Professor Mukerjea - My teacher

Today is Teachers’ day. I am remembering Professor Mukerjea. Teachers’ day was not in vogue those days . People used to be shy in expressing their respect and gratitude in words. Saying ‘sorry’ or ‘thank you’ as a social norm was yet to be a common practice. 
Higher education was making rapid development and expansion in the decade of fifties. Our  T.N.J. College, Bhagalpur(Bihar) used to be one of the oldest and respected colleges. Teaching of science subjects up to Hons. Standard was started in 1953. I had offered Hons in Botany in the first batch. The teachers were very excited and enthused.  They prepared their lessons very earnestly and with all sincerity. Professor Bishwanath Mukerjea was the head of the department. I used to be a very shy and introvert person those days and remained largely unnoticed in the class. I came to his attention in a very unexpected and interesting way. It was after the evaluation of the answer books of first terminal exams.  Answers were evaluated by the teacher who taught that topic.  Prof. Mukerjea came to our class room with the evaluated answer books. Expressing his overall impression in his characteristic style, he declared his unhappiness at our overall performance, saying “only one student’s performance is up to standard.” All of us were curious to know the name and were taken by surprise when he named me as that boy. To me too, it was unexpected.
After the class when I happened to meet him, he enquired whether I had sufficient books with me.  I reluctantly told him that I was unable to purchase books due to pecuniary restraints.. He immediately shot back, “in that case  why did you choose to offer Hons, course?” I replied, “Because there is provision for Hons. teaching and I  was selected for the course .” After that he told me, “Take books from me whenever you need” , and then walked away without looking at me. Thereafter a link was established. Whenever I went to his house for books he would open the door and give me the book and then shut the door on my face.
A field study tour to Darjeeling, Gangtok and Kalimpong was organized for students from our department. We were told that the field study is mandatory for Hons. students. I expressed my inability to join the tour due to financial constraints.  Prof Mukerjea told me, “You must accompany us. I shall bear your expenses.” It is relevant to mention here that teachers were low paid those days and that Prof Mukerjea was known as a very miser and self-centered person. I did join the tour, but returned halfway from Darjeeling pretending unwellness. Mukerjea Saheb understood my hesitation and permitted me to return midway.
Prof Mukerjea wanted me to pursue postgraduate studies, therefore he used to impress upon me to study intensely so that I may be able to secure first position in my university exams. “You would be able to do M.Sc., if you get scholarship.” But I was not motivated; I knew that it was beyond me. And then university exams were held. But the practical examinations were delayed considerably. In between once when I met him to enquire about the probable date of practical exams, he once again reminded me about pursuing postgraduate studies and told me to focus on good performance in the practical exams to secure first position.   To this my response was that good performance in practical alone cannot determine the overall results. Prof Mukerjea got annoyed and told me to go to hell. I calmly came out. My performance in the practical exam was very poor. Prof. Mukerjea was one of the examiners. He did not influence the evaluation. I secured the lowest marks. The results were declared.  I was very happy that I passed the exam securing third position. But t when I went to see Prof Mukerjea, he was very angry with me. He greeted me with, “you have committed suicide. You have secured highest marks in theory, but lowest in practical.  I had seen the marks of theory papers during moderation and so advised you to perform in practical. But you did not pay heed to my words.”  I told him, “But you did not tell me that at that time.” He replied “It was confidential at that time.” Then he advised me to apply for appointmentment to the post of junior research assistant in agriculture Department. I did so and was duly appointed. I joined at Sabour, which is loated in the outskirts of Bhagalpur. So my contacts with Mukerjea saheb continued.
After a few months I met a friend during one of my visits to our home. He was a student at Patna. He had learnt from another friend of mine that I was trying for a job in Patna University.  He had learnt that Mukerjea Saheb had told the head of the department of Botany of Patna University that a promising student is unable to pursue postgraduate studies due to financial constraints. So he requested him to provide him an opportunity by appointing him as a demonstrator in his department. Obviously that student was me. I was surprised as Prof Mukerjea had never given any inkling of such a move, though we met not infrequently.  Moreover he was known as a very introvert and reserved person.  I was unaware of the existence of any such provision in the statutes of the university. After coming back to Bhagalpur I asked him about it. He dismissed it saying that it did not concern me. When I insisted, he told me casually to see Dr. Roy of Patna University whenever I happen to go to Patna. It appeared that though he had hope, he was not confident. But when I saw Dr.Roy, he appointed me immediately.  So I could get the opportunity of pursuing my postgraduate studies.
Encounter with such persons equip us with belief, assurance and respect for human relations. I know Professor Mukerjea would not know that he is being remembered. He did not care either.                                    


More by :  Ganganand Jha

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Views: 3378      Comments: 1

Comment This is the best way and time to pay homage a great teacher, who not only identify the needy student, but helps him to grow independently without keeping any prejudice. Such rare example are the milestone of good old days...

Shwet Brata Jha
04-Sep-2012 12:51 PM

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