In the previous episode Prof Tiwary had narrated the stories of his days as a student of BA at H D Jain College Arah in the early fifties.
Here he shares an experience of his interaction with a teacher in the classroom when he was a student of MA at Patna university.
Me: Sir, you have mentioned that there was hardly any programme available in the university for the new teachers to learn the nuances of pedagogy and by and large you had to learn the tricks of the trade on your own. Could you share some of the experiences of your classroom interactions with the teachers who taught you at Patna university?
Prof Tiwary: I recall one such story when I was a student in the fifth year (first year of MA) at Patna university in the early fifties. It is related to one of our senior teachers who used to teach us Joseph Conrad. The teacher would come to the class and open a page of the book. We didn’t have the book.
He would begin by saying, ”Where to, Razumov?”
It was a puzzle for me because Razumov is not a character in the novel, The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad. It is in his other novel, Under Western Eyes. The teacher was supposed to teach The Secret Agent in the class. Those days you couldn’t speak against your teachers. So we all listened to him.
But one day I couldn’t hold myself. I stood up. I had the privilege of being the Vice President of the debating society of Patna university and the teacher concerned was the President of that society.
I said, “Sir, the text that you are teaching is from another book by Joseph Conrad. It is from Under Western Eyes, and not from the book prescribed, The Secret Agent.”
Well, that proved to be sacrilegious.
He looked at me and said, “Are you sure?”
“Yes Sir”, I said.
He said, “Sit down and see me after class.”
Just then the bell rang and the students filed out of the class. I quietly followed him to his room.
In order to go to his room we had to pass through the staff room. And in the staff room everybody was sitting; Dr Sinha, Dr Kalimuddin Ahmed and other teachers. We filed through the staff room with the teachers sitting and staring at us. I was following the teacher in a docile manner. When we entered the room, he shut the door.
He asked me, “Well, tell me, who is your favourite novelist?”
I said, “Conrad”.
“What do you find good about Conrad,” he inquired.
I said, “He was an honest artist in spite of his conservative philosophy.”
There was a Marxist magazine that was published from London and once in a blue moon we’ll get a copy of that magazine. It was in that magazine that I had read about Conrad.
In response to my answer my teacher said, “There, there our quarrel starts. Why do you say that his philosophy was conservative? What has that to do with art?”
Then he asked me a volley of questions. I just kept quiet.
In came Dr Sinha, Dr R K Sinha. The teacher who was interrogating me and Dr Sinha were classmates and friends. Dr Sinha would address him by his first name. So naturally my teacher who had brought me there said, ‘You may go now’.
Later Dr Sinha told me, ‘The moment I saw you following him, I knew there was something wrong.
Many teachers in the university were like that. They would come, stop lecturing in the middle, sometimes repeating the points and most of the time they would end up without any kind of logical conclusions. There was no pattern or coherence in their lectures.