Alexander The not-So Great

Often we are told great tales about the teachers and ustaads of days by gone; Of pre-partition time when young boys wearing nothing but shorts and white banayaans (undershirt) sweating in the light of a filament bulb or candle light under the watchful gaze of

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a wise old man with a stick. Those were the days our elders tell us, when teachers or Master Sahibs were respected. With their rigorous and harsh methods they were able to instill in their students the discipline together with knowledge and grace necessary to live a successful and righteous life. Not everyone could become a master sahib, unlike every tom dick and harry who has opened a school inside a house we were told, for to become one was the highest of honors.

Such an esoteric class of teachers, existed in a completely different era in the history of our Indian subcontinent. And our elders were correct in holding these noble man in high regards as we can see what a magnificent job these master sahibs and ustaads of the subcontinent did by nurturing leaders like Mr. Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan, Allama Iqbal, Gandhi, Nehru and so many more who received their primary education in local schools.

Much has changed since then. And that esoteric class of teachers has faded away now and can only be seen at best in those who reminisce about the bygone days but lack the aptitude to truly count as true Ustaads. But this blog is not about the glorification of old teachers or teaching methods. Its about one particular tutor I had in high school…

I am a good example of the generation which grew up among issues such as, respect for teachers, say no to drugs, MQM and PPP, nepotism, sexual harassment, passing marks and that ever allusive ‘Garadee’ (which in my opinion by the way has f***** the way the

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children think about studies nowadays). We take our dinners in the privacy of our rooms and take our breakfast in the school bus, we drink water directly from the bottle to avoid wasting time with a glass point being our culture has changed drastically and with it the expectations from teachers including teachers themselves.

I don’t know what an Ustaad is suppose to be like. Lets consider an example of someone, say Aristotle. Here is something I always found amusing: You remember Alexander? The Great one? Yes, well he is often regarded as an epitome of leadership an icon of greatness. Imagine history remembering you as Sid The Great or Faroqi The Great or Zardari The… ahem. Well small wonder, Alexander learned directly under Aristotle the father of rationalism, founder of the western thought… bloody Aristotle! my God. Just think about it, after being taught directly under Aristotle I believe people should have held Alexander accountable had he not lived up to his present reputation and done something ‘Great’. You know Alexander you wouldn’t be so great had you not been born a prince in the most civilized society of the time.

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Now lets consider another example. There was a time in grade 11th when I wasn’t doing well in a number of courses and decided to take private tuitions in a typical Pakistani fashion. We had the usual ‘Tuition Kings’ at the time, De’sarem, De Silva, Handerson and (I hope I remember the spellings correctly) I don’t know if these guys are still in the scene, its been 8 or 9 years since high school. So any how my friend strongly recommended a tutor nobody had heard of who taught in very small groups. Heres a brief anecdote, it might bore you but its very relevant to this post:

As I entered the guys house for my first lesson I had expected the usual middle aged, peppered hair fat ass or a skinny black dude, (no offence my Srilankan brothers its just the way things are) this guy looked anything but; a big 5’10, 200 pound guy with very long hair coming halfway to his waist hahaha incredible! He reminded me of Jack Black with extra long hair.

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But he seemed very chill and poised. And as it turned out was very well learned and informed. Over the course of my tuition I got to learn some very interesting things about him; How he used to do homework for kids in school for money, how he used to borrow books from library instead of buying them, how he had been researching on ‘Number Theory’ since O-levels and when after completion he took his work to Karachi University they didn’t had a department to for his research. He was excellent at mathematics but I ended up taking Maths, Add Maths and Physics from him for O-levels and A-levels later on. Heres the fun part, he was also a doctor by profession completing his MBBS from Sindh Medical College and a member of APMSO! I’ve always admired original people and .. lets call him Sharjeel was one of the most original people I have ever met.

We use to hit Red Apple in those days every weekend after class with him. He was our mentor. Thats who he was. He taught us to look around, observe, learn, ask questions, research and ace our CIE exams……and also taught us gambling, making proper aim while egging and later on which streets around Phase 5 to use while escaping 🙂 I will never forget him.

Sharjeel passed away at the age of 25 after suffering a sudden heart attack. I remember thinking at the funeral, ‘bro, you learned and did all that God had planned out for you in the quickest time, maybe that is why He has called you back early’. He was a mathematician by heart and medical student by profession and I owe all my six As in O-levels and passing grades in A-levels to him. He was a good man. An Ustaad! 

The only thing common between Sharjeel’s class and the class of bygone days was perhaps the shorts and white undershirt he always used to wear however his underlying principle was the same; learning in its essence and hardwork. Everything else, etiquettes, morals, creed, etc is secondary.

God bless you old boy. I think right now the mood and the occasion demands something uplifting, here we go:

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