When Ajaz Ahmed, who runs the 'Shubhodaya Vidyalayam' in the Siddipet town of Telangana decided to upload one of his lessons teaching the English alphabet to a class on Facebook, little did he realize that it would go viral.
"A friend had suggested that I upload that video on Facebook. I have been amazed at the response it has generated," the 51-year-old says.
At the time of writing, the video had more than three million views. In the video, he simplifies the learning of English alphabets and tells his students that it's all about getting the slant right.
(The video reproduced by TNM with Ajaz's permission)
However, even as praise pours in for him, teaching is not all that Ahmed does. He is also an author, singer, anchor, news reader and translator.
"I was born in Peddemul village in Tandur mandal, into a poor family. Most of my early education was informal, as I spent a lot of time with my grandparents and used to go and learn from one 'Yadagiri sir' who used to teach me and another student. He had a great impact on my life." he says.
"Eventually, we shifted to Hyderabad and I wanted to continue with my intermediate education and then do a graduation but my father was dead against it," Ahmed adds. Since his family was poor and was going through a financial crisis, Ahmed had to work before and after his classes.
"I used to work as a paper boy in the mornings, go to college, and then drive an auto in the evenings. After my graduation in B.Sc (Hons) Zoology, my father insisted that I continue to work as an auto driver and I refused," Ahmed says.
It was then that he moved to Siddipet, seeking to start a new life.
"For two to three years, I had a great difficulty finding a job. One day when I was applying for work at a tiles shop, the owner saw that I was educated and asked me if I would teach in a school," he added.
Ahmed then goes on to narrate a story, which he finds highly amusing.
"He asked me my name and I told him that it was Ajaz Ahmed and he was shocked that I was a Muslim. He then immediately said that he couldn't give me the job, and thought that I was Hindu, when he heard me conversing in Telugu," he says.
"He was pretty embarrassed that he had even offered me the job, because it involved wearing a dhoti and teaching the Vedas and the Upanishads. However, I needed the job really bad and took it. I worked hard and read all the books. I used to brush up on my Gita during the holidays," he added.
Ahmed eventually quit that school, and started working as a teacher in another local school at Siddipet.
"That was where the experimentation started and I tried to make the class fun for the children. I found similarities among various letters in English, Hindi and Telugu and decided to use it for my advantage," he says.
After a few years, five people including Ahmed decided to start the Shubhodaya Vidyalayam. "We had a little difficulty in setting up the school but we managed to borrow from friends and family and built it in 1994. K Chandrasekhar Rao had inaugurated the school at that time. Initially we had to alternate classes to fit in all the students, but now that problem is solved," he adds.
Since then, there has been no turning back for Ahmed as his school now teaches children from Classes 1 to 10.
"We get a few underprivileged children, and we ask well-wishers to pitch in their money, which we then use to fund the child's education," says Ahmed.
Ahmed's focus is on neat handwriting and he holds various seminars across Telangana to inculcate the habit in students.
When asked why, he says, "The simple answer is that a neat handwriting guarantees better marks. However, that is not all. They also help the child become more creative and focused."
According to Ahmed's techniques, all it takes to learn Telugu is 'perfect zeros,' while Hindi alphabets need straight lines and English needs slightly slanted lines.
He enjoys being a teacher, and is happy with the way things turned out.