Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Thank you, Prof

On the morning of August 6, 2012, I lost one of the most important people in my life: beloved Professor Satish Kumar, Head of the Department of Physics and Computer Science at Dayalbagh Educational Institute, Agra. Not only did he supervise both of my post-graduate theses, he acted like a role model and personal mentor to me as well. I would go to him for all sorts of advice and guidance. He inspired me, made me test my boundaries, and played a large role in shaping who I am today. 

Professor Satish Kumar was one of those teachers who kept you hanging off the edge of your seat during class. He pushed a large number of students into finding their interests and strengths. I was one such lucky student. He approached me when I was just a Bachelor’s student and asked if I would like to join his small research group. Though I was the youngest in the group, I never felt uncomfortable, and he treated my silly opinions and ideas with respect. 

The Prof and I often had interesting discussions that would branch out into various subjects. We would lose track of time, which made him kick me out of the room with a playful scold, “Arrey, look at the time! I have so much work to do! Just don’t talk to me, Radha Pyari!” Yes, he was the only one who used my full name.

When proofreading anything I’d written, he not only looked through the technical parts, he painstakingly fixed grammar mistakes. He was super meticulous and his English was enviable. 

As a teacher, he catalyzed a large number of projects, including courses for distance education and open source learning. He also introduced an undergraduate award in his department to encourage students to take up research. Spreading education was very important to him. He was the coordinator behind a number of the MoU’s and tie-ups we have all over the world, and played a large role in putting together the goal of becoming one of the best universities in the world by the year 2031. He was a senior member of IEEE, an Associate Editor of IEEE Transactions on Fuzzy Systems, and well-known in the soft computing research community, especially for his book

After he passed away, the entire university came out to see off the carriage that held his body. They showered it with rose petals. He’s the only one who could have literally stopped a whole university from functioning like that. It really was a beautiful send-off. 

He would have been 49 years old on August 7, 2012. 

Thank you, my Prof
For showing me the way
To live with head held high
To recognize quality
And competence
To laugh off the big things
And appreciate the little things

Thank you, my Prof
For your endless hours
Of patience
Despite my shortcomings
And thick-headed mistakes

Thank you, my Prof
For the classes
So very well taught
By your signature hand gestures
And energetic smile

Thank you, my Prof
For enriching my life
For every life you touched
In fact
For putting this department
On the world’s map

Forgive me, my Prof
If ever
I caused you distress

You will be missed, my Prof
The happy memories made
Myriad lessons taught

You will be missed, my Prof
But missed with a smile…
For that is what you taught me.

I once asked him, “Prof, don’t you ever rest?” He replied with a smile, “I’ll rest when I die.” 

Rest, my Prof. You more than deserve it. I will try to live my life in a way that will make you proud, pick up where you left off, and hope to be even half the person you were.