Sunday, July 04, 2010

Alvidaa “Head Sir”?

 Our Head sir: Ansari Mohammad Raza sitting on my right

In my head, I swim, slow laps in the chilly waters of a long rectangular pool that exists only in my imagination. My arms, pale and thin, dip in and out of the water in methodical strokes. I am alone, and the sun is shining. It seems the sun is always shining…. I swim whenever I start to panic: when my breath comes in short gasps and I feel like I will float away, a drifting, tattered kite that disappears into the endless red glow of a desert sunset. If I don't keep moving, I won't survive.                                                                            (Jackie Spinner, an American Journalist)

The year was 1990. A lean man in his mid thirties walks inside a tiny classroom full of tiny tots wearing a light-grey safari suit. There is a sense of sincerity as the deep penetrable eyes of the lean man pore over students. The deep sockets quickly scan over its innocent audience to familiarize with young Turks. The lean man leaps forward on the teacher’s bench and clears his throat. Then his composed voice breaks the eerie silence and fills the vacuum left by the chatter of students. Sentences of advice and inspiration that flowed from mouth of the lean man on a June 1990 morning are a blur. Suffice it to note that was my first impression of our “Head Sir” as we affectionately called our principal. The first indelible and brief encounter left me with awe and reverence. I was in second standard. It’s been twenty years and a lifetime but the impression still remains etched in memory. So does the phrase “awe and reverence”.
So how does one say farewell to the man who has given many farewells to thousands of students over the last 33 years of service? Words fail me as I punch my keyboard in the last nerve and muscle wrenching phase.
The word ‘farewell’ would be gross injustice; I would rather use the word ‘tribute’. We will never say farewell to Ansari Mohammad Raza, our beloved “Head Sir”.
It is true that “Head Sir” never taught us. He inspired us to dream. Dream shapes in one’s imagination. And imagination is far more important than education. It is also true that he didn’t educate us. He inspired us to seek knowledge. And knowledge is far more important than education. It was head sir’s pat on the back that made me distinguish between ‘education’ and ‘knowledge’. I literally fainted in class 7 when I was ranked 4th in the annual examination. It was Mohammad sir who consoled me by patting my back as if nothing went wrong. That was one of the finest moments of non-verbal communication in my life. That pat signified the difference between education and knowledge. From then onwards, I have never chased for numbers. Mohammad sir would never know how many students he must have inspired; each in unique way.  Inspiration has always been the core ideology of “Head Sir”; he devised new means to inspire students.
As William Arthur Ward, the American teacher, once said, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” Lebanese philosopher Khalil Gibran adds, “The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.”
I have coined 3 ‘I’ of success which can be applied in almost all walks of life: Imagination, Implementation and Introspection. As far as I know Mohammad sir has always believed and followed in these three words. I am tempted to quote writer Hanif Kureishi who once remarked, “It’s not the lack of opulence that disturbs me, but the poverty of imagination”.
Mohammad sir departs from us at a crucial time when the post of “head master” like that of an editor is under threat from proprietors and school management. In the heydays of journalism, editor enjoyed full editorial control. Same was true with the post of “head master”. I have no hesitation to declare that Mohammad sir belongs to that rare and vanishing breed of head masters who have always maintained independent control over educational matters.
It is often said that a good teacher is like a candle - it consumes itself to light the way for others. This is a canard. At least I will not use the analogy of candle for Mohammad sir. He is that candle who will always light us. The time has come for the candle to move o
As Jackie Spinner wrote, “If I don’t keep moving, I won’t survive.”

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