As a part of learning how to write inquiry emails, I ask students to ask me questions. They can ask me whatever they would like to know about the course and myself. Some of the queries, such as the following, tend to probe into my personal life and convictions. And I try to respond them with openness and sincerity. I hope that the students learn the same extent of openness and sincerity in professional interactions.
At what age did you leave your home and get settled on your own?
I went to college when I was 18 and hardly got an opportunity after that to spend more than a fortnight at home. This does not mean I left home, but was in a process to build one (not house) for myself. I got settled on my own (financially) as soon as I joined teaching in 1994. I have not taken any money and any share of ancestral property from my parents since. I might inherit a small piece of family land along with my three brothers later when Father thinks it is time for us to have our shares. That’s all.
I grew self-dependent outside home. Then one fine day I realized I was too big to expect anything more than love and blessings from my parents.
Being someone from a government school background, what made you choose English as your major?
I hail from a time and place when first division holders were expected to join Science, not necessarily to pursue medicine or engineering, but to be Secondary level science and maths teachers. These people could command respect as smart, intelligent and capable of earning money through busy tuition classes during the send-up and SLC exams. I belonged to that category of youngsters with first division marks in SLC and a potential to go for science. But I chose Arts with English, Maths and Economics instead of Science, for two reasons. First, my father said he would not send me to Biratnagar to study Science because it cost as much as could be spent in the education of three of my siblings. Second, the combination of English and Maths would bring the same status in society as a teacher as would Science. So, remorselessly, I chose English and continued with it to where I am now. No regrets.
What are you most grateful for?
It depends. Grateful in what aspect of my life? I am grateful for having a very understanding better-half and intelligent kids. I am grateful for having some of the world’s most caring and selfless friends. I am grateful for having a competent and cooperative team of faculties to work with. I am also grateful for having a number of inquisitive and aspiring youngsters as students. Above all, I am grateful for the working environment that never allows me to slacken my spirit and to go to disuse too early.
Had you ever thought of being a professor when you were at the undergraduate level? What suggestions would you like to give to those who are really looking to make their future bright?
I knew I was going to be a teacher, or remain one because I was already teaching when I was in the undergraduate level. I knew I would complete my Masters and go headlong into university teaching. I never planned for a public service examination to be a government servant because I hated mugging up stale rules, regulations, laws and names of dead people and irrelevant stuffs which we call general knowledge. I know it was my weakness but I could simply not put up with this compulsion of backtracking rather than meeting new people and learning new things everyday.
My suggestion to those ‘looking to make their future bright’ is that they should keep their eyes, mind, and heart open about that time when they are entering a profession. Your generation cannot gamble with the ‘whatever-comes-my-way’ stake like I did. But it is equally good to remain prepared with a few competencies that help you enter and sustain in the professional world. Time will surely teach you these.
Are you happy so far with what you’ve achieved as being a teacher?
Partly happy; partly working ahead to be happier. I am a learner cum teacher. The process never ends, and perfection and satisfaction never meet. If you mean to ask happiness in relation with material gains, it is wise not to bring learning and earning there. Since in my profession learning and teaching are corollary achievements, material satisfaction gets pushed to a secondary position though it comes as we move ahead. To me, happiness is like what an artist or composer feels when his creation reaches an audience in some degree of perfection and acceptability. I want to feel that in being able to help you grow as happy and successful individuals whom the society of your time remembers for your good deeds.
From your experience in teaching, what qualities do successful students in your courses possess?
I do not want to present here an exhaustive list, which would rather be idealistic than real. A successful student simply has very common qualities. But, at least five have so far seemed pertinent to me. The first is the willingness and courage to consult and confront with teachers, but not simply go around flattering and ‘buttering’ and then disregarding the one-time mentors once the classes and grading are over. Second, such students value class participation, and have high spirit of cooperation with classmates and teachers. Third, they want to present original works but not copy ready-made mediocre or wrong stuffs from peers and websites. Fourth, they are regular and punctual and give equal priority to all the courses and assignments. Fifth, they are willing and able to accommodate all genuine suggestions and guidelines from teachers. Overall, they are conscious of their duties now and the outcomes of their sincere performances.
Do you think there is life after death?
I am already born in my two sons since both of them share my genes. I live in their faces, their limbs, their walks and their habits. They will carry me up to their progeny. This is my simple belief about life after death. I bet you will recognize this when they grow and you chance to see them without me.