On This Teachers' Day, An Ode to SP Singh and Others Who Touched My Mind

Rajendra Prasad Thakur, Balkavi Bairagi, Bhavani Prasad Mishra – the teachers who made me Sanjay Puglia.

8 min read
On This Teachers' Day, An Ode to SP Singh and Others Who Touched My Mind

There are countless teachers in our life. Whether we know it or not, whether we believe it or not, every day, we learn something from someone. It is impossible to thank them all. While expressing my gratitude to all such people, known and unknown, I would like to mention a few people from whom I have learned a lot, who have a deep influence on me.

I start from the beginning.


Rajendra Prasad Thakur

Rajendra sir taught all my brothers and sisters. At that time, apart from schooling, tuition at my home, located in Sahibganj, Jharkhand, was an essential thing. Rajendra sir placed great emphasis on clear speaking, pure pronunciation and excellence of language.

Rajendra Prasad Thakur

A teacher is usually someone who is serious and tough, but Rajendra sir is not like that. He always had a friendly heart and a special glow on his face, which comes from high intellectual confidence. He is a member of many families in that city. Remained a part of our family too.

I was the youngest in the house, so I would get his most affection.

After home schooling till the third grade, I went to school in the fourth grade. Then I came to know how 'cruel' he was. Admittedly, I had lagged a bit in my studies, but because of him, I failed and got stuck in fourth grade for one more year. He did not even give me passing marks in the subject in which he checked the copy.

After some time passed, he told me the truth. The answer script had been weak. He had thought of giving me the necessary thirty marks to pass, but after thinking a little more, gave me the marks that I should have received, because he thought that if I was permitted to lax once, this laxity would harm me in the future.

Lesson – He taught me at a very young age what cruelty, fairness, and absolutism is. I do not claim that whatever good I have learned, I follow it. On Teachers' Day, I am writing this article only to tell you whom I learnt from.

I was a puzzled sort of creature until high school. But when I came to the open college, my mind was more involved in extracurricular activities than in class, due to which many teachers showed me the world outside the text book. In those days, plays like Sultana Daku were performed in annual functions. Then, many of our teachers blew a fresh breath of air into the campus. Professor Shyam Kishore Singh chose Vijay Tendulkar's most famous play – Panchi Aise Aate Hain. I got the lead role. He aroused and shaped my interest in the subjects of fine arts.

The advantage of participating in debate competitions was that Professor Arun Kumar Sinha, who was fluent in English, opened the world of national and international subjects. In the course of preparing for debates, I saw the world of books such as Future Shock and Animal Farm, thanks to him.

Professor Rameshwar Mandal paved the way for my understanding of social contexts like history, justice and equality. Vivekananda Jha taught chemistry, but he also taught Vivekananda's spirituality. Professor Naseer Ahmed Ansari was a professor of zoology, but his debates on the big questions of politics, forest, land, and environment helped me develop an understanding of the present times.


Balkavi Bairagi

When I was thirteen years old, the country's well-known poet, lyricist (for many films including Reshma and Shera) and politician, Bairagi ji came into our lives. Because of him a new world opened up.

Mothers and fathers are the first teachers of everyone. I am not going to discuss that here. But the reason for my contact with Bairagi ji was my mother's interest in storytelling, poetry, magazines and literature. The very busy, always travelling Bairagi ji would answer every letter of ours.

He helps everyone. It was all in his habit. He became a close part of our family.

If I didn't go into the family business and thought of doing 'something else,' Bairagi ji has an unintended but very important role behind it. His language, his speaking, his storytelling, his laughter – everything was wonderful. He was on the world stage, but his place remained in his village Manasa (Madhya Pradesh). Neither Delhi, nor Mumbai, nor Bhopal. His entire lifestyle has been a continuous education for me.

Balkavi Bairagi

This one teacher gave me many new teachers, notable among them satirist Sharad Joshi (film – Chhoti Si Baat, TV – Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi) and the country's greatest poet and Gandhian thinker Bhawani Prasad Mishra (Ji Haan Huzoor, Main Geet Bechta Hoon). Incidentally, Sharad ji also became my neighbor in Mumbai. At that time, his daily satirical column was published daily in Navbharat Times. I became his courier. His column would be taken to the office daily for publication.

I had many guides in that office as well. I learned a lot from local editor Vishwanath Sachdev, my seniors Qamar Waheed Naqvi and Ramkripal.

That's why I said that ranking my countless teachers is impossible. But if I had to choose the "teacher-in-chief," I would put two names together. Along with Bhawani Bhai, the country's greatest journalist and original editor, Surendra Pratap Singh.

