Sep 4, 2013


A teacher remembers his teachers…

Khaliqur Rahman

Let's go then, you and I … with apologies to T S Eliot … where Education is spread like a patient etherized upon a table. Fashionable physicians, surgeons and, of course, some quacks rush in where Specialists fear to tread. Anyway, all those who've rushed in to ‘doctor’ education, register prescriptions which soon turn into valuable material for precious documentation in the form of a tome fatter than Gray's Anatomy.
Treatment for the ‘sick’ is recommended ad hoc, as the patient is feared to slip into coma at the sight of the growing crowd. Everyone seems to be waking up suddenly from a long deep sleep. But that we do every year. Kumbhakaran sleeps for six months. We've comfortably doubled it!
A few days before the Teacher's Day, the Birthday of former President Dr Radhakrishnan, we earnestly value Education, at least on paper. Our alert Press is always there to uphold national interest.
Therefore, a local Daily diligently prepared a Questionnaire of FIVE fanta+stick, sorry, fantastic, questions, the answers of which, they thought, would solve all the problems related to EDUCATION, at least for a year, so that the nation could go to sleep again until next September.
The Newspaper has received and published the answers to these wonderful questions from all the Very Correct VCs of all the State Universities. The VCs, unlike most students, have answered all the questions, in nearly two full pages of the Newspaper, which everyone feels will prove valuable to last the year in solving all Educational problems.
I am now in the 50s and very proud to be a St Paulian! I love my teachers in St Paul’s. Mr Dandekar, the Principal, then, Mr Narsaiya takes over. Mr D L Jha, the Maths teacher, Mr Rajimwale and Mr Mishra, the English teachers, Mr Williams, the Drawing teacher are some unforgettable names. The two great pillars of the teaching staff, fondly known as NNB & KCB, are the wonderful all-rounders. They can teach any subject. No St Paulian can ever forget the other all-rounders like Mr C L Shrivastava, Mr D N Thakur, Mr W T Paul and Mr W M Paul. Then who’ll forget Mr S P Shrivastava and his ambi-dexterous versatility on the blackboard?
I can go on but I come to 1979. My uncle, Mr Fazlur Rahman Khan, a senior Secretary in Pakistan Civil Service, comes to India and remembers his old St Paul’s teachers. He recalls Mssrs D L Jha, NNB and KCB and asks me if they’re around. We go to meet Mr KCB who now lives close by. We walk down and are led into the room where the old man now is mostly in bed. He recognizes us and asks us what we’re doing. I say I am a Lecturer in English. My uncle says he’s a Senior Secretary, Customs and Excise in Pakistan. His face lights up. Then I say I am an MA in English because he taught me English and my uncle is an MA in Geography because he taught him Geography. Happy heart instantly pours out proud tears. Our respect and his love fill to the full the cup of compassion. The teacher weeps, the students are moved for life.
I have always been very lucky to find myself in the galaxy of excellent teachers. During MA, very brilliant teachers are coincidentally there on the staff. Prof P N Shrivastava teaches Chaucer and he knew how to pronounce Chaucerian English because Scottish teachers had taught him.
At CIEFL, short for Central Institute of English & Foreign Languages, I have Dr R K Bansal as my Supervisor during MLitt in Linguistics & Phonetics. Dr Bansal was Gimson’s student who was the student of Daniel Jones, both widely known for compiling the English Pronouncing Dictionary. At CIEFL, my friends, no wonder, find me boasting of being the academic grandson of Daniel Jones!
Dr Bansal asks me one day who I think is my best teacher of English. Cricket, I reply, despite all excellent teachers around, including Dr Bansal. He, then, asks me to pick the best from all subject teachers. I pick Mr D L Jha!
It always takes the ‘good’ with the ‘bad’ to make this world go round. In earlier times, the ‘good’ out-numbered the ‘bad’ in teaching. In such a situation, the quality of life goes up. The present world scenario shows that the overall quality of life has deteriorated. That means education has failed to produce sustainable out-put. Voices of concern keep coming.
As has been rightly suggested, the 'bad' trickles down from the top. But the 'good' is always raised from the bottom and pushed to the top. A good teacher does that. Let's hope this happens. Pray, long live THE GOOD TEACHER and may his tribe increase!

