“This Guru Purnima let us honor Abani da,” suggestion came from a friend from our high school days. Abani da had been the hostel warden in junior section of boarding and also principal of the junior school run by the Mission. The idea found traction. We all felt, who can be a better person than Abani da? A man who had dedicated his life to propagation of education in this part of rural Bengal. He would go and plead with folded hands with parents to send their wards to school. Abani da would be first to respond, if a student who was unwell, a student unable to pay his tuition fee, a student having difficulty with his studies. First stop in any difficulty will always be Abani da. Being a bachelor, his door was open twenty four hours for his students. On his bicycle, Abani da would go on his daily round around villages, be it rain or shine.
Stage was set and decorated with flower bouquets on table. “Tamaso Ma Jyotirgamayo” (Lead us from darkness to light) was written with paper confetti on the back wall of the dias.
“Gurur Brahma Gurur Vishnu Gurur Devo Maheshwaraha;
Guru Saakshaat Para Brahma, Tasmai Sri Gurave Namha.”
An ode to guru or teacher was being played on the public address system. But Abani da was missing and chief guest was getting impatient.
“Sorry I had to go and meet a student; I got delayed,” all Abani da, our guest of honor said, as he walked in nearly half hour late in his crumpled kurta and dhoti. Man who went to pick up Abani da said, “sir would not leave without hearing what the doctor would say.” It was obvious, this felicitation ceremony meant so little to him. That was Abani da who moved in a different sphere away from social niceties and conventions.
We all got up on the stage amid singing of “Guru Brahma Guru Vishnu Gurudeva Maheshwaraha”. As the function moved on, my mind went back to the day I first met Abani da.
As a new student of class six, the lowest class that was admitted in the boarding, hostel superintendent told me to go and meet the warden. A senior student delivered me to the door of warden but did not go in.
“Be careful! He hits students with folded knuckle (gatta in Bengali), if unhappy.”
“Great!” With a degree of trepidation, I knocked on the door.
A tall man, with long unkempt hair, in dhoti and a banayan was sitting on his bed. Sorrounded by books, and news papers, a pair of bifocal glasses hung on his nose.
In his room, written in bold a quote of Swami Vivekananada
“Education is the manifestation of perfection, already in man”
“You called for me sir?”
“Did I? Which class? What did you do?”
“Oh! new comer! Did not study at home? Did they tell you about my discipline and punishment?”
I could not see a despot. Well that was my first day. Many years, much experience later, today I am here to speak a few words in his honor about a man who has dedicated his life to educating men and women.
“Sir, your turn to say a few words!” I wiped my tears as the compere brought me back to ceremony.
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