Bhawani Prasad Mishra

In his writings and in his presence, countless lives have been refined. It is difficult to express this in words, but if it were to be said in one line, then it would be this – he taught the whole philosophy of life – how to adopt high human values ​​in everyday life without the need for preaching, how to let go of one's ego, how simplicity is the most difficult habit, and how that simplicity should be made natural.

Bhavani Bhai taught me how to cultivate both humility and perseverance, lavishing oneself in love, sacrificing anything, not expecting anything.

Bhawani Prasad Mishra


Surendra Pratap Singh

One of his poems is "Mere Kuch Karne Se Ek Bhi Mann Khila Toh Mujhe Kitna Mila." In my teenage years, this one line became the motto of my life. It can be said that the reflection of all the great teachings of Mahavir, Buddha, and Gandhi were added to make Bhawani Bhai, who used to enrich your mind through simple conversation. His half-a-dozen meetings, two dozen letters, and a few books are the greatest wealth of my life. They are perpetual classes.

A letter from Bhawani Prasad Mishra to Sanjay Pugalia, dated 19/5/84.

Bhawani Prasad Mishra wrote to me –

"It is a moment's experience. It may seem half-true or false. But you will also believe that what has been experienced and said is the absolute truth. There are so many people we meet in life. The part of their personality, which is very precious, beautiful, and bright, becomes a part of our personality. And then we come and do not feel sad at all. But somewhere we are very happy and grateful to all those who are now living somewhere inside us."

Surendra Pratap Singh

The struggle of college days was what to do. SP replied. He left Dharmayug and went to Kolkata as the editor of the news magazine Sunday. This was the turning point of Hindi journalism.

I was attracted by his news-oriented journalism. Although my career started with Dharmayug and Navbharat Times in Mumbai, my dream of working with SP was fulfilled when he came to handle Navbharat Times, Mumbai, after spending eight years in Sunday. Then Navbharat Times went to Delhi and then Aaj Tak. I followed him in both places.

Surendra Pratap Singh

SP got Hindi journalism out of the influence of translation and English, and not only gave an edge to it, but also an aggressive quality and responsibility. He broke the slave sentiment and customary habits spread in the news. They were complete idols. The same work was carried forward into TV as well.

When TV journalism had started in India, it had an elite spirit of the imitation of foreign news shows. On TV, SP founded Aaj Tak to present the ground reality of India and a new socio-political India. This twenty minute program started a new era of TV journalism in the country.

Today's news TV is not the SP's at all. When any original research will be conducted on the TV journalism of India, then it will be known that in the good buildings of journalism, there are many bricks in the name of SP.


When SP came to Mumbai, I was thrashing around in many local beats. Police, Customs Department, Income Tax, Airport have been very active beats in Mumbai. After the arrival of the SP, such news started getting attention and a new beat and new theme was born in reporting – economic crime or white collar crime. Nabhata was the first newspaper then, where this innovation happened even before the English newspapers.

SP was not the editor in the cabin. He used to introduce us to many valuable, but also hidden 'sources.'

While he was giving stardom to Hindi journalism, he kept on bringing out the truth. One day, he said that journalists are like a pheasant bird, which raises its feet in the rain in the presumption that now if the sky will burst and fall, she will stop it with her feet, because it is up to her to save the earth.

And check out his stress management class. One day I was angry with my publisher's management on some issue. When I vented out to SP, what he said is priceless, it is fine. He said, " Sanjay, if you want to avoid blood pressure, never burn blood trying to improve these four things in life cleaning the river Ganges, reforming so and so religion, government of India and so and so publication group. Avoid it!"

SP was a "cult figure." When he left the office after reading the bulletin in Aaj Tak, the team would drop him off in the parking lot of Connaught Place. If I ever went, I would stand behind. He came out with a heavy heart after reading the bulletin of the night (13 June 1997) of the tragic incident of Uphaar Cinema. We all went to drop him to the car as usual. Before getting into the car, he put his hand on my shoulder. It was not part of the routine.

That touch is still there today.

We were all hypnotized by him. It is the greatest happiness for me to have been with him and to have done all kinds of work with him. There are many people like me, who are made by SP. I don't know how capable a disciple I became of his, but his words, his decisions, and his attitude show me the way every day.

Here, I have shared my point of view with you about some of the people who left a deep impression on me in the formative phase of life. But the process of learning is continuous, so the meeting of teachers is also continuous. If your curiosity is alive and your focus is clear, then every day is Teachers' Day.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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