murugan lost his father when he was 12 years old. Being the eldest son with three brothers and three sisters he has seen the struggle to earn money for feeding the family and to study. He vividly remembers how the siblings used to work in tobacco packing for 50 paisa per day during 1980. That was the daily wage for children while women would get Rs 2 and men Rs 3. His mother used to work there and during holidays and vacation children would join her so that they could continue their education. From 1984 to 86 while studying in plus 2, he found black topping on the road a high earning job with Rs 13 per day. There was an incentive of Rs 2 for those who were fast and would do more work. Murugan without fail earned Rs 15 with his swift movement, not because he was so but because of the Rs 2 incentive. Saved money and continued education to become a graduate with chemistry honours, math and physics. Though he was fond of Mathematics from the school days, took chemistry major only because his teacher said Chemistry honours has more scope of getting job in industries compared to Mathematics. His only focus was to get a job as soon as possible and help his younger siblings and mother a better life.
By the time he completed graduation from Kanyakumari Vivekananda college he had 20 options written in his dairy to work in which the last was server in hotel. During such dire need for salary few of his friends talked to him about demand for Mathematics teachers in Nagaland. Without much details he boarded the weekly train to Guwahati from where he reached Nagaland and entered a Baptist school at Oka for Rs 700 per month as salary. He narrated his 5 days train journey with out reservation on a unreserved compartment in the upper birth. He did not think of anything as that was a big money for him he could save maximum and send home. His flair for teaching earned him good name and respect from the villagers. Within two years the head master of the school moved to another private school, forcibly took Murugan for double the salary. In the mean time there was a written exam for Nagaland Government teacher’s post which we qualified and got appointed in 1992. In 1995 competed B. Ed. from Annamalai University. He was happy to get a government job and his satisfaction of being a teacher continued in spite of remaining as a contractual employee till 2006. As per the Government of Nagaland policy if any local person qualifies for the same post for which a non local is already appointed, the job would automatically get cancelled. With such risk he stayed on as he liked the local people, his love for teaching Mathematics to young kids and of course the salary.
In his was sailing through his professional life, he got married, has two children, studying in his native place. He goes home twice in a year. All his siblings are married and well settled. Mother lives in the village with one of the brother.
As a teacher he finds complete satisfaction in teaching Mathematics to his school children. His innings from making effort to understand Zeliang (the tribal language) ‘chima’ (don’t know) and ‘kethe chima’ (don’t know anything) to ‘chitha le’ (I know) and ‘thouda le’ (I got it) has brought the National award to this passionate teacher. He is well versed with several tribal languages and Nagamese. He has become one with the local community. He is proud to say that some of his students are his colleagues in the same school now. He has adapted to the food and climate of Peren and the serene surrounding. He feels uncomfortable when he goes to his hometown due to the extreme heat there.
He remembers his mother and her struggle, the freedom she gave her children to go the way they think is the best for their family. Only because of her fearless farewell when he boarded the train to Nagaland he could work without any doubt and establish himself in a distant land that is unknown and little connected with India geographically and culturally.