O ZRM, My ZRM! – A TISS Alumnus Remembers his Teacher



He came into the room. We sat on our chairs on rows of stairs. We were all fools, absolute fools.

He didn’t introduce himself. Why was he doing so? He’s cold and heartless. And 2 minutes into the lecture, he’s already saying he’ll throw people out if they do this, that, and that or if they don’t do a few other things. Woah! We are all grown-ups here, adults. We have 3-4 year degrees under our belts. This is no way to treat us. Us fools.

How is he so well prepared for the lecture? More importantly, why is he more prepared than me? Than I ever am? Isn’t he the professor and I the student? Isn’t grunt work my thing to do rather than his? Is it grunt work after all? Does he enjoy this preparation? Does he think we do? Does he think we should? Does he care?

Am I thinking too much about this?

Why is his website so plain and simple? Why do seniors keep singing hymns in his name? Why do some of them despise him? Why is his website filled up with this Karma Yoga stuff?

How does he know who isn’t prepared for the lecture? How does he know who hasn’t prepared because they thought he wouldn’t think that they would be unprepared but he did? Why is he so polite? Why doesn’t he berate folks?

Why, in his class, every answer isn’t right? Why is this unlike any other class where I can “gas” my way to glory? Why is his test paper a mix of memory and application? Why is it just the right mix of memory and application? Why do I want to do well in his test while I couldn’t care less about the others?

Am I starting to hero worship him? Already? In the second semester itself?

Do I want him to be my fieldwork guide? Don’t I already have enough on my plate to want him to be my fieldwork guide? Why do I get this feeling I will be able to learn a lot more if he’s my fieldwork guide? How does it even matter? Why does it feel that it matters a lot? Why didn’t I get him as my fieldwork guide?

How is he able to be so frank with his feedback? How can he give such damning feedback without even raising his voice? How can he suddenly make me see things through the right perspective? Is there a life lesson hidden somewhere in here? Why has he left it for me to figure it out on my own, if there’s one indeed?

Why is he so strict on plagiarism? Is it really that important an issue? Why does paraphrasing seem to such a useful skill? Why can’t he make things easier for us?

Why does he not talk in management-ese? Isn’t that supposed to be, like a real language or something? Why do I really enjoy reading the stuff he puts in the compendium?

Why does he know so much about the stuff he’s talking about? Why is the subject so interesting? Is it the nature of the subject or the way he’s teaching it to me? Why does it seem as if he actually does read every assignment I send to his email ID? Does he, at times, cull the highly divergent bits of discussion in the class? Are these bits divergent or irrelevant? Does he know best about this culling business? In which direction would the discussion have moved had it not been for the culling?

Why does he need to work on changing the contents of the compendium every year? Isn’t last year’s stuff relevant this year too? Is the new stuff actually better than the old? How much does he read to finally pick out the stuff that goes into the compendium?

When did this discussion on leadership turn into a discussion about me? Am I a leader? Does he think I am a leader? Does he want me to decide for myself about me being a leader or not? Is that itself part of leadership?

How can he not call Steve Jobs a leader? HOW?! Why I am beginning to question the popular usage of the word “leader” itself?

Why am I not bothered about just my scores anymore, even for his subject? Why do his lectures and the preparation for them seem like a prolonged high?

What is this Personal Learning Journal business? How should I find new stuff to write after every lecture? How is it that I am slowly beginning to enjoy this writing business? How will he evaluate me if I write something on a topic in which he’s not an expert? Will he research that topic in detail so as to be able to evaluate me properly?

Why is he so particular about numbers? Wasn’t HR not supposed to be about numbers? Why does it finally look like HR can impact business? Why is that other article he gave to me in the second semester beginning to make much more sense now? Why do I suddenly feel like that guy who laughs all alone because he finally understood the joke a friend told him last week?

Why am I looking forward to this four hour marathon exam? Why did I look forward to that case study he made us today just a couple of days back? Why does it seem so disconnected from whatever I learnt in this subject and yet I am able to apply ideas developed during lectures and preparation for that same subject? Why did he get tea for us in that exam?

Does he know he has a Facebook fan page? Does he know I wrote his gems on the last page? Why can I suddenly go up to him and discuss career choices?

Does he know he’s very cool? Does he know he’s a teacher for life? Does he know his words seem to hold true even today? Does he know he’s a Karma Yogi as per me and my limited understanding of the term?

Why does he always leave me with more questions than answers?


This has been written for Prof. Zubin R Mulla (http://www.zubinmulla.com) who taught five subjects to the author during his time at TISS – Social Research & Case Analysis, Compensation, Advanced Compensation & Benefits, Organizational Behaviour, and Leadership Capability Building. Well, he actually taught the author much more. He is the current Chairperson of the MA (HRM & LR) course at TISS and an avid researcher in diverse areas.


One comment

Pavan Bhoge

When I read this article, every question that you have posted seemed relevant to what I think about Professor. I feel that I have learnt more in FW icgcs than any other classes till now. And yes! Writing seemed to be an enjoyful activity during FW under him, with questions he left for us to figure out. Thank you for this article. It feels great and connected to yourself when emotions find words as a way of expression.