Wind beneath the wings

Wind beneath the wings

Wind beneath the wings

Neil Nitin Mukesh, Bollywood actor

As a student, I needed that extra attention from teachers to get through classes. My maths teacher, Mr Sebastian, taught me in eighth grade and tutored me as well. He was very patient and never gave up on me. He would always encourage me by saying, “Neil, you can do it.” He saw to it that I never gave up on my dreams and taught me to take one step at a time. My proudest moment was when I passed my 10th standard math exam as the top scorer in school. When I went on stage to collect my prize, I walked confidently and learnt that life can have many ups and downs but my journey as a man had just begun. Many years after school, even today, I catch myself at points reminding myself, ‘Neil, you can do it.’”

Alicia Souza, Freelance illustrator

There’s always one person who influences a certain stage in your life. For me, it was Bill Wood. When I was in Melbourne, I learnt a lot of from him. He was the first illustrator I met and I have always admired his work. He was more than a mentor; he taught me like he would teach a friend. I think that’s what made him special. He was so open about how things work and also showed me that there is more to life besides working as an illustrator. He has influenced so many decisions in life and I’m very happy about it. I would like to tell him that he is a bigger teacher than he realises.” 

Shagufta Ahmed, Radio jockey

In school, Mr Kilpatrick would always ask me to write more and talk less. But when I was in the sixth grade, he told me that I did write better than I spoke. Maybe that positive reinforcement is what allows me to write today and it is one of my favourite things.

It’s one of the few ways I like to express myself, even more than talking. I think my teachers would be proud of me because I was such an average student. It was not because I was incapable of comprehending the matter but because I was lazy and distracted. But I always worked under pressure and still do. They would be happy to see that I have made a living out of the one thing they all observed I did well — talking. So thank you for always writing on my report cards ‘great potential but talks too much in class’. I would have never realised just how much I talk.”  

Rehan Poncha, Olympian swimmer and golfer

My swimming coach, Pradeep Kumar, was a big influence in my life. I worked with him closely for eight years and his habits have definitely rubbed off on me. We grew together with sports and our most special moment was when we turned Olympians together. He knew how to handle me when I was under pressure, so whenever I was about to perform, he would tell me ‘You are a champion’. When I am coaching my students now, I adopt the discipline, time management and work ethics that I learnt from him. I would like to simply tell him a ‘thank you’ for being such an important part of my life and also congratulate him for the Dronacharya award. I can’t think of anyone else who deserves it more than him.”        

(As told to Anila Kurian)

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