(Introduction and Interview by: Smriti Prakash with aid from Sakshi Sharma, Edited by: Samud Shetty)
There is nothing like a bruising assessment to remind you of the lessons that really stuck in your memory, and which ones you can’t even remember being present for.
At least with most subjects, the baseline knowledge you require to pass previous grades helps you stumble through a quarter of the new information, but for IB Psychology students, our teachers have been our only hope of getting through.
It was hardly a surprise, at this trying time, that we often reminisced about the superhero that pushed us this far into our journey- Paras sir, whose departure from NPS now reaches it’s quarter year mark. You might not have had the privilege of experiencing his unique brand of HRT discipline, or his ability to expand the world view of those in his class. But, like most of the incredible teachers of NPS, he was a master of many trades- from last year’s Sports Awards DJ to the dance teacher who brought Voyagers to victory in the 2018 IHCs. As we will soon be going into our first year in without him (a.k.a, our second calendar year in the IB), below is a snippet of the conversation we had before he left, filled with reflections that anyone figuring their adolescent experience out can learn from.
To spice it up, and prevent it from taking a turn for the morose, we were lucky enough to get
the famous broTP one of the many paragons of work friendships in the NPS incubator – Paras sir and Siddharth sir-together for an interview. As the latter fairly defies definition (in the best way), his introduction will be kept short- occasionally featured in the Children’s Day production, always a star in our Biology classroom, and particularly popular as a puliyodarai chef, Siddharth sir teaches his students how to learn- and that, hands down, is the most valuable skill of all.
Read on to get to know them, and (because they both are just that tirelessly philosophical) yourself better…
Smriti (starting with a softball): Alright, what made you want to be a teacher?
Paras sir: Well, I’d be lying if I said I always wanted to be a teacher. To be honest, growing up, I wanted to be an actor. Carrying on into uni, I did law, because I really didn’t know what else to do. But, lo and behold, I didn’t enjoy law very much, so I started thinking about what would give me that kind of satisfaction, and I remembered teaching (nods, thinking back for a second)
So, I basically asked myself, how can you make an impact— and I remember, all my teachers made an impact on me, and when I thought hard enough, I remembered that teachers that didn’t even teach me had made an impact on me. There was one particular teacher who passed away quite young, when I was still in school; and he never taught me, and I remembered just how shaken up I was. So I thought, that’s something, maybe, I could make an impact with, in the larger world…
Smriti: That is so sweet…(because it is)
Siddharth sir: I did always want to be a teacher (
That’s because I noticed that I could only learn if I had to teach my friends, and that I could not study well unless I had a great teacher. So for an exam, even if it was just two days before, and I had not touched the subject, if one of my not-so-well-performing classmates asked if I could teach them the subject, I’d just study that more, and more, and even more, and love seeing them understand it as well. What I love about teaching is saying things and watching people get exactly what I’m trying to say. It’s all about being able to communicate perfectly, without being perfect in content or language. That was fascinating to me.
Smriti: Very cool (right? It’s a great reason). With all that you’ve done since school, is there any advice you can give to everyone struggling with their first and only time?
Paras sir : I think, throughout my adolescence, there’s been this constant fear, “Am I going to make it? Am I going to be happy? Am I going to be successful?”. But, it’s always worked out, for me, and for everyone around me, including all the kids I’ve ever taught. So I feel like the one piece of advice I’d give is to not freak out. (Seeing our suspicious expressions) Seriously, as insane and as difficult as it may seem right now, I think you guys are all going to be fine, all of you are brilliant individuals with amazing personalities.(
confidence affirmed). Seriously, you guys shouldn’t freak out, take it easy. You know that lame cheesy quote, “Everything is going to be alright in the end, and if it’s not alright, it’s not the end”? I genuinely live by that!
Siddharth sir: To add on to that…
Paras sir (raises eyebrow): Here’s a realist…
Siddharth sir: …If what he said is not possible for you and you do tend to freak out, there’s an option for that, you have to make sure you have a good enough support system. One thing I had, and which I hope you all also get to have and develop, is that support system. Mine are my friends, since they’ve been my number one forever. Others are more family people, some are lucky enough to have both as their support systems. I’ve always been lucky enough to have the best friends since my kinder-garden days, till now…
Paras sir: You’re welcome.
