An era of excellence in 100 years of Matlab High School
I participated in debates and set-speech competitions for all national celebrations. I once even won a speech competition on the life of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). I remember one Muslim student from Narayanganj shouting out that I was a Hindu (and hence should not have participated in a Muslin event), as I was going to collect my prize. Headmaster paused for a second, gave the shouter a steely look, a look all students were afraid of. He then continued with giving me the first prize --- a stack of writing paper. In so doing, he encouraged, without saying so, participation of all students in any school event.
Headmaster's Interest in Students Beyond School
A great teacher never forgets his good students. Headmaster's interest in students did not end after they had left the school. He took them to good colleges, like Dhaka College, Notre Dame College, and Faujderhat Cadet College. He always followed the careers of his pupils with keen interest. He once asked one of Dr Patwari's students from BUET about my whereabouts. He also said to him: 'It is difficult to get students like Tapan.' It sounded like, in retirement, he was still looking for good students. In moments of self-doubt, I still derive strength recalling those words of a great teacher.
Headmaster's love for his past students was in display again just before the 1971 army crackdown in East Pakistan, which led to the Liberation War and the creation of the free nation of Bangladesh. It relates to JK, whom he helped graduate from high school, as mentioned earlier. Headmaster got JK admitted to Notre Dame College, from where he went to Presidency College, Calcutta, for personal reasons. There he was indoctrinated with Naxal ideas and was imprisoned for a while. Upon his release, he returned to Matlab. One day Headmaster came to know that JK was being held in the police station. He immediately rushed to the station. JK was in trouble for insisting that a vacant tin-roofed house at the station be used for housing poor people. Headmaster had him released in no time, by pointing out what a great student JK was and how much glory he had brought to the school and Matlab and that he was a good person with a kind heart for the poor.
I also recall the celebration party he threw for one of his favourite students, the late Liaquatullah Patwari (LP), mentioned earlier, who came in fifth in East Pakistan Board in 1960. I was then in class V. I still remember teacher Gani Sir writing a poem, at the request of Headmaster, reciting, it in his signature animated style, extolling the significance of the number five, even citing a Hindu mythological character Drupodi, who was married to five brothers. One of the main purposes of the celebration was to practice the eighth pillar of the Matlab Model of Success: inspiring students by examples from the school. A year later, Mr Mujibul Haq, came in third in East Pakistan Board surprising many, including the Headmaster. When LP died prematurely of an accident, Headmaster cried like he had just lost his beloved son, although the two Patwaris were not related. MJBHS was Headmaster's life. And the students were his sons and daughters.
DMP's Brilliance and Human Side
Dr Matin Patwari's (DMP) talent was recognized early by Headmaster, one of the best talent-identifiers of the era. He took him under his wing. I heard that DMP was very strong in Math (one of his BUET students told me that too), but not so in English and Bengali. Headmaster used to give him homework on writing précis, which he later read and provided feedback on. I also heard from another MJBHS alumnus of an incident, in which DMP approached his vernacular teacher, my father, on his way home from the bazaar, to explain something. The path from the bazaar to our home ran through the school yard. Father said he would see him later, as he was running late. Upon hearing the conversation, Headmaster asked father to take care of Matin and offered to substitute for father in the class, if he was late.
DMP also remembers his vernacular teacher fondly. In the early eighties, I was in the compound of Disneyland, Anaheim, California, when I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was DMP smiling. Another BUET alumnus Dr Rafiqul Islam was with him. There, DMP introduced me as the son of his vernacular teacher at Matlab. I could see pride and respect in his bright eyes and voice when he
To be continued...
Tapan Chakrabarty --- an MJBHS alumnus (1965), a BUET chemical engineer with a PhD from University of Waterloo, a seven-continent marathon finisher, an inventor and an innovator, and a columnist --- writes from Calgary, Canada