If Nepal had 10 students like me there would not be any need to
go to Banaras. It was the greatest compliment ever
Baldev Juju, the respected and much adored campus chief of Saraswati Campus, spent over four decades teaching Nepali.
It has been almost a decade since he retired, but many of his students still remember him and his style of teaching.
A legend of a teacher, Juju is one of the founders of the Mahendra Ratna Campus and he still remembers his teacher Padma Prasad Bhattarai, who not only taught him but also influenced and enriched his life in many ways.
“His simple teaching style has left a mark in my memory. He is one teacher I admire the most,” says Juju.
He studied Darshan Shastra (Nyay Darshan major) — study of life and its different aspects — under Bhattarai.
Remembering his teacher and the good old days Juju reminiscences, “I remember once asking him a question regarding the chapter he was teaching. He replied with a certain hesitation. I was not satisfied and told him so. He was taken back but said he would give me an answer the next day. But he did not. He called me four days later and gave me the answer. Then he said he was happy to have such an enthusiastic student in his class.”
During Shorah Saraddha when he is asked to give pinda to his teacher, it is Bhattarai that Juju remembers.
“He was a very strict teacher. He used to teach very well but used to get angry and scold if anyone asked too many questions and called them goru and pasu. But he once said if Nepal had 10 students like me there would not be any need to go to Benaras. It was the greatest compliment ever,” he says.
Juju has just one regret in his teaching career: his teacher had asked him to continue teaching Nyay Darshan, but he could not.
“It was due to lack of interest among students. Despite a Masters in Sanskrit, I taught Nepali. Only seeking knowledge is not enough, you need to have the passion to learn it,” says Juju.
Strict and caring
Everybody calls her Saroj Guruaama; all her students’ parents know her as their children talked about her at home. Her colleagues always asked her to discipline students as they knew the effect her personality had on students.
Saroj Bista, 71, has been associated with the teaching profession for more than four decades. For 38 years she taught at Mahendra Bhawan, one of the oldest schools in Kathmandu. Originally from Shillong in north-east India, Bista came to Nepal in the late 50s to stay with her sister. She did her schooling at St Mary’s School in Shillong and St Joseph’s School in Banglore. She got her intermediate level education at Durbar High School.
According to her she always maintained a reasonable strictness as a teacher.
“I always told my students that in the class they have to be very disciplined, but outside the class they are my friends,” she says.
To some extent this behaviour of hers resembles one of her teachers’. That teacher is Miss Nargis, her Geography teacher at St Joesph’s, whom she coins as the most impressive teacher.
“Even now when I talk about her, her face comes before my eyes. She was very strict but at the very time was also very caring.”
It was the teaching style as well as the way her teacher encouraged students to get involved in extra curricular activities that she liked the most in that teacher. She shares, “I also kept encouraging my students to participate in different activities.”
However, there was one habit of her favourite teacher that she didn’t like.
“She used to make all of us stand on the bench even if one student in the class had not done the homework. I used to get very irritated as I got the punishment even if I had done my homework.”
Once she even fell down the bench deliberately as she got very tired. She hurt her elbow and her teacher scolded her more. She maintains that she always had a lot of respect for this teacher.
Bista remembers very few incidents of her student life and even few names of her teachers. But she still remembers Tirtha Raj Dhungana, her Nepali teacher at Durbar High School.
“He was very kind-hearted. If students didn’t understand, he would explain again and again without getting annoyed.”
As she was able to teach Nepali to Class V, despite getting her early education in an English
medium, she gives all the credit to Dhungana and considers it her gurudakshina to him.
She adds, “It is because of their education that I could contribute to this profession.”
Principles that matter
It would not be an exaggeration to say that, nobody knows Budhanilkantha better than Keshar Khulal. A former student of the school, he has been teaching there for the last 14 years. The first thing that a student notices in this soft-spoken teacher is his warm smile. It is because of his interesting teaching style that students are at their best behaviour during his lectures.
It is not fear but his simplicity that has won him the respect of his students. According to Khulal, this simplicity is something that he has emulated from his headmaster Brian Garton.
Khulal talked about this person who has had a major impact in his life. “His simplicity, open-mindedness and sense of responsibility influenced me the most.”
He also admits that to some extent it was Garton who inspired him to get into the teaching profession.
And he wants to help his students the way Garton helped him. “I try my best to help everyone of my students in every possible way,” he says.
Although his student life is long over there are certain things like ‘potluck parties’ that remind him of Garton. He also remembers some of Garton’s habits. “He loved drinking hot punch in
the sun. And he hated unnecessary formalities.”
When asked if he has paid his gurudakshina he replied, “Yes, I have done what he wanted me to do. I have come back from the UK and put my self in service of the nation.”
As far as his students are concerned he wants them to imbibe qualities like “sincerity, honesty and devotion” from him.
And the message he wants to give to Garton is, “Thank you for the support you extended me at a very crucial period of my life.”