Triyatri (1990): Education is beyond schools………….& Coaching Classes


Today is 5th September. We dedicate this day to our teachers, honouring them and remembering their contributions to our life and knowledge. This day as we all know is the birth date of the great academician & philosopher Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, a teacher loved immensely by his students. We celebrate this day as “Teacher’s Day” or “Shikshak Diwas”.

So, after the last CFSI post while I was deliberating on next topic, I saw this date on calendar. Hence, I decided to take up this beautiful movie, Triyatri (1990), which I personally think deserves better recognition. And, I feel it has a lot to do with this day as you will find out later.

Shiksha & Shikshak:

Shikshak (Teacher)- one who imparts education or shiksha.

It is this word Shiksha on which my post today is based. I could not find a better day for putting forth my views or rather few questions on the current scenario of education in our country. And I could not find a better medium to open this discussion than this CFSI movie- “TRIYATRI” (1990). Because Shiksha or learning is the central theme of this movie.


Triyatri (1990) is one of my all-time favourite movies. I can watch it any time, any number of times. It imparts a great message, in the simplest possible manner. It had to of course when it has been made by a very prolific director. A person whose main concern and field of work were children’s cinema- Parvati Menon. After finishing her law studies, she joined FTII in the institute’s early years and has dedicated her life to cinema, especially children’s cinema. Besides many other movies she made for CFSI, Triyatri (1990) perhaps can be considered the best. But that’s only my view.


As the name suggests, Triyatri (1990),  is the story of three yatri or travellers. Three friends- Ravi, Surya & Aadi.

Ravi (Prashant Bhatt), Surya (Tashi Lama) & Aadi (Ryan Beck) are awaiting their 10th standard results. They go to school and are delighted to find that all of them have scored first class marks, in fact more than 80%. With such marks now, they expect to get admission in the best college (junior college) of their city, the then Bombay, Vidya Mandir.

Surya, Ravi & Aadi (from left), our future Triyatri

But they are in for a disappointment, as the cut-off marks of this college are just a trifle more than their scores. This drives them angry at the system and world at large. In this anger they start vandalising hoardings of coaching classes and other public property around them. As Surya picks up a stone to throw a firm hand holds him. This belongs to a police officer (a very dashing Mohan Bhandari).

Ravi explains to him their situation and frustration. On hearing this he remarks: “Apni nakamiyon ko agar duniya ke munh par thopte rahoge to duniya ke saare raaste tumpar band ho jayenge (If you keep blaming the world for your failures, then all doors of this world will be closed for you).”

What does education mean to you……..

After a stern warning and sane advice from him the three friends decide to meet the Principal of Vidya Mandir (Brig. Rajan). The Principal listens to their complaint and in turn puts a question to them. “Incidentally, what does education mean to you”? The responses are different, while Aadi says it means good marks, Surya responds by saying that it means good job and salary. Ravi on the other hand replies, “Main abhi itna shikshit nahin hun ki shiksha kya hai yeh aapko bata sakun (I am not educated enough to tell the real meaning of education to you)”.

As a parting remark the Principal tells them- “Kabhi pata chale ki shiksha ka asli arth kya hai toh mujhe bhi aakar batana (If you ever get to know the real meaning of education then come and tell me too).”

This by the way does not go down really well with the youths, as they come out saying “jab pata chalega na to zaroor batayenge.”

After this meeting, an infuriated and frustrated Ravi plays his guitar disturbing his Dadaji’s riyaz. But since his Dadaji is Utpal Dutt we can expect a cool and unique solution to overcome this anger. Anyways, Dadaji tells Ravi to come out with his guitar and also call his friends with their musical instruments. He tells Ravi’s mother that if they play the classical and western music together it will perhaps create a new kind of music.

