My Brief Teaching Career - 2

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I took the responsibility entrusted to me for post graduate classes seriously. My first lecture to the M Sc Previous (also known as 5th year class) was on the chemistry of Colloids. Dr Krishnamurty, Principal of College of Science, who had earned a doctorate on colloidal chemistry from the London University, taught us the subject. While preparing for the final examinations, I had found it burdensome and decided to skip studying it, hoping there would be no question on it and to leave it in the choice of questions to be answered. I collected books on the subject from the college library and studied for several hours to prepare for my lecture. During the process, I discovered that the stock of books in the library was not oriented for post graduate studies. With the permission of the head of the department and consent of Dr Jain, I set up a library in the Chemistry Department containing the latest books on all subjects relevant to post graduate teaching. The existing library was not well organised. The books had not been catalogued making it difficult to find the books one wanted. At the same time, it was difficult for the department to keep track of the books issued to students and faculty. I borrowed books on library practices from the general library of the college to understand the methodology and arranged to catalogue the books following a recognised system.

Hunting for books for the post graduate library brought me in contact with the book loving owner of Modern Book House. Apart from helping me with purchase of books for our college library he honed my interest in other subjects and I ended up buying a lot of books for my personal collection. I also further developed my interest in Urdu poetry during this period. Since I didn't know the Urdu script, I was looking for books in Devanagari. I found two excellent books, called Sher-o-Shayari and Sher-o-Sukhan respectively, by Ayodhya Prasad Goyaliya, that covered the history of Urdu poetry in a comprehensive manner. I also bought Deewan-e-Ghalib and Sahir Ludhiyanvi's Mere Geet Tumhare Hain. When I left Jabalpur, I was freely using Urdu words and quoting Urdu couplets.

My tasks in the post graduate section included ordering equipment for the post graduate lab. I got unstinting support both from Dr Jain and Professor Patwardhan. Other senior professors particularly Marawar, Karbelkar and Bose shared with me their experience on the subject. Many new instruments had come into the market to replace the apparatus we were required to assemble in our student days. On receipt of the equipment I would carefully study the instruction manuals, set up the instruments and test them before placing them in the laboratory. Dr Jain gave me a free hand in this task. Dr Jain and Professor Patwardhan left the college in 1956. Dr Gore, the new Head of Department, nominated Professor RP Tiwary to take charge of the post graduate section. Unlike Dr Jain, Tiwary had no experience of post graduate teaching but wanted to show off his seniority. He complained to Dr Gore that I was tampering with the instruments and may damage them. When Dr Gore questioned me, I told him that I was stepping down from my position in respect of post graduate teaching leaving Professor Tiwary to manage things by himself. Accordingly, I stopped entering the post graduate laboratory even when the students requested me. Just before the annual examinations, some of the students came to me with a frantic message from Tiwary asking me to meet him urgently in the post graduate lab. It turned out that despite much struggle Tiwary had failed to set up the equipment and was desperately in need of my help!  
At the end of one year in our jobs we were all interviewed by the MP State Public Service Commission for being formally selected to hold the post of lecturer in our respective departments, thus erasing the term ‘temporary’ from our designations. An ICS officer called VS Jha was the Chairman of the PSC. Later, he became Vice Chancellor of Benaras Hindu University. Dr Krishnamurty was a co-opted member of the interview panel as Principal of College of Science. The Madhya Pradesh government had declared Hindi as the official language and made it compulsory for all employees to know it. It was, therefore, expected that candidates would be questioned about their knowledge of the language. South Indians prepared to answer the question, “kyA Ap Hindi jAntE hain?”(Do you know Hindi?), with a memorised reply, “hAn main Hindi bOlnA aur padhnA jAntA hUn.”(Yes, I can speak and read Hindi.)

During the interview, Dr Krishnamurty asked me to explain the first law of thermodynamics in Hindi. One of the members intervened with the question, “Rao Sahib, Ap Hindi padh liK saktE hain?” (Mr Rao, do you know Hindi?)

“jI hAn” (Yes, Sir) I replied, without hesitation, in the conversational style of reply in Hindi that I was accustomed to.

VS Jha smiled. “He says jI hAn, Principal Sahib, there is no need to test him further.”

KV Ramana Murty, my classmate in M Sc joined the college as a lecturer in the following academic session. Soon afterwards, Dr S Radhakrishnan, Vice President of India visited Jabalpur to take part in the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of the Hitkarini Sabha. Ramana Murty received a letter from his brother Janaki Rama Sarma to try and meet the Vice President and convey his respectful pranam. Sarma had been a student of Benaras Hindu University when Dr Radhakrishnan was Vice Chancellor of that University and had been, like other Telugu students of BHU, drawn close to the VC. Sarma even sent a short letter addressed to the Vice President introducing his brother. Ramana Murty was too timid to go by himself and requested me to accompany him. We went to the venue of the event and found a large shamiana in front of the building where the Vice President would meet and address the participants. There were several officials of the Sabha and volunteers going about their tasks. Some of them were manning the entry gate. There was no strict security of the type we see today for even junior state politicians. I spoke to one of the volunteers at the gate and explained our mission. Ramana Murty showed him his brother’s letter to the chief guest. The volunteer took the letter inside and returning in a few minutes ushered us in. The guests were seated on a carpet covered with cloth spread along the walls of a large hall. We were shown to our seats and told to wait. After the chief guest arrived and took his assigned seat, one of the organisers showed him Sarma’s letter. We were pleasantly surprised when we were escorted to meet the Vice President. Dr Radhakrishnan asked us to sit close to him and when we were introduced asked us about ourselves and about the welfare of Ramana Murty’s brother. We spent a short time chatting with him before returning to our seats. We were impressed with the unassuming cordiality that can only be the attribute of a truly great man.

