Pedagogy of Compassion: Prof P N Prakash

Teaching as an organic expression of freedom and compassion: Prof P N Prakash addressing M A English students at SSUS Tirur regional centre.
Teaching as an organic expression of freedom and compassion: Prof P N Prakash addressing M A English students at SSUS Tirur regional centre.

We have notions of engaged pedagogy and enlightened pedagogy in relation with higher education.  But an organic and compassionate pedagogy would be something new and exceptional.  In the evocative and argumentative deliberations and  teaching of Prof P N Prakash the students experience such engrossing moments of learning, realizing and knowing in a critical sense.  This master-teacher’s classes equip the students to seek self knowledge and the knowledge of the other.  The worldliness of the text and the textuality of the world are always present in his class. There is a keen inter subjective dialectics and ethics in the  pedagogic discourses of Prof Prakash.

Prof P N Prakash taking a master class at the English Department of S S University Tirur centre.
Prof P N Prakash taking a master class at the English Department of S S University Tirur centre.

After his graduation from Kerala he went to Sagar University in Madhya Pradesh for his M A in English in the late 1960s.  He began his teaching career in Madurai in an arts college under TN Government in 1970.  Soon he joined the Kerala Government college service and taught in most of the leading colleges in Kerala including Govt Brennan College Talasery, Maharaja’s College Ernakulam, Govt Victoria College Palakad etc.  He retired from Govt College Thrissur in 2003.  He leads a research centre for studies in English and literary studies ever since his retirement at Thrissur where he lives.

Prof Prakash accepted our humble invitation and came to Tirunavaya in late March 2014. He was talking about Indian theatre in English, especially Tagore, Karnad and Tendulkar at the English Department of S S University Tirur centre.  It was a three hour long master class in which he invoked the shared history of theatre from Aristotle to Brecht.

P N Prakash teaching M A English students at S S University Tirur centre in late March 2014
P N Prakash teaching M A English students at S S University Tirur centre in late March 2014

He focused on the women characters in the plays of these illustrious authors in Indian English writing and elaborated the socio cultural milieu of  these characters and their quest and struggle for a human self, rights, cultural desires and identity in the complex world of unending differences.  His comparative and cultural perspectives and analyses were ingenious and instructive.

A compassionate and organic pedagogy: The ethical and egalitarian critical deliberations of Prof P N Prakash at the English Dept of S S US Tirur centre.
A compassionate and organic pedagogy: The ethical and egalitarian critical deliberations of Prof P N Prakash at the English Dept of S S U S Tirur centre.

His compassionate pedagogy includes the marginal and shadowy characters of other women and untouchables in the texts and contexts with an ethical and organic passion for theatre and life. Theatre and ethics matter as life matters.  Through an analysis on drama he was talking about the greater theatre of the diverse world and its “exits and entrances” even invoking Shakespeare as a dramatic genius from the British tradition.  His expertise as an ardent theatre goer and critic was a great resource for the new students; and teachers like me also benefited immensely by his profound exposition and critical re-engagements with canonical texts with a contemporary poetics and politics.

An Enlightened Filmic Pedagogy: Prof I Shanmughadas and Teaching Cinema in Kerala

Prof I Shanmughadas talking to MA English students at the Tirur centre of S S University of Sanskrit on 6 Jan 2014.
Prof I Shanmughadas talking to MA English students at the Tirur centre of S S University of Sanskrit on 6 Jan 2014.

Prof I Shanmughadas is well known to each and every film buff of Kerala.  After his illustrious teaching career in various Government Colleges as a distinguished professor of English across the state, he is continuing his life long engagements with films and pedagogy.  His cheerful talks and subtle deliberations engage people of all ages and orientations irrespective of the region.  He has been a popular voice of the film society movement in Kerala and has been enlightening the rural audiences and common people for decades now.

Keen and charismatic conversationist: Prof Shanmughadas engaging with the students individually and collectively in truly dialogic ways.
Keen and charismatic conversationist: Prof Shanmughadas engaging with the students individually and collectively in truly dialogic ways.

He came to the Tirur centre of S S University of Sanskrit to inaugurate the film club on Monday the 6th of January 2014.  It was the young students who took the initiative to bring him to the rural regional centre.  Prof Shanmughadas was kind enough to take a long class for M A English students after the inauguration ceremony.

Insisting on experience and observation as fundamental premises of studying films: Prof I Shanmughadas in conversation with the MA English students at SSUS Tirur, 6 Jan 2014.
Insisting on experience and observation as fundamental premises of studying films: Prof I Shanmughadas in conversation with the MA English students at SSUS Tirur, 6 Jan 2014.

In the three-hour-long lecture and interactive session he talked about world cinema and Indian cinema.  He was also touching upon the theoretical perspectives and critiques of cinema especially Laura Mulvey and the feminist critique of narrative cinema.  The deeply engaging and individualized speech and conversation of Prof Shanmughadas was an illuminating experience for the students and the academic community in general.

A master class from an enlightened being: Prof Shanmughadas engaging the students and teachers at SSUS Tirur centre.
A master class from an enlightened being: Prof Shanmughadas engaging the students and teachers at SSUS Tirur centre.

Prof Das teaches us to be intelligent and sensitive viewers of cinema and the world that produces it.  His talks also prompts us to read and substantiate our viewing with analytical and meditative thought.  The unique interest and engagement with the visual and the keen critical acumen and passion for critical analysis with a foregrounding of the experiential and the ontological seem to be instructive and enlightening.  His precarious balancing of the aesthetic and social dimensions of the film and the literary texts forms a model and motivation for the young students.  Let this talking and walking buddha of the films come to our doors again and again…

Nature photographer and conservationist Mr Vijesh Vallikunnam capturing the moments of Prof Shanmughadas addressing the MA English students at SSUS Tirur centre.
Nature photographer and conservationist Mr Vijesh Vallikunnam capturing the moments of Prof Shanmughadas addressing the MA English students at SSUS Tirur centre.