The Professor Challenged Me

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What appears rude, crude or too strict to us, during our student days, are perhaps blessings in disguise. Hemashri pays her tribute to one such , in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.

It was my dream to do post-graduation in one of the country’s leading universities in Delhi but fate had something else in store for me. Finally, I ended up in our very own university. Not that I had no reverence for the institutions in the Northeast, but I longed to be in a more competitive atmosphere and missed my friends, who had left for Delhi. Towards the end of the first year of our course, there came a professor, who had recently returned from his deputation in another university. His method was somewhat different. On the very first day he started the chapter on Market by asking us assuming a normal demand and supply curve, can there be a situation that there would be no interaction of demand and supply curve? It was perhaps to test our of economics. Anyone who understands the concept of demand and supply can easily guess it. So I worked on it and I was pretty sure that I had a valid answer. When I responded he reacted very sharply, “You are being very literary.” I reasoned, “Sir, I have drawn a diagram to explain what I want to say.” Since I was sitting in the middle of a huge class so he asked me to throw my copy to him. I did exactly that. Unfortunately, my copy hit him in the face, but he exclaimed, “Smart girl!” Then going through my diagram he said, “Oh yes, smart reply.” I did not know how to react.

Gradually, his classes became interesting though we found the professor a little intimidating! My sister had qualified for and I had to get some of her papers attested as our father was posted in a faraway place.  I decided to get it attested by one of our professors. I waited outside for a lady professor but she and others were not in the room, except our intimidating professor. I decided to approach him for attestations. He rather rudely told me that he cannot attest any such papers which shall be submitted outside the university. I formed a hurried opinion about the professor as a rude man. After a few days, someone asked me about him on the university bus and I told him, “Oh that sir! He is very rude, crude type.”

Next day, the professor started the class by telling us, “I may be a very rude, crude man to some of you but let me tell you that I take pride on being a good soul. Yes, those of you who think I am rude and crude let me enlighten you that in the final year I will be taking more classes. In fact, on some days of the week, you will have to endure more than one lecture of mine. So it will be better if you prepare accordingly.” I could make out it was exactly what I had said that got leaked out and felt very embarrassed and annoyed but I assured myself he cannot punish me. I pretended to be okay but deep inside I felt very awkward. I could make out that he had a strong network. Soon I came to know he has many chamchas amongst our . We got duly promoted to final year and his classes increased. In his class students would keep the front benches empty as a mark of and he would often insist on getting closer but nobody would move.

He taught us in an interesting way and I observed he was the only professor who would apologise for being late. He used to come prepared for the class and he would make the class interesting and interactive. For some reason, most students were scared of him. He spoke in a way which made us feel that he used to underestimate us as students. Like he would say, “If you do this you may hope to become professors in one of those venture colleges” or he would ask students whether they have a dictionary and then recommend Hornby’s Oxford Dictionary. One day I felt like yelling back at him that I have been using that dictionary from Class IV. He told us about UGC’s JRF and NET and said it is very tough and there is very remote chance of we clearing it but still at least once we should give a try. His comment was so belittling that on the spot I decided I shall have to sit and clear it. I appeared for this test immediately after my finals and in my very first attempt, I cleared JRF and NET. When the results were communicated by letter to my parents I was posted in Nagaon as an EAC. The first person I had informed the result was this professor.

The professor used to challenge us to perform better and it was only after leaving university that I realised perhaps it was his way to bring out the best in us. If he would not have told us about JRF and NET examination probably we would not have even known about it. The JRF Certificate was the best ornament of my academic where it was mentioned, “You are now qualified to be a teacher in any Indian University /College”.

Thanks, dear teacher, for making this possible. Perhaps I will always be indebted to you for giving me an opportunity, which gave me a tremendous in life! Often we judge people wrongly for their straightforward or cynical ways and it takes maturity to realise their real worth.

I only hope it’s not too late!

©Hemashri Hazarika

Photos from the Internet

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Hemashri Hazarika is an Officer of the Assam Civil Service since 1997. Her research on Assam Civil Service brought reforms in 2015. A first-class Postgraduate in Economics from Gauhati University, she was awarded JRF/NET by UGC in 1997. Her experience as a bureaucrat has sensitised her to human sufferings. A solutionist by passion, she takes an active interest in issues related to Governance, Development, Women, Children, etc. Reading, Writing, Speaking and Painting are her hobbies.