Yet another ritual assignment of asking kids to ask me questions. And they have returned me a good load of assignment.
This semester I might have responded and still wait to respond about a hundred short/sharp queries from the freshmen. Some that put smile on my face in different moments of responding are noted below.
Were you a notorious person in your childhood?
No. I was cool, calm and complete introvert as a child. I mixed up more with kids, kittens, puppies and calves than with children. I was rather very close with the elders. I grew up demanding less and exploring more for myself. But there were times when the elders got angry with me not for anything that could be called notorious but because I could not meet their expectations, by being too slow or too ignorant. You know, parents in those days, like today, demanded more from children than they could give.
What was the turning point in your life?
The day I got married. The day I decided to remain in KU. The day our first son was born. The day I joined MPhil program of Pokhara University. The day I returned from the USA after a six-week training on Journalism and Media. The day I decided to form and lead HMU. The day I graduated with PhD from KU. The day I got promoted as Associate Professor.
These make many turning points. Each of these points marks ending the older pattern of living and thinking, to begin afresh with new responsibilities and challenges, and I call them turning points. My life comprises multiple twists of experiences. I would not bother to pick one point from the multiplicity.
What is the best way to motivate yourself?
I try to nurture these simple thoughts:
- I am a unique creature. There is only one being like me in this world, and that’s me. If I am not there, that being will also not be there. There is no guarantee anyone like me will be born in the future.
- No matter how many (and how often) frustrations surround me, I am essentially more prone to happiness and optimism. Happiness is my right even though frequent sorrows are unavoidable.
- I have a long journey to cover, if not a long life to live. And I will cover the distance of my share at any cost.
- The society is largely populated by good, kind and helpful people. I must be thankful I am not surrounded by haters and torturers.
- My parents, relatives, friends and teachers will never let me fail, fall and feel useless.
How do you make your leisure time productive?
I talk, laugh, quarrel and fight with my family if I am at home and have short leisure. This works like a circuit breaker. In a long leisure, I read interesting stuff, surf the internet, listen to and play music and mostly sing with the guitar.
In the office, I find time to discuss academics with my colleagues, especially with sips of tea or coffee. That’s all. That’s the routine for leisure.
Why did you decide to enter the field of teaching? Who inspired you to take teaching as a profession?
When I entered teaching, which was in 1994, I did not have any clear plan about what I would do in life. With a certificate of Intermediate of Arts (IA), teaching in a private school was an immediate opportunity. I had to look after myself and my studies, and needed money. Teaching rescued me largely in addition to enabling me to help educate my brothers.
I began to enjoy the field and got submerged into it. The higher I studied, the higher level I entered, and here I am now. So, first I entered the field for livelihood. Now I am in the field for passion as much as for livelihood. Teaching is a blessed job, done with love by only some gifted people. I think I have that gift.
I always believed that kids should be taught by smart and intelligent people. As one of the high performing persons throughout my education, I felt I should be able to impart education myself. And, good teachers who taught me (also with me) at school (s) and in the university equally inspired me to take teaching as a profession.
Sounds pompous, but it is true — about me.
Are you satisfied teaching in the university for so long?
I am not dissatisfied. As I chose teaching as my profession and chose KU for it, I have had no reason to complain or to regret. I believe, KU offers the best opportunities for those who want to become professional teachers. I have enjoyed independence in designing curricula and syllabuses, selecting text materials and determining the methods of evaluation. This means I have been able to teach what I enjoy teaching to the benefit of students. Since I find every session a new session, I have never experienced the loss of motivation and enthusiasm even though I have grown 18 years older here. The best part is I work with smart and intelligent people, majority of whom are guided by dedication and professional integrity.
In your 18 years of teaching, what was the most wonderful thing that happened to you?
Eighteen years in Kathmandu University. Three and half years in Bagh Bhairab Boarding High School, Kirtipur. Two and half years in Pashupati English Boarding School, Urlabari, Morang. This makes twenty four years, right? The most wonderful thing is that I have got chance to work with a number of wonderful people. Wonderful to me, obviously. Those people who helped me grow more confident and qualified, those who knew my potentials as a teacher, mentor, leader. In Urlabari, I was mentored by the Principal, an old man from Darjeeling, and the Vice Principal. In Kirtipur, I was trusted to lead the School as the Vice Principal. In KU, I have been blessed to work with some of the country’s highly qualified and smart people.
Particularly, I count the company with two persons being the most wonderful so far — Prof. Pushpa Raj Adhikari, former Dean of School of Science; Prof. RB Chhetri, former Professor of Botany. And a couple of others. I have reasons to call these people wonderful even though they might have looked too ordinary for other people.
Have you greatly influenced anybody in your career?
I guess I have. It may not be termed ‘great’, though. It depends what influence means. If you create a space for people to begin their careers, do you call it influencing them? If so, I have done it. If you have helped someone to choose a right path for life, do you call it influence? If so, I have done this. If your recommendation has ensured job or higher education opportunity for someone, do you call it influence? If so, I have done this also. The most notable influence might have been through the Media Studies program earlier, and HMU and BBIS now. I can explain this, but need longer time and some more reflection.
You might as well ask a few of my former students or some of the HMU teachers — ‘What is the influence of Hem Sir in your life?’ If they answer without bias, you may get some sense of what I said above. It is up to you, up to them.
How is your communicating skill is so good?
Is it? Do you mean ‘how’, or ‘why’? The answer to ‘how’ is tricky. It must be good because you think so. Anything being good or bad depends on the audience’s perspective. The answer to ‘why’ is as simple as this: it may have been good because of being polished through practice for years. And, I specialize in communication and rhetoric through five years of doctoral study. Also, apart from being an English teacher throughout, I have been in roles that demand high frequency of communication/ negotiations — hostel warden, high school vice-principal, program host, stage performer, associate director, program/department coordinator etc. etc. An extremely shy person until teenage, I have grown tremendously communicative because of practice and exposure by all the time being mindful of decency and standard.
How did you develop your writing skills?
I developed my writing skills by writing. Writing is a craft, an art, which you cannot master without actually being engaged in it. My choice of subject — English Literature — and passion in it, required a lot of reading and writing. I managed to listen, speak, read and write a lot as essential trainings in my higher education. Then I came to teaching to teach the same skills. All these factors helped me develop my skills.
What are the qualities in a writing that you consider impressive?
I consider reasonable conciseness and maintenance of rhythm impressive in any writing. By conciseness I mean reasonable length. Long sentences do not make you smart, nor do big words. By rhythm I mean the alternation of long and short sentences, or maximum use of short words. That your readers understand you matters the most. That they enjoy your text, feel like imitating your style and even copy some expressions matters a lot. To me, at least, it matters that my readers do not dump my text until they reach the final full-stop. Did you see I tried to maintain both conciseness and rhythm in my answers? If you did not, try editing my answers to make the message as clear and straightforward as possible. That’s another assignment for you.
Which type of student do you hate the most?
I do not hate anyone, in fact. A student cannot be a subject of hate. I might momentarily dislike someone for certain attributes, especially classroom behavior, such as bunking, absence, procrastination, backbiting. Human beings have change potentials; majority students change, and I try to change them not caring whether they are not worth being liked or loved. That’s my understanding of professionalism.
[Sorry folks, I cannot include all the questions and answers. More next semester.]