Life is fake and unreal when I am in pleasant mind. Life is real when I am in pain.
Maths Teacher-Tilak Panthi
Panthi's Maths Journey
Mathematics was a dreaded subject for me in my high school days.
I remember my maths teachers. They were either from south India or a Bengali. Similarly, my class friends those who excelled in maths were Bengalis, Marwaris, and Panjabis.
I have gratitude in my heart to those teachers who guided me through. Bhuiyan, riding his bicycle would arrive at school exactly on time. he said he had bought it in 1947. He would keep it neat and shiny every day.
He wore white kurta and dhoti. He would see every students through his glasses. If any student got stuck with the given problem, he'd throw a mild smile at him sitting on his chair in the front of the class. He had a powerful intuition.
Then he would take out his handkerchief, wipe his face to wipe off the trickling sweat. Then he would call the student and show him the way, how to solve the algebra or geometry problem with a smile.
In case, he'd be late, which rarely happened, he'd crack his classic joke, "tomorrow, I'll buy a car." Then he would look at us.
We would feel surprised! Thought would pop up in our mind. "Car! Bhuiyan, an old man, a car!"
Seconds later, to subside our surprise he'd say, "but it's only a toy car," casting neither smile or strain from his eyes. Hearing this, we would smile at each other and we knew that we had to go through problem solving of the ongoing chapter.
He never entered the classroom with any maths books. Every arithmetic rules , algebra formulas, geometry theorems and trigonometry formulas, he carried them in his head including the page numbers and problem numbers!
Beyond his massive memory, he carried at most humility and serene face. He was a highly respected teacher not only in our school, but the entire town in those days.
I had the privilege to get help from brothers Xavier and Jesudas during the evening study hours in the hostel. I would stand up and show them the algebra problem of which I got the wrong answer. They would scan through from top to bottom in seconds and point me out the mistake I had committed.
Later on, I came to know through reliable sources that both of them were the gold medalists in their bachelors degree from the university in south India.
However, they never bragged of their achievements. Their responsibility was to help us succeed in our studies.
Now about my studies,that happened in grade eight. I attended optional maths but only for a month, then I shifted to Indian history. Because it took me half an hour to solve a maths problem, whereas my friends could solve the same problem in just seconds. That to without using a calculator. Because in the 70s there were no calculators in the market.
Fast forward to Nepal. I have immence respect and admiration to the maths teachers. I had not found maths teachers here like them back in India.
Surprisingly, I found one that was Tilak Panthi. He approach to maths was similar to them and vitally his attitude towards his students.
He could help the children how to play with their imagination to solve the maths problems. That required patience. Then the next, was practice, practice and practice that students had to do.
He could help even the dullest child how to learn maths with pleasure..
Success story for the children was repeated every year in the schools where he taught for 23 years.
He served in a private school for over a decade, then he shifted to a Charity school.
Apart from his teaching, he went extra miles.
He dealt with the government offices on behalf of the charity.
As years passed, he was promoted to the rank of vice-Principal.
Then he added two more private schools in his responsibly.
During the time of political unrest in Nepal, the Maoist insurgents gave threats to the charity school.
As a result, the charity had to look for a new space.
After months of frantic search, they found an old Rana Mansion in Sanepa. Soon the charity shifted there for safety.
Before shifting to new premises, they had been looking for a piece of land in the Valley.
The news might have reached in the ears of the Maoists. So, they might have tried to extort money from the charity.
Months later, they bought a piece of land for the school. Then they started construction in earnest.
After the completion of the buildings, they shifted to their own new home.
The charity had a well knit team that achieved success in education and a secured space for the needy children's education, a must for the down trodden.
Besides being a dedicated teacher, he was a well read person in the Eastern and western literature
The last book he read was Stephen Hawin's, History of Time.
He was equally abreast with the current politics in Nepal and the world.
However, he wasn't affiliated to any political party. He preferred to be neutral.
Lately, he had added one more achievement to his profile. He had compiled a Maths book with with his colleague Sanjiv Dong.
Besides those achievement, he had a humane feeling towards the students who had no parents to go home during Dasai festival.
He would invite them in his apartment and celebrate the festival with dinner with them.
Once I casually had asked him about his legal case.
"I've won the case."He replied with a smile.
"But I won't be able to reclaim my 23 years. I won't get back my reputation.
I fought the case only for my dad. I wanted my dad to say the world, "my son, Tilak was not guilty."
After his demise on the 13th day, a brahmin priest purified the family in Pashupati,
After two days, I called on the bereaved family's flat.
Unexpectedly, I asked Bhauju if he had saved some money.
"I went to the bank to close his account. The teller gave me his saving account statement. It read Rs. 80/- " She answered.
I had chatted with him, "You need to buy some feet of land for your sons in Kathmandu." that evening in a restaurant on Thursday before his last breath.
"I've given them the greatest wealth. You know well, Sir." He had replied with a sense of satisfaction.
Adventure in the Jungle- His First Job
Recently, I asked two of his students, Rabindra and Rabin,
"Do you know why Panthi had to take up teaching job?"
"No." They replied.
Then I shared with them what Panthi had told me that Friday evening.
Two of us sat on a table in a pub
He began his story,
"I was a Forest Ranger in Bardibas.
While patrolling one night in the jungle, I saw a bullock cart crossing the boarder.
I asked the cart puller and his men on foot to stop.
They replied me that they were heading to their village in India with hay.
I suspected them and ordered my guards to poke on the pile.
They found that it was loaded with logs of timbers
a fellow took out a briefcase. They wanted to grease my palm. I didn't want.
As the argument got heated, sudden gun fire sparked from the dark.
We ran for our life and hid behind the tree trunk. The fire at us went on.
I took out my pistol and ordered the guards to retaliate. In the exchange of fire, a person among them fell down and the rest faded into the dark.
Then I returned to the office to report to the District Chief.
The chief, instead of patting me on my shoulder for my bravery, he ranted at me, I was a fool.
He then fired me from my job.
In defence of myself, I came to Kathmandu, and filed a case in the court.
I knew that the legal battle would prolong.
The next upcoming challenge waslooming. I would not get any job.
For the future of my family, I packed up my belongings and took a night bus ride to Kakaribhita with my wife and middle son.
I had left the eldest with my father in Arga Khachi.
The following morning, I crossed the boarder riding Willy's jeep. Then I took an evening train to Guwahati from New Jalpaiguri.
The following morning, I got down in Guwahati.
There I started seeking fora job.
On the very following day, Sacred Heart Boarding High School called me for an interview.
I was selected as Mathematics teacher.
As days passed, I learnt Assamese Language within the first month.
Then I tutored Maths in Assamese to the children in my neighbourhood in the morning and evening..
I served in the school only for 3 years.
I returned back to Kathmandu for ever. Thus I began my teaching profession."
The End Begins Anew!
December 21,2008, Arya Ghat
Fire was consuming his last earthly remain on the pyre amidst the aghast onlookers, mostly the students and his friends from both banks of the Bagmati river.
His wife was wailing and trying rush to the pyre. His sons were holding her arms and pulled her to console her.
Two incomplete actions:
We had planned to visit Arga Khanchi. This did not happen.
During his first visit in my home, he had told me that he would help my son with maths when he would be promoted to grade nine.
To Conclude My Tribute to Panthi
My statement about Panthi may sound brutal for some. Forgive me, but the truth be told.
To find a dedicated teacher like Panthi in my part of the world, is like searching a needle in the hay. I hope the end begins anew.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 gyanendra mocktan