On the eve of teachers’ day this year I, all of a sudden, remembered late Prof Showkat Ali Mir. I recalled his unique dress, style of walking and talking, lecture presentation, conducting examination and his fair and meticulous evaluation of answer scripts. Being tall, well-built and graceful he enjoyed personality referral. He used to be well prepared and would enter the class room with confidence and come out very jubilant as if he had conquered fort of an emperor.
Prof Showkat was born on 23 April, 1937 in Gantamulla, a village on erstwhile Srinagar-Rawalpindi Road about ten kilometres away from Baramulla. He passed matriculation examination from the erstwhile National High School Baramulla, F Sc from St. Joseph’s College, Baramulla and B Sc. from Amar Singh College Srinagar. He pursued M Sc programme in Chemistry at Aligarh Muslim University in 1959-61.
He was appointed as lecturer in chemistry in 1962 and posted in GDC Poonch. He was transferred to GDC Baramulla in 1965. After that he served continuously in Baramulla College except for a brief period in GDC Sopore. He took over charge of Principal GDC Baramulla from Prof Nizam-ud-Din Buch on 30 November, 1991 and retired after putting in 33 years of service in HED from the same College on 30 April, 1995.
I knew Prof Showkat from my early childhood because of his elder brother Ghulam Rabani Mir. He was teacher in Government Primary School Trikanjan in early 1950s’. Those days I was taught Urdu, basics of Mathematics and Deenyat by my uncle along with a group of other village boys (present day community class). My parents did not allow me to join the school because in that case I had to cross “Hapath Khai Nala”; that originates from Alpathri and Joins River Jehlum in Bonyar, apprehending that I would slip into the river while crossing over the log placed across the Nallah. I owe my joining school and later pursuing higher education to Mr Rabani. He came to my home, convinced my parents and admitted me directly in 4th Primary in the school. The senior most students in this school were in 3rd primary because the school had restarted functioning in 1952 after having been closed during partition of the state in 1947.
Prof Showkat was diligent, disciplinarian, regular and punctual faculty member. I have never found him missing his class or remaining away from duty without applying for leave. As teacher and later as principal he would monitor movement/activities of students in the class rooms, labs, corridors, lawns, play field and even outside the college campus.
In February, 1973 while boarding bus in his native village Prof Showkat met accident resulting in fracture of his hip bone and was put on traction in St Joseph’s Hospital Baramulla for about a month. After this accident he settled in Khaja Bagh, Baramulla.
After completing Post Graduation in Chemistry from Kashmir University in 1970 I was appointed as lecturer in chemistry (adhoc) and posted in S. P. College Srinagar. Subsequently, I was appointed by HED based on selection by State PSC and joined GDC Baramulla on 6th September, 1972. Being Head of Chemistry Department, Prof Showkat introduced and encouraged me in presence of other colleagues in the college. Those days very eminent professors were on the staff of the college. Among them Professors like Abdul Gani Bhat (Persian), Gh Nabi Nadim (Persian), H L Misri (Eng), Sajan Singh (Phys), M.S. Budroo (Phys), M.A. Charoo (Chem), M.L. Raina (Eng), Hakim M Ashraf and S. A. Shah (Chem) to cite a few. Prof Abdul Gani Bhat has been a teacher par excellence. His classroom used to be jam packed with students across all academic disciplines. Fortunate were their younger colleagues and students who worked and studied respectively under the guidance of all these inspiring teachers. They learnt lessons of regularity, punctuality, dedication and smart work from them.
It is pertinent to mention here that during 2004 Major General Raj Mehta, VSM the then GOC got reconstructed the gutted pavilion of the mini stadium of the college. He suggested putting up a proposal for the stadium to be named after a well-known personality. The matter was deliberated upon in the staff council meeting and it was unanimously resolved that the stadium be designated Prof Showkat Ali Mir Stadium. The proposal was approved by General Mehta and in a function organised jointly the renovated stadium was declared as “Prof Showkat Ali Mir Stadium”.
It is worthwhile to place on record that the sports field of the college spread over nearly 100 kanals of land owes its existence to Prof Mohammad Sultan Wani the then Principal (1978 to 1981). The Public Works Department demanded huge amount for levelling the field. However, Prof Wani accompanied by Manjeet Bir Singh Physical Training Instructor approached the then GOC (Major General A. K. Mehta, VSM). He deployed JCB along with technical armoured staff that worked for about 20 days and levelled the ground that is a splendid play field today. The college had to bear expenses on account of refreshment for the working staff only. Prof Wani had also worked as an English teacher in the college earlier. For his dynamism as faculty and academic leadership he is remembered even today. As principal he setup different houses where students participated in co-curricular activities to build their confidence and competence. The outcome of this initiative was that during his tenure as principal the students of the college made tremendous advancement in sports, debates and other academic ventures.
The college with the passage of time attained heights owing to contribution made by academic leaders like Professors Sham Lal Sadhu, Mohammad Yousaf, G. A. Kuchai, Mohammad Sayeed Ashai, Mohammad Aslam Buch, M S Wani, N. D, Buch, S A Mir, Mushtaq A Wani, Irshad Ahmad Wani, M Ashraf Shah, F.R. Beigh to name a few. Equally, the contribution of faculty members who served the institution with devotion and dedication from the day it came into existence as St. Joseph’s College in 1938 and after taking over by the state government in 1963 is highly appreciable.
Showkat Ali Mir was an embodiment of professorial qualities and is remembered equally by his colleagues and students. After a brief period of illness he passed away on 20th August 2004 and was laid to rest in the makbara adjacent to Eidgah, in Khaja Bagh. May Allah shower His choicest blessings upon the departed souls.
The author is former College Principal and President Varmul College Alumni Association. He is grateful to Dr Nazir Ahmad Gilkar for his perseverance and assistance in compiling the tribute.