Dharam Prakash Gupta
Every teacher plays a long-lasting role in shaping the life of a person but there are a few exceptions who not only teach subjects very well but also give lessons with an everlasting impression to shape future thought and way of life.
I was fortunate enough to be taught by a very able and talented teacher at Government High School Solan.
Mr. Menghi, a short statured headmaster of our school in the 70s was very strict and frightening for students not maintaining discipline or lagging in studies. But at the same time he was a very practical teacher inculcating scientific temper among students.
Although back then many of us did not know what scientific temperament view for life was but he used to narrate things in such a practical and simple way that every one followed what he taught.
One term which he frequently used to quote was Cause and Effect and say there is a cause for every effect in this universe. At that time we failed to understand this principle of science but he always used to ask us not to be a blind follower of any belief and question things. He was of the firm belief that nothing can happen in this world on its own and for every effect there has to be a cause.
On many special days he would forgo routine teaching of mathematics and would tell us about important events. When APOLLO 11 took the first human beings to the moon in 1969, Mr. Menghi talked about the mission and many phenomena related to the universe like solar and lunar eclipses. Such occasions used to make us happy since we got a break from regular mathematics class.
After explaining how sun rays blocked by the earth cause lunar eclipse, one of our classmates stood up to ask how the sun rays could be blocked. Since he had explained the phenomena in detail Mr. Menghi replied to the student promptly who was known as Gharati in the class as his father owned a water mill – Oye Gharati agar tere gharat ka paani band ho jayega to tera gharat kya chalega? Every one of us laughed at this answer but he had explained in simple language a scientific phenomenon.
Since developing logic at such a tender age in all of us was a bit complex task for him but he had his own way to explain things in a simple and interesting manner. He used to tell us not to believe in sayings but always be logical in life.
He was a Kashmiri Brahmin and used to narrate many incidents about his school days spent in Jammu and Kashmir. Once he narrated an incident of his betting with a fellow Muslim student who was an ardent believer of the concept of jannat and both to them decided to debate if it existed or not. His Muslim friend said they could bet on the neck of a loser. To which Mr. Menghi refused and settled for a bet of eight annas, which used to be a big amount in those days.
After the other fellow finished his argument explaining finer points of jannat (heaven), Mr. Menghi asked him a question – “If a person after going to jannat has so many things to eat and drink then he would have motion too. Who would then clean the toilet? If a toilet cleaner would do it then what is the point of that person going to jannat if he has to do the same thing in jannat as he does on earth (i.e. cleaning toilets) and if he himself has to clean it then what’s the fun of going to jannat?”
His teaching of logic and the theory of Cause and Effect definitely developed a scientific temperament and made me a rational person. Thank you Menghi Sahab.
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