Pranesh kumar Chowdhury

Tribute to a Legendary Professor

Anwar A. Khan

5 May, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Tribute to a Legendary Professor

Socrates was one. Plato too.  So is Professor Praneshkumar Chowdhury Sir (popularly known as PKC Sir) who taught for many years in colleges. The greatest of all to me is PKC Sir.  I am talking about a great teacher, of course. He inspired his students, whether those students were formally enrolled in a class they taught or were simply those who crossed their paths.

I am deeply shocked to hear the sad news of revered PKC Sir’s demise on 29 April, 2021. He lived a little bit over 80 years. He was our one of the best teachers at Government Gurudayal College at Kishoreganj District Sadar during the years of 1970-72. He taught us English Literature who captivated us in the class-room in a pin-drop silence while delivering his lectures. Famed British poet John Donne reminds me with his words, “Death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind.” He was the former principal of Government Gurudayal College of Kishoreganj. We shall now truly miss him very much.

PKC Sir is a rare breed of scholar Professor-Teacher in English Literature. He is also a great Litterateur. He wrote many books covering poetry, short stories, translation of poems of many foreign poets of English, Urdu, German and so forth.

Great teachers are modest about their knowledge. Or as succinctly put by Saint Paul, "If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know." If a Great Teacher is asked a question to which he does not know the answer, he promises to find out, and then does. He knows he is not the only one able to facilitate learning. He is grateful for the opportunity to help just one person gain knowledge. Great Teachers want their students to learn; even to surpass them in knowledge. Great Teachers are never arrogant. PKC Sir is this kind of a Teacher.

PKC Sir has always been patient like great teachers having patience. The wonderful thing about practicing patience is that it benefits the one practicing it as much or more as the one it is practiced upon. Being patient is indicative of self-restraint and discipline and demonstrates a quality in a teacher that will likely be emulated in the students.

Through gentleness, perseverance – indeed patience –Sir provided an environment that coaxed students to reach their potential. While teaching his students throughout his teaching services in different colleges, he exceeded all expectations of his students.

Considering him as a role model teacher, his students like me can say categorically that the most important day I remember in all my life (emphasis mine) is the one on which my teacher, PKC Sir, came to me. Great Teachers are kind and show respect. Great teachers recognise the value and worth of each person. They try to understand their student and his perspective. They have empathy. They try to 'get into' the other fellow's shoes and 'walk a few miles'. Great Teachers esteem their students as valuable, even if they are much different than themselves, less educated or in a lower position. They recognise that they too were once in the place of apprentice. Great teachers treat their students with respect and thus earn the respect of them as well.

Great Teachers show, not tell. Great teachers may explain a concept, but they demonstrate it too. They look for ways to bring examples in the classroom and outside the classroom.  When they are not able to bring in examples, they draw pictures or diagrams. They think of other creative ways to express knowledge and aid in their students' understanding. PKC Sir is a rare example in this regard.

Great Teachers are life-long learners themselves. They gain knowledge and wisdom from those they teach and PKC Sir falls in that category.

Great Teachers also smile. A smile is the expression of love. It is the magnet, which pulls all towards it. Everybody wants a smile.  A teacher touches the heart of a student through the magnetic touch of smile. A smile creates confidence and learning happens only when students start liking the teacher. And PKC Sir has always been found in smiling face.

Great Teachers engage their students. They tell stories. They listen. They maintain eye contact. They don't just lecture or throw facts at their pupils. Great Teachers engage their students. PKC Sir is that kind of a teacher.

Norman Vincent Peale said, "We tend to get what we expect." Lady Bird Johnson once said: "Children are apt to live up to what you believe of them." I would add that other people do too. Great Teachers expect a lot from their students. And because they are great in so many other ways, they usually get it. PKC Sir is always found great in so many ways.

Great Teachers provide a warm environment and allow their students to make mistakes. Great Teachers realise that mistakes often precede great learning. Thomas Edison once said of his many failed attempts to prove something, "I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward." Great teachers like Pranesh Sir understand this too well.

This Great Parent Teacher is probably the most important teacher of all in my life. He allows his children to make choices and live with the consequences. He knows that experience often provides more memorable lessons than lectures ever could. Great teachers do not say things like, "You're not really cut out for this." "This is not your thing." They realise that students soon learn their own limitations and do not put false ceilings up for them. PKC Sir is that kind of a great teacher.

All good teachers are intellectually curious and naturally driven by their interests in keeping abreast of changes in their fields.

Talented teachers are able to work with students with varying levels of maturity and knowledge. A college professor I know once made the following statement about his experience as a teacher, “Each year teaching is more challenging for me, because I grow a year older and the students stay the same age. The widening age gap forces me to stretch in order to reach them.”

Excellent teachers never lose enthusiasm for their profession. They might become temporarily burdened by administrative hassles or isolated problems, but their underlying engagement with their work are unwavering. Students feel this energy, and teachers who project it are much more successful than those who do not.

PKC Sir’s teaching method is a reminder of what makes the teaching profession so worthwhile. I wish to dedicate a few lines from a poem to our revered Sir:

                “There is another sky,

                Ever serene and fair,

                And there is another sunshine,

                Though it be darkness there;

                Never mind faded forests, PKC Sir,

                Never mind silent fields --

                Here is a little forest,

                Whose leaf is ever green;

                Here is a brighter garden,

                Where not a frost has been;

                In its unfading flowers.

                I hear the bright bee hum:

                PKC, our revered Sir,

                Into our garden come!”

PKC Sir was a brilliant scholar and a gracious mentor who was not only deeply respected, but truly loved, by his students. I am deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to benefit from his guidance in college days, and will always remember the warmth with which he always welcomed me. We join PKC Sir’s family and many friends in mourning this tremendous loss to the entire Gurudayal College community.

And a grand salute to revered PKC Sir.


The writer is an independent political analyst who writes on politics, political and human-centred figures, current and international affairs