A Teacher In Life.....A Teacher In Death
|A Guru - A teacher|
There was a complete chaos in the classroom. It was our second MBBS undergraduate lecture room. As we waited for the teacher to arrive and start the lecture expected disorder, fun, frolic, noise and mischief ruled. Absolutely neglecting the fact that there was a classroom adjoining ours, the entire class of more than hundred students was having a free for all.
|Chaos in the class|
Suddenly all this turned into a hushed silence. Everything suddenly became orderly. Students sitting on the desks suddenly re-positioned themselves no one was uttering a sound and all seemed to be so disciplined. No the lecturer had not yet arrived – but there at the entrance stood a forty-plus, nearly 6 feet tall Professor, very handsome and immaculately dressed but with a stern and disciplined demeanor. He was just standing there without a single word uttered, in a commanding silence. His presence was enough. No word was spoken, no rebuke, no warning. He was apparently taking a class in the adjoining lecture hall and was disturbed by our melee. He was indeed the no-nonsense teacher in obstetrics and gynecology about whom we all had heard a lot but had never seen him before. His personality and power of character of controlling the class by his mere presence at the entrance simply floored all of us. I was impressed.
In just over a year I could realize why he was so respected, loved and popular. He taught divinely. In his first lecture with us he had brought his personal laptop and showed us with the help of videos and pictures a power-point presentation through a LCD projector. It was a big novelty in those days. We could completely understand the mechanics of normal child-birth (the most difficult to understand) easily and thoroughly. I was aware that there were no laptops or LCD projectors with the college at that time. At best, mechanical slide projectors were the teaching aids available.
At the end of the class, while we were leaving, I saw from the corner of my eyes, The Professor walking up to an unknown person whom I had noticed was also sitting in the classroom. He paid that stranger Rs. 1000. I overheard him telling that man in a low voice: “Children could understand this difficult subject. How does a thousand bucks matter?” Obviously he had hired the projection facility from his own resources. It dawned on me then that there are many who teach but there are very few teachers. I saw a teacher!
As luck would have it I did my post-graduation in obstetrics and gynecology. While I worked in the unit of some other professor he headed some other unit. Once when I was doing my senior residency having successfully cleared my MD exam, on a big festival all consultants wanted leave. Seeing everyone tense, he volunteered to be "on first-call" meaning he was to be called first as soon as a complicated case is received. This was very unusual for a Professor to be on first-call that too on the day of the biggest festival. This was furthermore amazing as he was to do emergency in our unit to which he was not attached. Night was expectedly rough. There were five critical and complicated patients. They all needed major obstetric surgeries; he was present in all of them. However in all five he stood on the left side of the operating table. This meant that the postgraduate student stands on the right. One who stands on the right operates. All surgeries which with his expertise could have been over in 25-30 minutes, he patiently waited and made the students do them even in the middle of the night taking much more time.
|At the end of five surgeries, sick and tired|
The climax came when I saw him perspiring as he came out of the last surgery. I straight confronted him “Sir what is your temperature”. He obviously had fever. Under the effects of antipyretics he was attending someone else’s emergency and that too making students do surgeries. His only response to my question was “Don’t tell the students whom I have made to operate. They will feel indebted. I don’t like that”. “But Sir, why didn't you finish up the surgeries yourself?’. The answer was an eye-opener. “What fault of the students if I have fever? They won’t get such complicated surgeries again to learn. I was just doing my duty”. Tired he just crashed into the chair outside the operation theater. He made one request “Can you please drive me home? I can’t drive now”. As the New-year day broke, I saw sitting next to me in the car, with his eyes closed, a teacher in a medical college for whom his own debility was not as important as his duty to teach.
|Prophets are not without honors....|
He retired from service to a quiet life. As expected the department or the institution never gave him a farewell or even said a “Thank you” inspite of unparalleled selfless contributions and changes that he had affected. I had expected it. Words echoed in my mind: “Prophets are not without honors, but they never get it from their own city”. Like me, many of his students are still very close to him.
The other day he rang me up. “Can you come down at my residence this evening?” The voice was as usual commanding but loving to which the answer “no” was never an alternative. When I went I realized that it was his seventieth birthday. There were a small group that had collected – two three of his old students, close contacts, some family members and a common lawyer friend. “I am making my will today and you are my witnesses”. I knew he was a full-timer in Medical College. What all assets must he have accumulated as a full-timer? But there must be something special, lest he wouldn't have called me. As the prepared will was being read most of us were least interested in knowing about his assets. But the last paragraph instantly stirred all of us up. “On my death, I pledge my body to Medical College, where I studied and taught all throughout my life. Like my life, let my body also be of use to the students of my medical college. It will be the responsibility of all my students who are present here and have signed below as witnesses that this wish of mine be followed in letter and spirit”. I could not hold my tears back as the lawyer looked very meaningfully at me. I barely managed to sign. As soon as I signed I left. I know he noted that I had become emotional. He did not stop me.
|He pledged his body for donation to Medical College|
As I walked towards my car, I imagined a picture after decades of the anatomy teaching- hall where some demonstrator would be teaching on a human brain or a kidney or some other organ, well-preserved in a jar. Knowledge-thirsty students I pictured crowded around the specimen.
Amongst them would be future neurophysicians or world-class urologists of tomorrow some of whom may not even have been born today. Their seeds of basic knowledge would be sown on the body organs of a professor in that same medical college who had taught there decades ago. There was he - The Professor sitting in that jar in anatomy department teaching generations to follow even after his death. There he was indeed: “A Teacher in Life….A Teacher in death”.