Prof. Noman: A teacher extraordinaire | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 06, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, September 06, 2010

Lest we Forget

Prof. Noman: A teacher extraordinaire

Prof. Noman

Tears. Such a small word but profound in connotations. The obvious explosion of it is in sadness, the very moment when a heart experiences any loss, goes through pains and agonies. There is "positive" outburst of tears as well -- we cry when we are extremely happy after possessing "something" after long and difficult trials. For me there is a presence of another dimension -- the tears of inspiration.
When I remember my Boro Chacha (eldest uncle), I instantly feel these tears of inspiration. Prof. Mohammad Noman is my Boro Chacha. Though he has left us, I want to use "is" instead of "was" as his presence, even today, is not "surreal" for me. I believe that I do not need to introduce him as a renowned educationist, the principal of Dhaka College, the treasurer and vice-chancellor of Jahangir Nagar University, because his contribution in teaching, knowledge and education is known to all. For his colleagues, his students, his well-wishers he was the man who exhibited the "light" of truth, knowledge, virtue and strength.
But today I will present Prof. Noman in a very different way -- from a daughter's point of view. I am his niece (biologically), but I never felt that, actually he never did give me the chance to feel otherwise. It was in 1996 when he fell sick. I had just got the result for my Masters Final Exam. It was good, I secured 3rd position.
Naturally, I went with my father to see Boro Chacha and give the good news. I can still remember, he was not very well. I told him my result and Chachi repeated it to him. Happiness engulfed him, and he started crying. Chachi told me: "He is very happy to hear this so he is crying". It was a very simple event, but it shook me, my whole existence. The tears in my Boro Chacha's eyes made me realise how important my achievement was to him.
It is not sadness, it is even more than that, numbness overshadows me when I fail to share my achievements with my Boro Chacha now. I am a lecturer at present. Prof. Noman's students always say that his classes were full of life and knowledge. When I take classes I do not know why these words hover around in my mind all the time. I take those words as inspiration for me.
Chacha was not only a teacher; he was also a creator of different styles. Nowadays, in modern English language teaching, there is a method called learning-across-the curriculum, which involves in-depth and practical learning through the combination of different subjects. The main objective of this method is to encourage the creativity of the students. This method was innate in Boro Chacha, he did not make any effort to learn it. Material development is another field where people do degrees now, but Boro Chacha was ahead of all these unconsciously. For him the techniques and materials for a class were natural manifestations of his feelings.
Patriarchy means one-man ruling system and Boro Chacha was the head of our family. The way Boro Chacha interacted with us, with his family, amazes me still now. We are an extended family. I am proud to nourish the essential values of family life, which are fading away. And this eternal bond was planted, watered and properly nurtured by Boro Chacha. The way he stood by his brothers and sisters (including cousins as in an extended family) in the time of happiness and sadness, and the immense support he bestowed to all the members of the family is unbelieveable.
I would like to mention his relationship with my father, which was so special. My father used to take Chacha's suggestion at every step of his life. Once my mother was sick and we had to take her to her to the hospital. I still remember my father called Boro Chacha even before calling a doctor for help because, for him, Boro Chacha was the source of tremendous support.
As a head of the family Boro Chacha could easily be overwhelming dominant, which is a fairly traditional approach in families, instead he won everybody with his smile and soft-spoken words. For us (the kids of the family), he was never a person to be scared of, he never taught us the so-called do's and don't of life. Nevertheless, he went beyond this, he gave us a profound teaching.
His students always praised his spontaneous style in the class. Similarly, he has taught us the norms and values through his innate norms and values. He formulated in us a strong sense of choosing between good and bad. Now we follow the rules of our extended family without being pressurised. I consider myself a lucky person as I can easily practice the lessons that I learnt as a member of an extended family.
While talking about Boro Chacha I would like to share one of my experiences of the time when he was in hospital, fighting to breathe. My brother and I went to see him. Boro Chachi was with him, looking after him. It is natural that when a husband is sick the wife is a pillar of support, however, Chachi was even beyond this. The tenderness I saw in her when she talked to Boro Chacha is still so fresh in my mind. I think Boro Chacha could recognise only Chachi at that time.
The reason for relating this incident here is that I believe this is a teaching for us (the kids of the family). That was their way of teaching as heads of the family, and they bonded our family by being role models in different situations.
Boro Chacha is no longer with us. But there is hardly a day or a moment when I do not remember him. I feel proud of him when people praise him but then again become careful not to cross the limit and become arrogant as that was never a principle of my Boro Chacha. A sense of sheer agony and pain overtakes me when I cannot share my achievements with him anymore.

Farrah Jabeen is Lecturer, Centre for Languages (CfL) Brac University.

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