An era of excellence in 100 years of Matlab High School
Several decades later, it was such an honour for me to receive the distinguished alumnus award from the BUET Alumni in 2015.The name that motivated me from a school office wall in the nineteen-fifties and the sixties was in person on the stage, sitting next to me. Two other persons in the BUET auditorium, in spirit, were: MJBHS Headmaster and his golden pundit, my father, both full of pride and tears of joy in their eyes. Two of their students and relatives (one a son and the other a son-in-law) were on the same stage: one as a recipient and other as a distinguished guest of honour to present the award. DMP must have been thinking along the same line. In his speech, as the chief guest, he remembered his vernacular teacher, my father, from MJBHS, again. That was a great tribute to my father-teacher, who had spent his entire career with one school and who had played a significant part in that 'era of excellence'. DMP shared that he had recommended, on his own, that I be recognized by the BUET Alumni, only to be apprised that the decision had already been made. Inspiring students (alumni) by examples from the school (from among alumni) is, after all, one of the nine pillars of Matlab Model of Success.
Alumni of MJBHS belong to one big family. When I was a student at BUET, my father's most accomplished student became my de facto guardian. He was then a professor at BUET. One day the rumour in the air was that the Hindu wing of Ahsanullah Hall might be attacked by the goons of a leading student political party. Many took the rumour seriously and vacated the hall. Dhaka students went home. Some went to spend the night with their relatives. Those who could afford, checked in a hotel. Having none of those options available to me, I summoned the courage to show up at Dr Patwari's BUET teachers' quarter. The courage stemmed from my knowing his wife, Aziza Apa, more than I knew him. She is from MJBHS, and my father' direct student and my Headmaster's only daughter. Living only a few hundred metres away from our home, she knew my mother well and saw me grow up at Matlab. She also was the most meritorious girl student at MJBHS when it was co-educational. She later became the headmistress of the girls' school her father founded, when I was at high school. On that night at BUET, she became a Matlab hostess, who was pleased to give me a bed to sleep after a home-cooked dinner.
After the independence of Bangladesh in 1971, I met Headmaster in Dr Patwari's BUET staff quarter. He was then living with his daughter and son-in-law Matin. He asked me to tutor his grandson Babar. I could not decline. I was grateful that he had earlier given me the opportunity to coach the entire SSC class at Matlab. I made money teaching at the prestigious MJBHS. Headmaster used to say that that top students from his school would be better coaches than his regular teachers. From his perspective, he was also training future teachers of the country and of the world. He was also paying them back in recognition of the glory they brought to his school.
It was also at Dr Patwari's residence, where I saw our 'Einstein of Education' last. He wanted some personal data about my father for a book he was writing.
Headmaster's Influence on Alumni
By being fair, Headmaster taught his students to be fair later in life. Dr Patwari is a good example of practicing that at BUET, my undergraduate alma mater. The finest educational institution in the country for fairness in admission and in class position, BUET did not do as well as MJBHS, at least during the late Waliullah Patwari's tenure, in treating students and teachers fairly. In a few cases, some BUET professors and department heads appeared to have made decisions based on personal likes, dislikes, religion or politics, when nominating students or faculties for external scholarships or recruiting teachers. Dr Patwari, in my opinion, practiced what he had learnt from Matlab school. One of his direct students, a very worthy and strong candidate, was hired as a lecturer after graduation and was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship, the first Hindu BUET faculty, to my knowledge, to be awarded such a coveted scholarship. Some believe that Matin Patwari's high-level position in the department might have paved the way for the fair decision. The life-long teacher-student relationship between Dr Patwari and this BUET alumnus is similar to what I had seen at Matlab between a great teacher and his student.
Influenced by Matlab education, and backed by the policy of an equal opportunity employer, I was instrumental in hiring many worthy Muslim applicants of Iranian, Asian, and African origins.
Thoughts while Running St George
As I was finishing the St. George Marathon (STGM) on 1 October, 2016, dedicated to Matlab School and five of its luminaries, the faces of the five, four from a peaceful place up somewhere in the galaxy and one from Gulshan, Dhaka, surfaced. The memories from MJBHS also occupied my thoughts. I thought of the day at Matlab, when feeling frustrated not being able to study, I ran from the house southward through Ghosh Para and by the new hostel and to the main hostel. That was when I first tasted the benefit of running in busting stress-related discomforts and of boosting brain power.
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