Commitment personified

Prof. Muhammud Afaq was not just a teacher but a role model for science education



I have the privilege to be the student, and later a colleague of Prof. Muhammud Afaq who passed away at the age of 72 years after a brief illness on 9th of January-2013 at his native place, Fatehpur, U.P. Prof. Afaq has been one of the founding faculty members of the department of Chemistry, University of Kashmir, who played a pivotal role in laying a very strong academic foundation involving serious, disciplined teaching learning process for establishing high quality bench marks for pursuit of science education in letter and spirit. Prof. Afaq had his Master’s degree in Chemistry from Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh. For pursuit of advance courses leading to doctoral programme, Prof. Afaq  joined University of Alberta, Canada from 1981-1984 and specialized in Analytic Chromatographic and Spectral Techniques. However he did not submit his Ph.D. thesis as the studies visualized and undertaken by him did not satisfy his inner quest for knowledge and match his remarkable achievement in tune with his uncompromising approach of doing the best. He started his career as Scientific Officer in Chemistry at Baba Atomic Research Centre, Trombay, Mumbai, However it appears the teacher within him did not get professional satisfaction with the job profile of a Scientific Officer even in the prestigious National research institute of the country.
 His dynamism and naturally gifted traits as extraordinary teacher with outstanding and impressive skills of communication won him a position as faculty member of Chemistry department in erstwhile Regional Engineering College, Srinagar now NIT. But this did not satisfy his level of teaching, thinking, vision and pursuits of knowledge chasing his dreams to deliver at the tertiary level. Driven by his dynamism, rich talent and uncompromising approach for delivering the best he joined the department of Chemistry, University of Kashmir, in 1969 and served more than 3 decades with distinction, dedication, commitment, sincerity and professional competence till 2003. His style of teaching, seriousness, punctuality, time management, current developments related to topics, hypersensitivity to deliver the best ranked him as an outstanding teacher. His quoted references regarding consulting reading material of National / International journals, foreign books with authorship,  name of the publisher, edition and even the page number and titles / sub-titles reflected his passion and deep quest for knowledge for dissemination amongst his students and scholars. His style of conduction laboratory courses has equally been quite unique in ensuring that every component involved in experimentation fulfilled desired norms of requirement in terms of quality, accuracy, functionality, reproducibility, proper sampling basic knowledge, instrumentation and above all lucid presentation of achieved results. His planning of experiments, chasing time bound targets and ensuring procurement of chemicals, glassware, labware would ensure smooth conduct and completion of laboratory courses bringing novelty in every session in the list of experiments for generating interests among students. His academic profile and personality has been a blend of rich knowledge of fundamentals of theoretical chemistry with magical state of art in experimentation which included handling and repairing of bench level instruments.
One would cherish to see his laboratory functional and kicking from all aspects including band of white clad apron students, all time on red alert, sensitive in performing experiments with discipline and without any least possible interference even from their own batch mates belonging to other specialization. He has been a symbol of a living legend of “WORK IS WORSHIP”. Going down my memory lane, I am reminded of two incidents.
 His laboratory got waterlogged because of leakage in some taps. Students approached laboratory staff who refused to mop the floor as it was the sweeper's job. His frequent and surprise visit to his laboratory alarmed him to witness the problem and refusal of the laboratory staff to do the needful. He humbly asked the lab staff, `just show me where sweeper keeps the broom'. Contrary to the expectation of students, laboratory staff, he immediately rushed to get the broom from the identified spot and mopped the entire the floor personally. The other incident happened when he singularly lifted LPG cylinder from ground floor to first floor for replacement in his lab. As an all-rounder his working domain has been beyond four walls of the classroom and the laboratory. He voluntary offered his services for the departmental library for ten years as professional assistant to ensure prompt issuance, receipt and purchase of books for faculty, research scholars and students even at odd hours beyond official timing and even on holidays for hostel boarders and faculty living in the campus. Simultaneously he would update his colleagues with new and fresh arrival of books and place orders for purchase. He would never compromise on quality of text and reference book at any cost. Similarly, he would voluntarily offer services for proper maintenance of chemicals, glassware and labware stores including alphabetical order of their placement both qualitatively and quantitatively. This applied to procurement of distilled water as well as its consumption included supply to other departments of the university.
As a scholar, he would refrain from exhibiting himself on the occasion of seminars, conferences and workshops but he would prefer to participate as a common delegate, however, he would still remain focus of attention as his grand-grand students, faculty and the friends irrespective of subject and institutional affiliation would hunt and care for him. He was media shy and would abstain from photo sessions on such occasions. Except for his academic pursuits, he would least care for visits of politicians and high profile bureaucrats since for him students were his primary concern and nothing  else mattered.
Prof. Afaq had multidimensional personality and wide spectrum of hobbies which included hunting for local and migratory birds, photography, catching view of magnificent natural scenes, local costumes and traditional dresses. As a traveler exploring unknown destinations and above all a par excellent cook for developing unconventional and non-traditional recipes and extremely fond of quality blend and brand of tea / coffee of farm fresh samples. Local varieties of all kinds of fresh fruits has been his weakness and they would constitute essential component of his daily breakfast. He would serve with remarkable degree of delicacy, his home made and tested preparations with love, affection and warmth to all his guests which included students, scholars, faculty and friends with same spirit.
He did not symbolize with stereotype Muslim in respect of performing rituals but would strictly adhere to its essence as a true practicing Muslim scholar. He had immense passion for daily recitation of holy Quran with objectivity and absolute belief that the revealed holy book on the last Prophet (PBUH) has substantial component of scientific phenomenon which he would often quote during delivering lectures in the class. His demise is an irreparable loss for the department of Chemistry, its faculty, research scholars and his students across the state and the country. But it is a personal loss to me in view of four decades of close association with him in the capacity of class representative, students, scholar, a faculty member, a friend and above all a role model for imparting meaningful science education. May Allah bless his soul.
Words fail me to express matching tribute to this legendary figure, however I would like to conclude that whether NAAC or No- NAAC such conscious and committed teachers have left very high bench marks for professional competence, commitment and imparting quality education in the current mad race of commercialization.

Lastupdate on : Sun, 13 Jan 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 13 Jan 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 14 Jan 2013 00:00:00 IST

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