The man who taught a billion!

Giri ‘Pickbrain’ | Quizmaster and CEO, Greycaps
Mr. Giri Balasubramaniam is a noted Quizmaster and CEO of Greycaps. Affectionately known as Pickbrain, he has presented over 2000 shows across nine countries of the world and has authored several GK books. He is a popular speaker, educator, and youth mentor.  An alumnus of the prestigious Harvard Business School, he is the driving force behind several educational and knowledge initiatives of Greycaps. He is also a TEDx speaker.

Dr. Kalam loved quizzes, especially when it was for school children. He was like any other curious child while at a quiz. He would even sit at the edge of his seat and listen with great intent as if I would direct the next question at him. It was during a quiz for rural children where he was our guest that he spoke to me about the need to ‘celebrate teachers’. He said, “We celebrate when our children do well. We should celebrate our teachers in the same way. Why don’t you start something for teachers?”

That thought led to the creation of, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this year. The print edition that you now hold in your hand is an extension of his vision. While the world knows him as a visionary, he was also a great teacher. A rare modern teacher for whom the age of his student or the size of his audience never mattered.
Here are five things we as educators could take away from a great teacher, who taught a nation of a billion, a few invaluable lessons.
The Importance of Dreams
Dr. Kalam was a natural success coach and arguably the best motivational speaker this nation has had in the modern era. At one of his talks a child asked him, “Sir, if you were my teacher what would you urge me to do?” Pat came to his reply, “I will urge you to do only one thing, and that is to dream.” He had astounding dreams for India and Indians. He always said, “You have to dream before your dreams come true.” As teachers, let us make it a point to make our students dream. Dreams are what help them form aspirations over a period of time.
Being a Genuine Friend
If Dr. Kalam was loved by millions, it was because all of them saw a friend in him. His talk, actions, and behavior were always genuine and friendly. It helped him connect easily with people, across age groups. It also made him younger as he aged. We need to learn from him that if we are genuine, friendly and open ourselves to people, it helps us stay young. It also helps the young to reach out to us more easily. Let us not forget that he was perhaps the only youth icon India has ever seen at an age of 80 plus.
The Power of Humility
If we were to ask people to choose just one trait that appealed to them most about Dr. Kalam, the odds are it would be humility. This is something we must practice and ensure it is a virtue we teach our youngsters. Even when he became the first citizen of our country, he stayed humble, approachable and always connected. It is appropriate therefore that he is often remembered as the ‘People’s President’.  
Helping people see tomorrow
Great teachers don’t merely teach. They help you envision the future. Dr. Kalam always made people see a bright future. He also urged people to be positive and to never get bogged down by anything. What was amazing though, was his uncanny ability to explain his vision in simple words to people across age groups. We educators must learn to not just be able to illustrate the future but do so with simple words for everyone to understand. People respect people who show them the way to their future.
Keeping the child in you, alive
Dr. Kalam had a very visible child-like side to him. After the rural quiz that he attended, he was walking away from the stage when he suddenly stopped, turned and said, “We never had these buzzers during our school days. Can I press it once?” It was the child in him that came alive. As the whole crowd clapped with joy, he had a beaming smile as if he had achieved something new. As educators, we need to keep reminding ourselves to not disconnect and distance ourselves from our students. When the child in us is alive and active, it makes us more endearing.
For us, at The Teacher, as we dedicate this journey to our beloved former President, it is also a profound desire through this not for profit initiative, to continue to foster a teacher community and serve as a medium for teachers to share their knowledge, experiences and best practices. The cornerstone of would be to build a better India, together, to realize the vision of Dr. Kalam in some measure.
This article was originally published in magazine in the month of July, 2018.