|"The best teacher is the one that is no longer needed by his students; the worst teacher is he who is still necessary for his students” said Shyamol Ranjon Bhattacharya, former teacher of Bogra Zilla School about the distinction between a good teacher and a bad teacher. “A good teacher can transfer all this own knowledge into the mind of the student. So the students do not have to depend on him forever. A bad teacher makes his students dependent, he never frees them.”
Shyamol Ranjon Bhattacharya, a dedicated teacher, was born in 1937. His father was an advocate and his mother was a learned lady from a renowned family. His parents came to Bogra from Natore in1925 and settled there. This knowledge-seeker passed his childhood and adolescence in Bogra. He passed his matriculation from Bogra Zilla School and entrance exam from Bogra Govt. Azizul Haque College. Then he got admitted into Dhaka Polytechnic Institute and attained a degree in electrical engineering. He started his career as a teacher of pre-engineering art at Bogra Zilla School in 1967. Later on, he taught Bangla there as there was no longer any other option. He had ample opportunities to take his career into other directions but he did not do so. “I felt affection for the students and never thought of leaving them” He retired from the job in 2000. He speaks several foreign languages-Sanskrit, Arabic, Urdu, Hindi and English. Recently he has deciphered a foreign text found at Bogra Woodbarn Public Library.
He has followed the ideology of a true teacher throughout his life. He never involved himself with any other business except teaching. He had to face financial crises in his early life. He recalls the financial hardship which also affected his children, “I could not give them good food, good clothes and other things.” Now he is happy because his sons and daughter are well established. His elder son works at Popular Diagnostic Centre. His younger son works at the Centre for Policy Dialogue, CPD. His only daughter completed her M.A in Economics and is now staying in Canada with her husband who is an engineer. “My sons bring me back books whenever they go to abroad as gifts as they know what can please their father”
His library, now furnished with rare books is an example of what he thinks a teacher's life should be. Nowadays, we do not find furnished libraries or studies in a teacher's house. “I still read and write sitting here though every old age-related drawback affects me. My work has separated me from my retired friends and contemporaries. Their workless retired life has made their lives dull and meaningless; but my books give me a new life”, he says when I ask him how he passes his days.
As a teacher, he has a vision for life. He anticipates that students will be blessed with much technological advancement; they will be freed from the constraints of syllabus-based study; free to work with their creativity. He imagines an ideal student in his stage-drama 'Alor Bhubon'. He is not satisfied with the current methods of teaching and learning. “Now students are cramming just to pass their exams. Only syllabus based study damages their creative faculty. The GPA system is good but it has lessened competition among the students. Teachers are mostly responsible for this. I myself witnessed the malpractices, favoritism, side businesses etc of the teachers. Political reforms can solve the issue to a great extent because the government has been assigning aged people to write the textbooks for the young students. They write books for the young while they are not at all in touch with youth.” He values sincerity and ideology very much. His message to the teachers and the students is to be sincere in every aspect of life. It can be achieved only through practice. Students should be more competitive if they are interested in getting good jobs.
Shyamol Ranjon Bhattyacharya is not only a teacher but also a successful organizer, a theatre actor. He founded the Bogra Nattya Goshti, a leading cultural organization at Bogra. He worked as a secretary of the Bogra Rabindra Sangit Shammelon Parishad for years. He wrote several stage dramas. Alor Bhubon, and Ghater Katha are notable stage dramas. Ghater Katha is from a Tagore short story. This play has been staged this year on the birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore. Bhattacharya is a critic and admirer of Tagore. He does not support any kind of fundamentalism or bigotry. He thinks Tagore, Nazrul or anybody is subject to criticism. As for why he has used the theater as a tool for teaching- “Drama is a very, very strong medium of expression; it can touch the heart of the people directly and promptly.”
He has earned the love and respect of the people and this is his great achievement. “My students are working at various sectors; they phone me; they salute me in the street; they introduce themselves if I fail to remember their faces-all this pleases me. Besides, a teacher learns many things from his students.” The memories of his students are still fresh to him. He fondly recalls a young Dr. Zafar Iqbal, Humayan Ahmed and many other students.
He says he favors change when I ask him whether the past or the present is sweet to him. “Some old people always sneer at the present and scoff at any change. They pretend to be wise, as they cannot adjust to the changing times. However, I do not like the nasty political culture. Though in present things seem to be getting better, I anticipate the same sort of nastiness that our nation has had to go through many times in the past.”