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To sir with love

Wiry, bird-like, fluttery gestures interspersing a torrential flow of conversation, Prof. Moogat tosses up nuggets of memories savoring each of them with a connoisseur's delight." Growing up in this vicinity was a wonderful experience as I could scale the compound wall and scurry off to my alma mater, St. Vinecent's or disappear with my buddies for a game of cricket," reveals Prof.Moogat delightfully. Surrounded by his scholastic memorabilia , he mulls over the highs and lows of a teacher's life, on the present educational system and the students of the present generation who are portrayed as rebels as compared to the older generation. ' During my school days I realized my favorite subject. Father Oesch was my role model from whom I inculcated a great love for teaching. I also dabbled in painting, participated in elocution contests and dedates because of the encouragement I got from my teachers. Our school band under the magic baton of Father Recklin flourished, making ripples in the music fraternity in those days. Our faculty in school, whether from the arts or science were a homogenous lot who prided themselves on their honesty and integrity in their profession and their deep involvement with their students," reminisces Prof. Moogat wistfully.

From college to Nowrosjee Wadia College, it was a smooth transition wherein Prof. Moogat donned the robes of a lecturer four decades ago ! ' Teaching in those days was a cakewalk as there were fewer students and the age of hi-technology had not swamped us then. It has always been my endeavor to make math's extremely interesting for the students and that is why I would sing and dance, also liberally pepper my words with highly explosive expletives, thereby drawing my students to the lectures in droves like moths to the flame. I'm given to understand that a number of students from the various other colleges in Pune would sneak into the class room occupying every inch of space, even on window sills, in order to lend a ear to my ranting," chucked the highly volatile Prof,naughtly ! In spite of his unorthodox and innovative teaching methods, Prof. Moogat carved a niche for himself in the rarefied sphere of teaching, with the hundreds of students moving on through the shoals of the time to all corners of the globe. There were bundles and bundles of letter in Prof. Moogat's hands as he proudly tells me," These are from my boys who always keep in touch with me, never letting distance come between us. Just read any one of this letters at random and you will know how much each of these fellows means to me." Wading through a deluge of words, echoing the writer's sincere feelings of love and gratitude for their Sir, gave an insight into the lifetime bonding that has been forged between a teacher and his pupils. They are the students who still reach across continent to teacher whom they revere. Referring to himself as a 'mad bawa', Prof. Moogat in true Parsi humourous style takes a dig to his own eccentric mannerism and an ' enfant terrible' image he has picked up during his long and distinguished career in college ! " I am a rebel of sorts; I was always vociferous in expressing my opinions whether in the classroom, in the staff room or as a principal of the college ! In these last thirty years, mind boggling changes have taken place. Our present generation is definitely different from even those a decade ago. Having been exposed to not only a knowledge blitzkrieg but also to an audio visual barrage of sifting impressions, this generation of youngsters do not believe in heroes or gurus since they recognize early in life that pedestals get dusty ," says the Prof. with conviction.

Talking about the rat race for the marks in the S.S.C, and H.S.C. examinations, Prof. Moogat holds our educational system system and parents responsible at times for pressurizing the young ones to perform beyond their capacities, thus leading to failure or even suicides. In a moving account of one of his students who would come to him for maths coaching at Prof. Moogat's home, he sadly narrates," This boy would always be the last to leave my class and looked anxious and so preoccupied that I scolded him. But I felt a strange misgiving as I observed his behaviour carefully and I realized that he desperately wanted to confide his problem to me. I was divested when the horror of it all, hit me on hearing the poor lad out. He was so afraid that he would not get the required percentage in the forthcoming exams that he wanted to take an overdose of sleeping pills and bid adieu to the cruel world ! With a lot of counseling and meeting his parents, this child merged a winner and today is excelling in the computer field. Peer and parental pressures, in the today's world of stiff competition can sound the death knell to sensitive and young minds." Indeed, for the engineering and medical career a debacle in the 12th standard spells doom; for many aspirant, a choice of another career is unthinkable." There is a fixation in the psyche of the majority of our students who only opt for the engineering or medical professions, even if it means having to cough up hefty sums of money for college admissions. I cannot fathom this trend wherein other professions like Armed Forces, Merchant Navy, Hotelering, Architecture, Interior Decoration or even the high flying civil services fail to attract these young men, especially in Maharashtra. Once I had advised another student of mine that since he was very skilful with his hands, he ought to think of a career in designing furniture or even sculpture. Next day his parents stormed into my house and expressed their displeasure with my advice to their son, aghast at the prospect of their apple of their eye becoming a 'carpenter'. "I dispelled their misgivings and cleared the web of doubts from their minds," informs Prof. Moogat matter of factly. ;

Fate intervened in his plans of blessed bachelorhood, when Prof. Moogat tied the knot and settled down to wedded life. " I met my wife-to-be-in college and lost my heart," elaborates Prof. Moogat smiling triumphantly like a Cheshire cat purring contentedly. However sometime ago when he was stuck down by a kidney ailment and confided to bed rest, Prof. Moogat felt as if the skies had fallen in and the future looked bleak, as he could not teach the students. " This was when my wife and daughters steeped in and encouraged me to start my tuitions gradually for they were convinced that my health depended on my life life line - teaching the boys on a regular basis. And sure enough I roller coasted to recovery overcoming my health problem, enjoying my brain storming sessions with my brigade," he reveals ebulliently. At Prof. Moogat's home, the dining room bustles with activity as students lock horns with the veteran professor becoming part and parcel of his family, so much so that when the time comes to say goodbye to the Moogat's there are heavy hearts all around. Citing the case of a student who broke a chair in his house while standing on it, Prof. Moogat says," He (the student), quietly took it away with my wife's permission and I did not realize that it has been repaired till my wife told me about it. Although my wife sometimes grumbles about all the noise and disturbance of so many boisterous fellows invading our home, she always ends up doting on them. She misses each and every one of them when they are gone and the house remains almost silent, spilling over with memories of student chatter and laughter."

During his tenure as Principal, Prof. Moogat admits, " I was uncomfortable in that chair for all I wanted to do was teach, whereas then I was required to perform as an administrator first and foremost." But he remembers his colleagues and friends nostalgically with affection, especially the times they shared together in Wadia's.


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