It’s Not a Teacher’s Job to Teach. It is a Student’s Job to Learn.

By Suchitra Sairam

“A teacher never teaches. A student learns.”
-Zakir Hussain
Internationally acclaimed Indian music maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain is the pre-eminent tabla virtuoso of our times. He’s also credited with being one of the architects of contemporary world music.

On one hand, he was destined for musical greatness as the son and prime disciple of 20th century tabla legend Ustad Alla Rakha.

On the other hand, his greatness comes from being an exemplary student.

Zakir-ji says, “A student must inspire a teacher to teach.” This, coming from a man who trained under his father’s watchful eye from the time he was 7 years old. Yet, he would also practice and practice, “waiting to see if I would get any attention from The Man.”

The attention came when he took lessons given to him, and he embellished or enhanced it further.

What did this inspire from his father and guru? The next idea or phrase, adding another twist, angle, point of view and level of difficulty. This led to the next level and layer of growth and exploration by the student.

And this growth cycle would continue endlessly.

🔁 A lesson leads to practice.
⏩ Practice leads to understanding.
🧭 Understanding leads to exploration.
🔆 Exploration leads to inspiration.
💡 Inspiration leads to innovation.
💫 Innovation leads to growth.
According to many great masters of Indian arts, the flow of knowledge is like a fast-flowing, engorged river. That river of knowledge passes near each of us through our teachers, parents, bosses, mentors, peers – anyone from whom we learn.

It’s in our control to take a cupful, a bucketful or a truckload from that river. Or we can keep walking alongside the river.

It’s easy to complain about bad teachers, bosses or mentors. But are we, first and foremost, good students, employees or mentees?