A new experiment:

And now with this experiment successful Dadaji (Utpal Dutt) has a new plan for them. To learn more, beyond whatever they have studied in school. He says- “Shiksha sirf school ya college ki char diwaron ke beech nahin payi jati (Education is not found only within the walls of schools or colleges)”. He tells them to take up this quest- ek nayi khoj.

Dadaji (Utpal Dutt) telling the boys to take up a new experiment

Take up your cycles, your music and explore this vast country. Ravi’s mother (Sarita Sethi) however is not too keen. She perhaps feels that the three will not be able to handle it- “Yeh tinon apne apne moje tak to khud nahin dho sakte hain aur aap inhe lambi sair par bhej rahe hain (These three cannot even wash their own sox and you are sending them on a long tour).”. Dadaji laughs at this and says “mother will be mothers”.

The trio is however excited for taking up this task and are soon planning for their cycle trip from Bombay to Kanyakumari.

So now begins their journey. A journey across a part of this vast country. A journey where they meet different people from different places and class and gather new experiences, right from the beginning.

The Triyatri (1990) begin their journey on bicycles

The journey begins & detours:

In the beginning itself as they are detoured from their originally planned path, the ensuing journey is rendered much more wonderful.

As it happens, while on their way they feel they are being followed by a truck. As they stop the truck does. As they start, the truck initially follows and then overtakes them, then again comes to a halt to let them pass. After this happens a few times the kids are a little spooked. So they stop and as they stop the truck stops too. They wonder and are scared what the true intentions of truck driver are. Just then we see the driver alighting from the truck. And as we have a look at the face we know that the man can never mean any harm. Why? Well because the man so alighting from the drivers seat is Dara Singh.

That should be self-explanatory.

At first, they refuse his lift. But as luck would have it Ravi’s cycle breaks down and Dara Singh ji again offers them lift or rather just loads them onto the truck. As they begin to play music (maybe as a way to allay their fears) he hands over the steering to his cleaner and goes to sit with the boys. The cleaner losses direction in the night and the truck goes on a completely different route. A route different for the boys and different for the truck driver as well.

They have reached Belur, Karnataka. It’s morning and the boys get quite excited at the sight of a huge temple building. It’s now the boys turn to push the truck driver into visiting the temple. This is quite a new experience for the boys and also for the truck driver. He says that if it hadn’t been for the boys he would not have had the opportunity to see this beautiful place.

He bids farewell to the boys. And now they are in for a completely different experience. When they are eating in small hotel Surya’s cycle gets stolen, a brand new one at that. They plan to make a police complaint. A local goon however dissuades them and they have to drop the idea.

New route- different experiences:

So, now with only two cycles and the original route missed, they have to plan anew. Among the different options available, the friends decide not to take help from their elders and plan their journey ahead on their own.

Do our Triyatri reach their destination:

How they do it? What they do next? Do they reach their destination, Kanyakumari? What kind of people they meet? And most importantly do the friends eventually find an answer to the question put in by the Principal? Do they find the true meaning of Shiksha/ education? So many questions, but only one way to answer them. Watch it. Watch it for the veterans like Utpal Dutt, Dara Singh, Satyen Kappu, Mamooty, Chandu Parkhi, Ravi Vaswani as they play different parts in this journey. Watch it for the story line. And above all watch it for the answer.

Triyatri (1990)- with Mamooty, a landowner, a farmer, a worker.                        the protagonists of Triyatri (1990) at Kanyakumari, their destination


The journey of our Triyatri, Ravi, Surya & Aadi starts in light of the question asked by the Principal of a college- What does shiksha or education really mean to you? These friends search for the answer through a road trip. In the process they learn few things along the way, and in some ways the people they interact with learn a few things too. Not to mean that everyone should take up their bikes or cycles and proceed on a cross-country tour. No, the message the film really intends is that there is a lot to learn from everything and everyone around us, provided we have a willingness to learn.


So, if it is only about learning from others, what’s the connection, particularly with this day. The Teacher’s Day. Well there is. Because there can be many facets of education. I will only try to find some of them through the views of the eminent teacher in whose memory we celebrate this day.