Sep 3, 2013


Khaliqur Rahman

I don’t know where the night before I was and what stopping-place it was that in all directions, it was the dance of the victims; the night before.
That’s an ordinary attempt to translate the extraordinary Persian couplet of Amir Khusro.
Namidaanam che manzil bood shab jaaye ke man boodam
Ba har soo raqs bismil bood      shab jaaye ke man boodam
Where exactly he was and what exactly it was that he witnessed. He hinted only this that he witnessed, the dance, in all directions, of the victims. Then, who is the Shikari, the Gamesman, of these victims? And, who are the game, the victims? Why are they called the victims? The poet has conveniently left all the answers for us to imagine and speculate; for us to flutter the wings and struggle to fly on the wings of, what else but, imagination and reach as high as possible and still try and make out what he had seen that night that lifted him to that point of ecstasy, that he could not help but write these mysteriously beautiful lines.
Does he capture the vision, a total panoramic vision, of all the Universes, and the planets, like electrons in an atom, revolving round the nucleus, in each of these Universes? The Earth, revolving on its axis, is also moving round the Sun. The planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, are all moving round the Sun, as well.  The Moon is moving round the Earth. And, in all other Universes the same dance the same way, he sees.
He sees Life, in all forms and shapes, engaged in the same dance.
The heart, a universe in itself, is beating in and out the drops of blood. They are dancing, up along the veins and down through the arteries, to the tune and beats of the throbbing heart. The lungs, busy in their own dance, are sucking in, the breath of life, and pushing it out again to make way for the life’s next instalment. The brain, the centre of all kinds of nerves and vibes, is directing countless dances.
Innumerable bodies, of men and women, of animals, of birds, of insects, are managing to dance to the tunes of the heart, of the lungs and of the brain.
This is not all. Add to this the totality of Plant Life. Life dances there as well. The plants and trees suck water from beneath the Mother Earth and the dancing liquid takes the course of multitudinous tributaries until it reaches the very top. From the top, they suck air; two different airs in two different ways at two different times, of the day and of the night, to provide the breath of life for themselves and for all the other living beings, thus orchestrating and choreographing and also dancing at the same time the Dance of Life.
All, all these beautiful steps, the charming movements and the entrancing postures of this beautiful dance and the beautiful dancers are but game to dance at the behest of the baton in the hands of the Great Hunter. The marvel is: the Hunter and the hunted love the game and the hunted falls in love with the Hunter all the way, well down to the finish!
To complete the flight, he arrives at the Houseless House in which the Hunter Himself heads the Assemblage and the Lamp, that bathes in Light, all and entire, is the Prophet!
Khuda khud Meer-e-majlis   bood       andar lamakaa’n ‘Khusro’
Mohammad shamm-e-mehfil bood shab jaaye ke man boodam
This Houseless House is his own body. The Meer-e-Majlis occupies the seat of the soul. Majlis, that is, life, is going on. Isn’t then the very breath of life is the Light of the Lamp? The breath goes and comes back, goes and comes back. Then, the breath goes and doesn’t come back. The Majlis is draped in darkness. The Light is out. Meer-e-majlis terminates the Majlis. The soul departs when there is no breath.
If the Prophet is the very breath of life, not just of human life but of the animal life and of the plant life, and indeed of life in all shapes and sizes, then, Khusro must have realised the Prophet as a Universal Entity, as Rahmat-ill-il-‘aalameen which is just another epithet of God Himself who happens to be the Hunter and the Meer-e-Majlis.
What better ‘rahmat’, better kindness, better mercy and gift of God to all the Universes and to Life in all forms, all shapes and sizes, than the very breath of Life!

To this day, qawwals sing this composition in sama’-mehfils to cast a spell of trance in which a certain level of bliss and ecstasy is experienced well beyond the boundaries of sects, creeds and religions.