Sherubtse bids Farewell to its senior most Faculty
|Prof. Gopal in his office, during his final days at Shercol|
Today morning was particularly chilly and cold. But being in the office wasn't any better. The office which otherwise filled with joy and warmth looked deserted. It was emotionally charged, and the silence in aplenty. It's longest occupant has left it behind after 35 long years. The very sight of a shut-down computer, an empty chair and a few books on the table was indication enough how they missed their master, Professor Gopalakrishnan, the longest serving personality in the history of Sherubtse College, who received the Gold Medal for the same from His Majesty the King in December, 2012.
"He has nurtured Sherubtse College from its infancy to its adolescence stage," says a choked Mr. Manish on his farewell. .....
It was in 1978 when a young energetic 24 year-old Gopal came to Bhutan soon after completing Masters Degree in Science in Mathematics with 1st division.
He was just visiting Bhutan in total oblivion to the place on an invitation of his brother who was working in DANTAK at Deothang. He had no idea or really decided on his career until his brother conveyed him a news regarding the need for a new maths teacher who could manage both +2 and degree students at Sherubtse college, the only public school then. Although, he liked the very thought of working in Bhutan, he wasn’t sure if he had got that required conviction for the profession. Little did he know that he would be in this profession for next 35 years and superannuate from the same profession once he was unsure of. But he liked the place very much and that’s when he decided to give it a shot. Accordingly, he got in touch with Fr. Mackay, who at that time was also planning to move the school section to Khaling and make Sherubtse a full flegged degree college. Fr. Leclaire was to head the college while Fr. Mackay went on to head the newfound Khaling school.
“He appointed me on the spot, and that’s how I started my career here,” says Prof. Gopalakrishnan with a smile. And he continues, “I can still remember that day, 18th Feb, 1978.”
His legendary career had begun, thus.
Over the span of 35 years of his distinguished service to the education sector of our nation, along with teaching Mathematics to pre-university students, he has held numerous posts such as club coordinator, provost, Exam cell in-charge, Programme leader and a member of Academic Quality Committee in which capacity he had looked over the quality of the courses being offered in the college and brought tremendous changes as and when required.
“Back then there were not many staffs, so I had to shoulder so many responsibilities, and I liked what I did, because of which I lost track of time. And I don’t know how 35 years have passed so easily,” he recollects.
He is also accredited for developing several mathematical modules for an infant Royal University of Bhutan, when it got delinked from the Delhi University whom it was affiliated with.
On being asked what was/were the best part of teaching, he took a few moments and said:
“I loved teaching +2 specially because the students unlike degree students were so keen on studies and would come up with so many doubts and questions which kept me busy all the time.”
Now he boasts of having many generations of students who are holding various key positions in the civil service as well as in the corporate agencies. As a matter of fact, a few of his own students have already joined Sherubtse College and other sister colleges as lecturers. That’s for him a greatest source of satisfaction.
When teaching has become almost everybody’s ‘last-option’, what made Prof. Gopal to remain in this profession for this long deserves a serious look.
“I don’t ask much out of my life, that’s what kept me this long here in Bhutan,” declares he and continues, “what Kanglung has to offer was sufficient and good enough for a person like me. I didn’t need supermarkets or shopping complex to make my life happy. The basics necessities, which Kanglung was offering was enough for my survival.”
And he further continued,
“When I was appointed, my initial payment was Rs. 550, and the house rent was just Rs. 8. This very same room/apartment now the college is charging me Rs. 3000. See how things have changed since my arrival here back in 1978. To lead a normal life, you don’t need crores and crores of money. Money alone cannot buy happiness, and those who have so much money isn’t necessarily successful. If you are happy with what you have, then your life is a success.”
There is no wonder why he was respected highly not just in the Sherubtse College family, but among the people known to him across the nation. The recognition of his deeds, in fact came from the Throne itself when he was nominated and subsequently awarded the Gold Medal for his distinguished service on the national day in December 2012.
Now he feels ever more humbled and respected. If that fact has surprised you, what you will hear later is even going to take you for a big surprise.
“I have never claimed TA/DA in my entire life, until the very last day today (25th Feb. 2013) when I was asked by the authority to make the claim but I kept on delaying because I didn’t think I should claim. That was for the (official) duty trip, enabled for attending the National day, being one of the recipients of National Merits for life long service (Gold Medal) in Dec. 2012,” says he as a matter-of-factly.
It was only after repeated notifications from the management that he decided to claim the TA/DA for the first and last time in his life!
Just as he was bound to leave the college, he does so with so much of pride and affection for the college as well as country as a whole. In what could be his last words for the School of Mathematics and Computer Science, for which he was a prominent member for so long, he had some valuable advices.
“Our department is single most/biggest department and so far it is fairly functioning well. But there are still (some) rooms for improvement, so keep on working for it. Even if you make a small mistake out of sheer carelessness, it would affect so many students here. So don't be careless!”
He warned everyone to not let the “inherent laziness” take over and that everyone should work hard if success is to follow.
“Each one of you have a unique talents and individuality, so build on that and work on that. Don’t cut corners to please someone and in a way lose your individuality.”
As the time wound up, and his stay here in Bhutan started to fall in terms of hours and down to minutes, the sadness was so evident on his face as well as in what he had to say.
“Today I called my wife, and told her that the school is giving me a farewell party today. And immediately, she cried on the phone, so I was like ‘why are you crying, it is me who should be crying.’ But the fact is she loved this place so much and that the mention of this farewell was so painful for her. So that was too bad, but like I said earlier anyone has to get to this position. And this happens to be just my turn to say goodbye.”
A long silence ensued...
With that the legendary figure ends his stay in the ‘peak of learning’.