I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well.
— Alexander the Great
Dr Bhaskar Borgohain
The wikiepedia page on Jorhat city says……Jorhat was the first town of the upper and central Assam installing electricity supply in 1923. The first aeroplane on north-eastern soil landed in Jorhat in 1928. Jorhat Gymkha Club is the oldest golf course in Asia and third oldest in the world. The first stadium of Assam was built in Jorhat. The world’s oldest and largest Tea Experimental Station is located in Jorhat. The first non-government college of Assam JB College was established in Jorhat. However, I want to add further. Jorhat is the first city where I met my life’s first true master, Mukul Chaliha sir, a master who taught me the joy of learning with passion and taught how to live, a master who always had a sense of purpose, a master who walked his talk.
Only a few teachers really make a lasting impact on the lives of their students. Undoubtedly, Mukul Chaliha sir is the most influential teacher in my life. Thick, high power glasses in a dark frame with the serious look of a professor and a mystic smile below a light toothbrush styled moustache… that’s how I would like to remember when I think of Mukul Chaliha sir. He had the reputation being one of the strict disciplirians and task masters among the students of Jorhat and JBColege.
He has been a master of simplification of physics and science… be it Pascal’s hydraulics law of multiplication of forces in unequal cylinders of fluid mechanics, be it Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle of quantum physics or the complex theory of relativity of Einstein… we did enjoy while we learned these with crystal clarity through his great teaching mastery.
He had great passion for teaching and a witty sense of humour to bring fun in learning hard physics. He often started his classes with a strange witty story to bring in the subject. He was never tired of teaching, explaining and simplifying the difficult things. At the same time, he was strict and a master of follow-up with great attention to detail. He used carrot and stick policy too when necessary. I will not forget the Baygon spray we all had to do, using the hand pumps before the classes began to control the annoying mosquitoes that used to come between physics and our physiques! I will also not forget the tasty scks sir so kindly provided us during surprise tests! Truly, today I mostly remember my Jorhat days for those physics classes by Chaliha Sir! And yet quietly, he not only taught physics but groomed us to be self-confident and good learners in life.
Great educationist Professor Richard Leblanc from York University (He was awarded the Teaching Excellence - Seymous Schulich Award) wrote about the top requirements for good teaching — “Good teaching is as much about passion as it is about reason. It’s about motivating students to learn and also teaching them how to learn to make them self directed learners, and doing so in a manner that is relevant, meaningful, enjoyable and memorable. Good teaching is about training students as consumers of knowledge. Good teachers practice their craft not for the money or because they have to, but because they truly enjoy it and because they want to. It is about mentoring right. Good teaching is about humor too. This is very important. It’s about not taking yourself too seriously all the time. It’s often about making innoccuous jokes, mostly at your own expense, so that the ice breaks and students learn in a more relaxed atmosphere where they feel that we are all human and everyone has his or her own share of faults and shortcomings.”
Today, I think that Chaliha Sir had all these ingredients in the right quantities and proportions as enumerated by Professor Leblanc that made him a role model in teaching science and physics in Assam. Great Greek teacher and philosopher Aristotle said that the one exclusive sign of thorough knowledge is the power of teaching. Chaliha sir had an in-depth understanding of his subject no doubt, but very importantly, he clearly understood the strengths and weaknesses of his students, particularly those students like me, coming from the vercular medium. He also focused on making his students smart and presentable for all occasions to compete at all level practically. With a deep and sincere sense of indebtedness and gratitude, I wish Chaliha sir many more years of good health, academics and happiness that he truly deserves. Thank you Sir for all that you did for us.
(Dr Bhaskar Borgohain is Associate Professor & Head, Deptt of Orthopaedics & Deputy M.S., North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regiol Institute of Health & Medical Sciences (NEIGRIHMS), Shillong)