( Collective squeals from interviewers)
Siddharth sir: Ya, ya. You’re one of them now. Right, so whatever intense emotions are worth feeling, are best done in the company of others. Of course, everyone needs to have their own time, but it’s important to have a good support system of people, not things, because at some point in your life you’ll have to work with people, so might as well make it something worthwhile and enjoyable. Take a break when you can, and have a sleepover. Do what you like doing- I cook, read, watch movies.
(Bits of garbled conversation where we reaffirm that sleepovers are something that people still do, especially serious adults with happening lives. The answer is yes, and there was surprise that neither Sakshi nor I have had a proper sleepover in ages. Back to your usual program.)
Smriti: Speaking of enjoyable, what surprised you most about students here?
Paras sir: I’ve always maintained that NPS kids are very special. I don’t know if it’s so much the case of cultural uniqueness, or just generally kids are kids. I think what’s different over here is not so much cultural, it’s just that, there’s a sense of warmth here, which I’ve never seen from students anywhere else. I’ve never had kids which have treated me with the sort of love and respect that I’ve got here. Over here, there’s no hierarchy as such when it comes to students and teachers, at least not as much as I was used to . I quickly learnt that there’s a massive advantage with that kind of closeness which you will not find anywhere else, which I am very sad to be saying goodbye to. Everyone was really warm, even the teachers. I was lucky to have all my friends here approach me first- Sid just sat down for lunch with me one day and started talking.
Siddharth sir: I remember, my IB kids saw you eating alone and kept asking me to offer friendship (rolls eyes). But I really think relationships should be natural, so I didn’t want to force it. Plus, all I knew was that you were vegan, and it wasn’t like I was going to cook grass (shots fired, but he’s 100% joking). One day I just happened to have a question, so I came over to your table.
heartbreak translated to nodding, conversation steered elsewhere): OK then. If you could teach another subject what would it be?
Paras sir: Ha, we talk about this all the time. It’s pretty much a quarterly staff discussion.
Siddharth sir: There’s philosophy, there’s psychology, there’s history…
Sakshi (To Paras sir): Would you teach Bio?
Paras sir: Nah…It’s not my kind of thing (oooo)
Siddharth sir: That’s not how friends work.
(Laughter, because, aw.)
Paras sir: Eng Lit, not even Lang Lit, just Lit straight up. It’s a gorgeous subject.
Siddharth sir: Phil, Psych, History, Literature… All my IB kids know that Bio was not my first interest ( this is true, verified by said students). The only thing I can relate with “millenials” to is…commitment issues. I’ve said this to pretty much every class I think, the reason I love TOK is because I don’t have to commit to any subject. If you get bored, move on to the next. It helps you widen your perspectives and see the links between things, and it’s what helps me not look down on any other job or subject or such thing. I am always curious about what people in other jobs or settings or situations do on a daily basis.
Sakshi (to Paras sir). What about you? Teach math!
Paras sir (very, very quickly): Nope.
Smriti: I thought you liked math!
Paras sir: I liked Math, Math never liked me! (
same) It was a very one-sided relationship. For me, numbers and science never really clicked with me, I’ve always been a literature-based type of student. Psych was of course always up there, but theater arts, or drama was my first choice, way back when. This might seem a bit out of nowhere, but I’d love to teach a language, like Spanish.
Siddharth sir:. Yes, I love languages too! I pick them up and discard them, but I love languages. I binge everything and then just…
Paras sir: Discard. Play, and discard. What else… Music, if I had the capabilities.
and tragically brief reveal of a rock and roll life in a college band, and the odd band practice, still. Paras sir plays guitar, apparently. Mind blown.)
Sakshi (back on track): I remember when you came to school, everyone thought you were an English teacher. Because of the look, I think.
Siddharth sir: Oh, I also really want to take film, or film theory. That’s an IB subject, right? I adore foreign films, so that would be a pretty great opportunity.
Smriti: You’d be a good film theory teacher. I can see you walking around, being slightly snooty and overtly direct. You’d have the artist free pass too, so there would be no judgement.
Siddharth sir: Why can’t a Bio teacher be snooty? Nobody says “Oh he’s a bio teacher, let him be”. At least now I’ve changed the stereotype to “Oh he’s Sid sir, let him be”…
(We end with more rambling on defying subject stereotypes, sobbing at the idea of Paras sir leaving the next day, and a time check).