By Nissar H. Gillani
During my college days, in the late 1960’s it had become a trend for parents to engage a tutor at home for their children. This privilege would be against a reasonable cost but many parents would gladly pay the tutors handsomely, irrespective of their financial status. The reasons were obvious. In Kashmir, good education is synonymous with better job prospects, and things were no different during the 1960’s. The reasons are not hard to guess. Due to absence of industrial sector, political instability, and limited business opportunities, urban youth had limited options. The best option available was a government job which guaranteed a respectable status and a sustained income.
Coming back to my college days, my father, like other parents, decided to engage reputed teachers to teach me different subjects at my home. To teach English, he engaged Prof. Ghulam Nabi Firaq, who in 1965 was a lecturer in English. He lived in our neighborhood at Mallaratta, Srinagar. Prof. G.N. Firaq worked in the historical SP College and had at a very young age earned considerable reputation as a hardworking and competent teacher. He would encourage young students to participate in different literary events and debates etc. As a was a student of class 12th (TDC – Part – I) in the same college and having on advantage of being his neighbor, he would particularly encourage me to advantage of being his neighbor, he would particularly encourage me to participate in such events. Being a medical student, our syllabus of English included only prose, which was positive digression from the tough syllabus of physics. Botany and Zoology, Prof. Ghulam Nabi Firaq Taught me for two months, dedicating about one hour of his time very alternate day. As I was already doing well in English, it was easy for him to make me comprehend the subject. At the end of very teaching session, he used to meet my father and praise me for being attentive and diligent. He was perhaps the only teacher to praise me. When the syllabus was complete, my father paid him Rs. 150/- as tuition fees which was a handsome amount then. To our surprise, the amount was retuned by Prof. Firaq the next day in an envelope which enclosed a letter that read as:-
Dear Amin Sahib,
As you very well know the love and respect we have for each other and the values by which we have been bought up, there is no scope for materialistic gain, that too, in the sphere of public service. I am retuning the money with the request some good books on human values be purchased which, I am sure will help develop a spirit of public service in Nissar. Wish him well in life. Allah bless you all.
That was the spirit of the teachers then. Prof. G.N. Firaq was conscious of the crucial role teachers play in moulding the career of very student and in inculcating moral values besides providing quality education.
I know and recognize that Prof. Firaq gave his heart, mind and soul to nurture his student and he used to ensure that they are prepared to face the world and succeed thereupon.
He was one among many teachers who inspired me. He was great in his profession besides being a gentleman par excellence.
During his lifetime, he earned reputation of of not only being distinctive educationist, but also one of the few Kashmiri poets who earned recognition at the national/international level. He was conferred with Sahitya Academy award in the year 2002 and Doordarshan made a special documentary on him, in early eighties, along-with his contemporary poet and friends, Prof. Rehman Rahi.
Prof. G.N. Firaq’s demise is a loss that will be deeply felt not just by his family, friends and scholars but also by his fans and students who always benefited from his sane advice.
May Allah Bless his Soul
The writer is former Assistant Commission Revenue Department J&K Government.