A SORROW TO SHARE; PURUSOTTAMA SIR NO MORE

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Happiness can be shared with all. But one shares his sorrows only with the people he loves.

I love you, my dear readers. Therefore I will share with you a sorrow: I am bereft of my childhood teacher Purusottama Panda. I am bereft of one of my most revered mentors. My birthplace Tigiria, the smallest amongst all the ex-States of India, is bereft of a Bhagiratha of the Ganges of modern education in her soil.

I will tell you of him; but let me first tell you of me.

In sixties I am satisfied with my life. Life has given me every opportunity to enjoy it.

Till date I have lived a life worth living.

I have never run after money; never run after fame. But I have never run away from any cause that my conscience has asked me to take up.

I have been subjected to conspiracies, to incarcerations by an exploitative administration, time and again in the past; but my heirs shall never feel that any of my activities could be termed as inconsistent with the tradition of truthfulness of my ancestors.

I have loved my library, loved my letters; I have loved to read, loved to share my knowledge with others.

I have loved my pets, loved the plants.

I have loved my family, loved my village, loved my friends, loved my motherland.

I have loved my countrymen, loved my work and have loved to remain rude to the miscreants.

I have loved my being and becoming. And, I have loved myself for whatever I have been.
late purushottam panda
I owe this satisfaction mostly to my teacher Purusottama Panda, who, born in Baliput of Tigiria in 1921, passed away at 8 in the morning of December 9, 2007 at a Bhubaneswar Hospital.

Everybody of us human beings has his unique congenital character. Teachers define that, refine that and fortify that.

In my life Purusottama Panda had a major role in doing that. I remember the first of the classes he had taken. He had given us a stanza to write in good handwriting on the first inner page of our notebooks. The stanza read THILE THAU PACHHE GUNA HAJARA, CHARITRA BIHUNE SABU ASARA that literally meant, one may have a thousand of good qualities, but they do not matter if there is no character.

He had made us understand that character is adherence to principle, to prudence, to perseverance in bettering the society, in cause of the commons. He was citing relevant stories from epics and ancient literature in a manner that had really penetrated our mind and heart and had refined our character, which as a man I am proud to have possessed.

He was my teacher in the Minor School. This was the only school in whole of Tigiria before independence. The King of Tigiria had established it; but it was not named after the King’s as was being done in other Princely States. It was named after Tigiria’s legendary poet, scholar and teacher, Pandit Bhubaneswar Badapanda, in the list of whose pupils were Sir Basudev Sudhala Dev and Mahamahopadyaya Samanta Chandra Sekhar Singh, known as Pathani Samanta. In this school, where the King of Tigiria, by the very act of naming it after Badapanda, had shown that the Teacher was more venerable than the Ruler, Purusottama Panda was an assistant teacher. For four years, from Class Four to Seven, I was his student and in these four years he had fortified my character to go against odds to stand with a cause.

Dressed in a Dhoti and Kamiz, spotlessly white, he was coming on a bicycle every day to the school from his three-kilometer distant native village of Baliput. When other teachers were being addressed with the suffix ‘Babu’ like Kunja Babu (then our Headmaster), he was addressed with ‘Sir’. He was known and revered as “Purusottama Sir” through out Tigiria. We had in our school only two more teachers whom people were addressing as “Sir”; they were Lokanath Samal (Second Sir) and Narasingha Mishra (Narasingha Sir). None but these three were called as “Sir’. Such was his personality. He was solemn in appearance; but was always smiling. None of us had ever seen him angry. Never. He was always helping us correct our mistakes with utmost patience and pleasure. His class was not restricted to the textbook; he was telling us stories depicting humanitarianism and quest for knowledge even as he had an uncanny ability to link the morale of the said stories to the lessons at hand. In doing so he was generating in us love for the books we were reading.

He and his colleagues in the Minor School were very worried that most of their students were unable to obtain higher education, as there was no High School in Tigiria. They prepared the ground for a High School and though the Minor School was a government School, they decided to offer the Schoolrooms as well as their own time to run High School classes if people of Tigiria cooperate. So, they asked all the students to bring their fathers/ guardians to the School. Before them, they placed their proposal. It was accepted by one and all. Then eminent persons of Tigiria from all its villages were called to a meeting at the School premises. A committee was constituted with the then Sarpanch of Tigiria Sadar Panchayat as the Secretary and the “private” High School of Tigiria started in the “Government” Minor School. Had the High School not started, my father was so attached to me, that I am sure, he would never have sent me out to have High School studies. On this premise I can say, Purusottama Sir was a Bhagirath of the Ganges of higher education in Tigiria.

With his passing away, all these and many more memories of my childhood days come rushing to my mind.

Time has changed. We, as a people, have lost the romance of education; of giving education, of receiving education. The personal touch of a teacher, the personal respect of a student, (Ah! The nice days!) no more exist.

Purusottama Sir was in existence a few days ago. He is no more.

Tears! Do not drop. It is better; a person like him has left this land of self-seekers where qualification has killed education.

But I know, I cannot say others not to cry. Whoever was born in Tigiria and was senior or contemporary to me, will cry over passing away of their beloved teacher.

Dear readers, people born in my birthplace Tigiria are living in various parts of the world. If any of you is a member of any e-group, please post a message in the group forum that Purusottama Panda of Tigiria, teacher of Bhubaneswar Badapanda M.E. School till his superannuation, a patron saint of higher education in Tigiria, whose emphasis on education was more than on qualification, has passed away on December 9, 2007. I am sure, a person from Tigiria, if he or she is a member of your e-group, will stand up in silence to remember the beloved teacher a like of who shall no more be available.

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