Alauddin Sheikh (right) after receiving the national award from President Pranab Mukherjee at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi on Wednesday. Picture by Prem Singh
Behrampore, Sept. 5: Headmaster Alauddin Sheikh was honoured today by President Pranab Mukherjee at Vigyan Bhavan for being an outstanding teacher.
A kilometre away in a cavernous hall with several rows of benches, Alauddin would have been a misfit.
Some occupants of that room, better known as the Rajya Sabha that also doubled as a wrestling ring today, would have had trouble figuring out why Alauddin should have been felicitated at all or they would have thanked their lucky stars that he is not running their show.
The work ethics Alauddin, who heads the Nowdapanur Junior Basic School in Murshidabad’s Behrampore, has set through his own example goes against the conventional wisdom that lampoons Bengal’s work culture.
Alauddin has almost never reached the school late in his 39 years in service.
If he is late by a few minutes because of unavoidable circumstances, he doesn’t slip into his seat with nonchalance and go about his work. Instead, the 59-year-old headmaster takes a casual leave. In the past year alone, he took casual leave on five days because he was late.
In contrast, many MPs in that hallowed hall have been signing the register, which makes them eligible for the daily allowance of Rs 2,000, although Parliament has conducted little business this session.
Alauddin did not make any comment on the MPs’ performance. The teacher, who traces his roots to a family of farmers, said he had “never indulged in politics” and that made him “proud”.
“Today is my happiest day. I am really overwhelmed to receive the President’s award. Last year, the state government had bestowed the Shiksha Ratna award on me,” Alauddin told The Telegraph over the phone from New Delhi.
The MPs need not feel disheartened. An inducement did play a part in “reforming” Alauddin who was always not as punctilious as he is now.
Abdul Gafur Sheikh, the 90-year-old proud father of the teacher, recalled that when Alauddin was admitted to a primary school, he used to play truant.
“I used to give some money to schoolteacher Paresh Babu to buy him chocolates to lure him to the classroom. My trick worked and he started going to school, if not for studies then for the chocolates,” Abdul Gafur said.
Unhappy with Alauddin’s attitude towards studies, Abdul Gafur had once decided not to send him to school any longer. But his maternal uncle Abdul Hamid got him admitted to the Ramakrishna Mission School at Sargachhi, about 3km from his home.
Alauddin’s wife Arifa Begum said he knew all the students of his school by name and spent most of the time there. “But we have accepted it because the school and the students are his passion,” said Arifa.
Alauddin’s colleague Panchanan Mondal said he was their “inspiration and idol”.
“Headmastermashai comes to the school at 11am sharp or earlier every day. As a result, we also have learnt to be punctual. He takes care of each student of the school. If a student remains absent for four or five days at a stretch, he visits his house and brings him back to school,” Mondal said.