Three H and my Favourite Professor

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A renowned professor, a pioneer in the field of quizzing and one who had been associated with the government for imparting training to aspiring civil servants had not received his dues for long seven years. How could this be possible? He had his students all over in the higher echelons of administration. His son was also an officer. Hemashri bares the inhuman administration wherein the good are marginalised, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.

He was my favourite professor and I never missed out a single lecture of his. He made the subject so very interesting. He was unique -very soft spoken and had great command over the subject. Our Professor was also a renowned quizmaster of the state, a pioneer in that field.

I met him as an economics major student of the oldest and most prestigious college. His lectures on Gandhian Economics was so inspiring that I remember it vividly to date. He once explained us Gandhi’s concept of education. According to Mahatma Gandhi, education is all about 3 “H”. Head to think clearly what is right or wrong. Heart to be filled with kindness, love, and compassion for fellow human beings. Hands to work and to appreciate the dignity of labour. Thus, education involves the culturing of these three organs.

After many years of leaving college, I happened to be working in the education department. For developing web content, I had to do an extensive research on the definition of education. To my pleasant surprise, the definition presented by my professor emerged as the best one. Once again, I felt a deep sense of gratitude to him. It was during this tenure that in the year 2008, I visited my University to know about the procedure of Ph.D. registration. After many years again I met my favourite teacher. He had the same smiling face though the ravages of time was a bit visible. After my meeting with him, I met another teacher. When she came to know that I was working in the Education Department, she narrated me that my favourite professor had not received a single pie of his pension dues even after seven years of retirement. She also told me not to let him know that she had informed me about it. I met his wife, who was also a teacher in the same department to know the details. She also confirmed the matter and requested not to tell sir that she has spoken to me about it.

I felt surprised and agonised to know that this renowned professor, a pioneer in the field of quizzing and one who has been associated with the government for imparting training to aspiring civil servants have not received his dues for long seven years. How could this be possible? He had his students all over in the higher echelons of administration. His son is also an officer. Next day, I started my inquiry. I went to the person who dealt with pension matters of government colleges. When told about the problem, the first reaction of the knowledgeable assistant was “Madam, he has not visited our office.” I felt very annoyed. He meant that the renowned professor should have made the obligatory pilgrimage of countless visits to dig his file and pursue it from table to table to get his dues. I could make out he was the only person who could help and I would need his help. So without expressing my reaction, I requested to know from him the pension procedure. After that, I located the file of his pension. From the file, I came to know that our renowned professor served the prestigious College for 32 years but when he had just three months to retire, he was transferred to another government college. None of these two colleges processed his pension prayer. I contacted both the college principals. The principal of the college where he served for 32 years told that he had not retired from this college so they cannot process his pension. The principal where he served for three months said that he was there only for three months so they had no record of his service as he had not even produced the last pay certificate of the earlier posting. Both the explanations were logical but the question remained unanswered “Who will process his pension?” After the initial rounds, instead of getting a clue to solve the crisis, I actually faced another question, why a genuine man like him had to be transferred to another college after 32 years of service only to serve for three months. Is it not a harassment?  The “whys” kept haunting me. Suffering purifies the soul and the sufferer of such “whys” felt more challenged to find out the “Urohi Gosor Ur” (to trace the root cause of the problem).

We had an officer in the premier college entrusted as the administrative officer. I talked to her, requesting to find out the details of the pending case. She informed me that the file of my favourite professor possessed no relevant documents. The concerned principal was not at all bothered, informed the officer. Finding no other option this time I met the senior officers of higher education department to appraise the case. My Boss told that he knows my professor well. I had already become an irritant to many of my over persuasive nature. Due to my own satisfaction, I used to follow up many such pending issues of people who had approached me. Every pending case was documented as a case study. So I thought my professor should at least once visit the senior officer as they know each other. Also, it would empower me to pursue the case. I kept requesting my teacher to come once and tell his story. I tried to convince his officer son to send his father. I wrote a very harsh mail to the professor’s son, who was my junior in service telling him that if he cannot send his father to my office I will be convinced that he is a “Kania” (an idiot). After one failed visit to meet the senior officer, finally, he met my boss. My boss was convinced and a strong instruction was issued to the principal of the most prestigious college to send the pension proposal of the renowned Professor who had retired from service seven years ago. On receipt of the proposal, the reluctant principal finally sent the pension proposal. On receipt of the proposal, it was processed it promptly. Sympathy for the harassed soul facilitated the process. Thank God his wife was a working lady, otherwise, I do not know how he would have survived for seven years. It took nearly one year and a few months to finally see the fruit of the process. He received all his pension dues.

It was a great blessing. I enquired from several sources to understand why my favourite professor was transferred from the college just three months prior to his retirement. Several reliable sources quoted that his immediate junior professor was in a hurry to be the principal and he was also due for superannuation. So my teacher had to be removed to make the junior person principal, who was a well-connected person.

Every time I met my professor he would thank me profusely. He had no idea how much I owe him as a student and that I can never repay him. He had no idea how much satisfaction I got for he received his dues.There was a rule that if a person’s pension gets delayed for someone’s fault, the person responsible for the delay is supposed to pay a penalty. I tried to convince my teacher to kindly submit a petition for payment of compensation. He only smiled and did not reply. The smile said it all. I could make out he does not want any more “jhamelas”(troubles). Who would like to parade before the robots tied to outdated rules?

To invite for his son’s wedding he came searching for our house, address of which he had taken earlier. At that time we were living in a congested rented accommodation. My husband and I were taking out our papers to write some pending reports and the whole room had papers all over when he arrived unannounced. I felt very embarrassed when he arrived amidst such chaos. In spite of our repeated requests, he did not have a cup of tea. I thought of inviting him to dinner and to have a good talk with him. It never materialised. He passed off a few months back, after a brief illness. I could not visit his family after his death. I could not write an obituary. I could not have that long talk with him. Some deaths create a vacuum.

Something precious that he gave me years ago shall remain forever with me.

Education is all about the three H: head, heart, and hands!

Maybe hearts have become only a machine to pump in and out blood through the arteries to keep us clinically alive. Heads have become powerful supercomputers to do the calculations for self-gain all the time. Nothing beyond self-interest is even thinkable by people supposedly committed to serving. Hands are chained to do only white-collar jobs! In the real world full of practically smart creatures, people educated in a 3H way belong to a minuscule minority. One of my fatherly bosses had told me once, “Your training as a bureaucrat is incomplete. You are emotional. You get involved. Be cool.” For a moment I felt a bit awkward and inadequate. After a serious introspection, I decided to let the saner souls be practical. My heart shall always guide me and the head will be an obedient follower.

People fascinate me and their stories inspire to keep me going on this voyage to collect some more life stories.

The man who taught me the essence of education and the three H perhaps was worst victim of a system, which lacked compassion. His removal from the post after 32 years of dedicated service just to accommodate someone else to be the principal was the bad choice of the head. This responsible head did injustice to my professor. The principal of a renowned college had no concern for this long retired professor. The principal had to be forced by an official order to process pension proposal. He had a heart of stone. It was a divine hand that everything happened by chance so that we all could garner several pairs of hands to resolve this long pending case.

Someone told me that my favourite professor was admitted to ICU. I was planning to visit him. After just two days I received the sad news that he was no more. The man who tried to inculcate generations of students’ essence of education did not bother much even his dear ones. He simply slipped away silently…

Rest in peace, my dear Sir!

©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.