Some important quotes:

To quote Dr. Radhakrishnan: “Teachers should be the best minds in the country”. A very simple statement with a very deepest of meaning. A teacher should be able to invoke the curiosity of kids in the subject they teach and evoke an interest towards learning.

Like he put it: “True teachers are those who help us think for ourselves.” It perhaps means that a teacher should guide their students and not structure or force them to think or act in a particular manner.

He also said that: “The end product of education should be a free creative man who can battle against historical circumstances and adversities of nature.”

Dr. Radhakrishnan was also influenced by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore’s philosophy. And as Tagore put it “true freedom is where the mind is without fear”.

If we club both the views of these greats we can imagine a situation where there is no fear of education in mind and sans this fear the education is bound to produce men and women who can fight against all odds.

But is that really happening?


What is education really?

In Triyatri (1990), the principal of college asks- Shiksha ka tumahre liye asli arth kya hai. To translate it literally- What is the real meaning of education to you. Sounds like a simple enough question. But is it? What does education really mean to us, especially in today’s world. Does it mean possessing information, or possessing knowledge? Whom can we call educated?

Where do we go to get education from? Schools & Colleges? Coaching Centres? And with the coaching classes today running what my mother calls almost a parallel education/ schooling system, with libraries, bus service and what not, what are schools really needed for?

Education Today:

Life these days is cruelly divided between winning and losing. All and sundry talk about success, successful career, successful life and everything else that goes with it. We are told and conditioned and made to convince ourselves that our child has to have this particular kind of education or else he/she won’t succeed. They almost scare you into believing that your ward is not going to be a winner until he/she joins a certain coaching class. The bright future, the winning streak, the success rate, the “your child is special”, you can make your child a winner- these are the buzzwords today. These words actually convince the parents that their child has to have the if they want them to succeed in life or much better “always be a winner”.

The market of education runs on cartels. Cartels between schools and shop owners. Along with the yearly syllabus we are actually provided with the list of the number of pens, pencils, erasers and sharpeners (in short stationery) that will be needed in a year. And this stationery has to be purchased from a particular store. Nothing doing. You are not even free to buy a simple Natraj or Apsara pencil from a regular stationery store as per your need and choice. And to tell you a secret 5 of the 20 pencils that were bought last year for my niece were never returned by the school. But that’s digressing.

A trifle issue?

This may sound like a trifle issue to somebody. It’s just a pencil why to make such a hue and cry about it. But that’s just it. This supposedly trivial matter has a deeper connotation. The people in the business of education, driven by profit motive, are conditioning our children from childhood for accepting things as per their dictated rules. Because, if it’s just a pencil then why are we made to buy all the 10 or 15 of them in the beginning of a session. The market of education it seems is being by run and controlled by cartels, who in turn literally control and dictate our basic choices and freedom.

The simple matter of stationery, on higher levels translates into a systematic business of structured learning. Again, one might argue that this is the need of the hour. The world today is so complicated, one has to be prepared for the competition and the fast age. True enough. But capable as these might be to help you crack competitive exams or fetch a degree, is that really enough?

Our education might guarantee jobs (even that may be difficult these days), but does it guarantee formation of individuals with deep knowledge and understanding of their chosen profession? And even so how many of those who prepare for these competitive exams will get through. A 5% or the most 10% of the student population. Ok, let’s make it maximum 20%. But what about the remaining. In recounting the 10-20% of these success stories do we even stop to think about the rest. Do we realise their fears of being left behind, the fears of facing failure? And the pressure this fear puts on them.

The fear of failure:

Is this fear of encountering failure and being left behind, turning some of them into fierce, frustrated individuals?

I do not know. But with the current scenario of education, with studies proving that our professionals do not possess the quality they should and with growing insensitivities around, I sometimes wonder if our education system is doing the job that it ought to.