We had another glimpse of the sterling qualities of the Vice President the next day when we attended a function where he was scheduled to address school children. To impress the Chief Guest the organisers had lined up students from several schools, who were asked to perform physical exercises before he spoke to them. It was a sizzling hot day and the children, who had been asked to be present well before the arrival of the Chief Guest were visibly tired. When he rose to speak everyone expected to find  a display of Dr Radhakrishnan’s well known skills of oratory but the Vice President looked at the children and berated the organisers for their callousness in allowing the children to suffer in the unbearable heat and abruptly closed his speech because he did not want to add to their agony.

When the next session commenced after the summer of 1956, the college shifted to its new premises in Pachpedi. The new building was incomplete. The lecture theatres for Chemistry and Physics were still under construction, so we had to hold classes in the classrooms. Meanwhile a Medical college had been opened in Jabalpur. The medical college was temporarily accommodated in a part of the new building.

Formation of linguistic states had been an avowed policy of the AICC before India gained independence, but after independence Home Minister Sardar Patel had placed it on the back burner, perhaps with good reason. But when AP state had to be created in 1953, after the martyrdom of Potti Sriramulu, the question of linguistic states once again came to the fore and the Government. appointed a three-man States Reorganization Commission (SRC) to study the matter and make appropriate recommendations. The SRC submitted its report in 1956 and Jabalpur became a centre of attention. SRC had recommended creation of a new MP state combining the Hindi speaking districts of the existing MP state with Madhya Bharat and Vindhya Pradesh. Going beyond their terms of reference, the Commission suggested that Jabalpur should be the capital of the new state. Ruling party politicians went all out to grab real estate in the areas expected to develop for the new capital. When this reached the ears of Prime Minister Nehru, he was furious and declared that this recommendation was rejected by the Central government. He berated Ravi Shankar Shukla, chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, and denied him a ticket to contest the next general elections held in 1957. Nehru even refused to locate the first indigenous steel plant at Bhilai in Madhya Pradesh and awarded it to Orissa instead, for setting up in Rourkela. Eventually, Bhopal was made the capital of new MP, inaugurated in August 1956, along with other new states. Teaching staff of the old state were reshuffled on linguistic basis. Professors Marawar and Karbelkar from Chemistry department and Dhande and Patil from Physics, as well as Patki from Zoology department were transferred to Maharastra. Dhande moved to the Engineering School in Nagpur and Patil to Vidarbha Maha Vidyalaya (VMV) in Amraoti. I was retained in Jabalpur along with Gandhi and Tiwari. We got new colleagues and friends. One of them was Suresh Verma. Suresh had done M Sc in Geology from Nagpur and had joined MMV in the early part of the academic year. We became close friends.

When the Madhya Pradesh government declared Hindi as the official language, it also mandated that all government servants should clear an examination to test their knowledge of the language. Those who failed to do so would be denied their next increment and confirmation in the job they were holding. The Government also decided to introduce Hindi medium in the teaching of science subjects. A Committee headed by Dr Raghuveer had compiled a dictionary of scientific terms in Hindi for this purpose. For teaching staff, the Hindi test included questions on the new vernacular terminology. Only those whose mother tongue was Hindi and others who had taken Hindi as a subject in the Matriculation Examination or had obtained the Sahitya Visharad degree from the Hindi Sahitya Prachar Samiti, were exempted.

When I was in college, one of my classmates had initiated me into the examinations conducted by the Hindi Prachar Samiti. Finding time on my hands I had decided to attempt the examination leading to the Sahitya Visharad diploma. I got the prescribed books and began my studies in earnest. I was confident of passing the exam but after a while I began to wonder whether it was worthwhile and gave up the attempt. But I was not perturbed by the prospect of appearing for a test in Hindi. I had Hindi as a subject up to my middle school. There was not much in the Hindi test anyway, a few translations and compositions which I could handle with ease.

The other candidates for the test included Professor SA Faridi of Persian and Arabic. They asked for my help and I freely gave them tips to clear the test. Prof Faridi found it difficult to follow my advice as his knowledge of Hindi was minimal. During the test, the organisers us without an invigilator, esteeming our position as teachers. Struggling with his compositions as time was running out, Prof Faridi waited patiently until I completed my answers. When I was done, I showed my answer sheet to him. Prof Faridi promptly copied the contents into his sheet.

The result of the test was announced after a month. All including Prof Faridi had cleared the test, except me. It took me some time to digest the news and recover from the unexpected setback. I prepared for the next test with diligence and caution avoiding contact with other examinees. A new item was added to the test. Candidates were asked to read a handwritten manuscript in Hindi. When it was my turn, I held the manuscript in my hand, read it in one breath and returned it to the examiner. Impressed by the performance, the examiner remarked that my knowledge of Hindi was very good and wondered why I hadn’t passed the last time. I told him politely that he alone could the answer that question. I discovered later through internal sources that when the examiner who had valued my answer sheet for the previous test, he had noticed that the compositions submitted by two of the candidates were identical. One was written by a Muslim professor and the other by a South Indian. It seemed obvious visitors o him that the South Indian had copied the composition written by the Muslim. Accordingly, the Muslim was passed and the South Indian failed.

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