Professor N.A Nadeem: A decolonized mind

The picture of Professor N. A Nadeem that stays with me after his sudden & tragic death is that of a gentle scholar, who always wore his vast learning lightly on his seemingly frail shoulders. In his case  solid scholarship, unbending courage of conviction and fierce moral integrity enabled him to stand rocklike in adverse conditions. To my mind his most endearing trait was his ability  to listen in a spirit of humility. Once convinced of the rightness of the cause, he would not yield but give himself to it completely. He  often said righteousness is the ornament of knowledge.

Pen is reluctant in writing him ‘Late’. He was a living legend, indeed a gravitational teacher who shall continue to live in the hearts of his scholars. Though a silent personality by nature he was a very good orator. His speeches used to be precise, brief, to the point, and meaningful. He always disliked gossip, noise, vanity, negative criticism and ostentation. He often quoted one verse from Surah al-Hujurat – first investigate than act. He believed in Iqbal’s verse Aadmiyat Ehtiram-e-Admi.

It is an established fact when great souls depart they leave behind a treasure of wisdom in the form of writings or wise utterances which are used by his scholars to dispel darkness and demystify arrogance around them. Professor Nadeem was a truly decolonized mind. One day I had to represent my department. I was so embarrassed before the audience because I had prepared a brief note. I felt solace when I found my teacher Professor Nadeem  in the audience. He smiled, which encouraged me to face the audience. When I met him outside Gandhi Bhawan, at Kashmir University,  he said ‘It does not matter where you speak, what matters is how and what you speak. He encouraged his scholars to exercise economy of words. Almighty Allah had bestowed him the art of summarizing and presenting his ideas coherently. His skill of research reporting was excellent which is reflected by the research monograph  he had written ‘Profile of an Effective Teachers’ and dedicated to his mother Fatima Quershi.

I shall share here some reflections from his life. Once his PhD Supervisor Late Professor Moti Lal Lidhoo was invited to deliver extension lecture in the seminar room, he gifted me the old text Foundations of Behavioral Research by Fred Kerlinger, Late Prof Rather who was there smiled and promised me a gift if I comprehended the book. Prof Nadeem came to my rescue. He taught me its substance in detail. It was amazing to gauge the depth of his understanding on Research Methodology. Senior Teachers from commerce, law, social sciences got their research proposals vetted from Professor Nadeem and invited him to deliver lectures on Research Methodology. During 2003-2004 Professor Nadeem mooted a detailed proposal for launching BEd in his parent Department of Education. He was determined and got its approved through various statutory bodies  of  the University, finally he had to move to UGC to get some technical clarifications. I accompanied him to carry files. In the scorching heat enduring thirst and hunger, drenched in sweat, I saw him writing drafts at a small documentation shop outside UGC, getting it typed. Finally he got the clarification, his joy knew no bounds. Back home he did not take rest and ensured BEd was launched in that very session. He started with two contractual teaching assistants – myself and Gulnaz, on Rs 6000 monthly salary. Today we have full-fledged department of teacher education with 5-6 teachers working as Assistant Professors on substantial grounds. Sir became so busy in institutional interests that he did not even claim DA/expenses incurred on UGC visit.  I shall present here another incident. There was a sweeper in  our department. She had two daughters. Professor Nadeem send me to Kashmir University Model School to get two admission forms, filled them himself, and paid the admission fee from his own pocket. Since the girls were weak he told me to give them remedial teaching. Here is another. The Directorate of IT & SS had supplied IT equipment to respective departments, desk top was installed in the Dean chamber, the concerned operator switched it directly on the mains because of lack of stabilizer, Professor Nadeem procured personal stabilizer from his quarter to save University property.

There was one dervish Late Bakshi who had free access to the Dean chamber, Professor Nadeem took due care of him. As chairman of High Power Committees cases that remained unsolved for years were forwarded to him. I had seen him sitting beyond office hours and resolving those cases on priority. He always interpreted statues in the interest of the teaching community. As Dean he upgraded the standard of Kashmir University Model High School and solved the long pending demands of teachers working there. One day Prof Shah Manzoor Alam, former VC visited education department in 1986. He  saw Professor Nadeem and Professor Rather engrossed in serious research work, told his escorts look I have given best teachers to the education department. I have seen Professor Nadeem framing various policy documents restructuring of education sector in the state. Professor Nadeem restructured the B.Ed curriculum on UGC pattern, introduced Project Work in curriculum of education to develop research insight in future scholars. He laid the foundation of Department of Education at Central University of Kashmir. His Scholars conducted doctorate level studies on objective based evaluation of primary education ( Dr Khalida), Secondary Education (Dr Kauser), Higher Education (Dr Shaheen), Adult Education (Dr Nahid), the findings of these studies if implemented can overhaul the education scenario of the state.

He contributed significantly to the growth of Teacher Education in the state, put department of Education on growth trajectory and saw it blooming from a sapling to a shady chinar. He was surrounded by people of all tastes yet he was never in a rush. He was excellent listener-patient and understanding with deep empathy for weaker sections of society. He had a message for scholars to learn to live intellectually strenuous life, study deeply and widely, cultivate the capacity to appreciate meaning instead of memorizing words. It is only dispassionate search for truth that can enrich and liberate the mind from mental inertia. Social media, newspapers were flooded with condolence messages  paying adieu to their teacher. Professor Nadeem carved his name on hearts of his students, his legacy is etched deep on the minds of his scholars. 

Showkat Rashid Wani is Assistant Professor, Directorate of Distance Education, University of Kashmir