To share a simple anecdote on the matter.

The 5-year-old daughter of one of our acquaintances had a poem recitation competition. The teachers made it clear that the poem has to have a message to be considered for top ranking. And of course, like all good mothers who want their child to be the “BEST” her mother made the girl learn a complete poem on “Beti bachao”- some lines of which went like “why do you kill me in my mother’s womb”. Well for one a 5-year-old shouldn’t be asking that question, and she definitely shouldn’t be reciting a poem, the words and purport of which she does not understand completely. For the other the mothers shouldn’t be in the race to secure that top three positions. And for the most part the teachers shouldn’t be telling a 5-year-old to come up with a poem full of a good message. That’s not the age and that definitely should not be the reason for keeping a poem recitation for kindergarten kids. At that age the foremost purpose of such competition should be to alleviate any fears of stage and cultivating a liking towards this art.

When it’s the teachers themselves telling people to do a thing for securing good rankings- you can take it as a warning signal that something is not right about the way we are taking our education today.

The Burden:

This education system is creating fear, fear of failure, fear of rejection. This fear is first put into the parents and gets transferred subtly (at times not so subtly) to the children. The fear of not having good future sometimes puts so much pressure that they end up without any chance for future at all. Sometimes even the slightest hint of rejection completely rattles some children. I am not just talking about failure in exams, I am talking about any kind of rejection and failure in life. Every other day there is a news when children, as young as 10-14 years, simply end their life for the pettiest of reasons or the slightest of rebukes. And that I believe comes from our treatment of child being treated as special or from the burden we put on them to be a winner, to be in top positions. We are also helping them develop an inflated sense of self-importance and ego in a way that even a smallest of failures, or reprimand either from the teachers or parents, cannot be taken in their stride.

Children today are running between schools and coaching classes and from one coaching to another from as early as the first standard. We want them to have what is sold to us as a bright future.

And in this blinding light of bright future aren’t we constricting the infinite scope of knowledge. Are we giving them enough time and freedom to explore all the sources of knowledge and learning around them. Are we as elders, teachers and parents able to create an atmosphere for learning and a yearning for it. When we claim to do it (the so-called creativity and activity-based learning) we are too busy structuring things for them. And it shouldn’t be like that.


So, we are at the question again. What does education mean? What is the duty of a teacher? Are the kids running between schools and tuitions really learning? Are the schools really able to create interest in the subjects being taught?

Is our current education scenario capable of giving out individuals that are full of strength of character and with qualities of sensitivity and sympathy as a human being? Does it help to build their character? And does that education really helps us gain knowledge and wisdom?

And who can we call a teacher? Only those who teach in a school/ college? Or is the scope much wider?

The answers:

As I said there can be many different answers. And we have to find our own answers.

Can we at least try to find the answers?

Because we have to? Those in the business of education might tell you to do different things for securing a bright future for you kids, but make no mistake that future is what we will give them. Giving them this future is therefore in our hands, not that of the kids.

Because though learning is a continuous process, children are and will always be the focal point of any education system. It is the formative years, the childhood of a person, that determine their and in turn the future of any society and any country. Understanding the true meaning of education, learning, knowledge and wisdom by us is therefore of paramount importance, before we even begin to impart these to the children.

Dr. Radhakrishnan said: “Knowledge gives us power, love gives us fullness.” :

Because as much busy, competitive or harsh this world might be it is our duty to nurture our children with utmost love and care and not tire them out of our expectations from an early age. It is only from our example that they can themselves develop as individuals filled with love and care for others.

Because as scared as you might be of their future, do not forget their present. These years are never going to come back in their life. Never.


DISCLAIMER: The screenshots, stills and videos from the movie are included here only for the purpose of information, entertainment and propagation of children’s cinema. The copyright over the film rests with the owners/ producers of the movie.

TRIYATRI (1990), a must watch: Here’s a link to the movie



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