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My golden students

Amarjit Singh Hayer, Hindustan Times   December 08, 2012
First Published: 10:40 IST(8/12/2012) | Last Updated: 10:42 IST(8/12/2012)

Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, to which I dedicated 29 fruitful and fulfilling years, is celebrating its golden jubilee this year but its real jewels are the alumni.

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Unlike traditional universities, the PAU allows its teachers to frame courses, innovate, and evaluate students internally. It knows that it takes competent and conscientious teachers to transfer knowledge, mould personalities, and make a life-long bond with protégés.

Many of my former students remain in touch with me, though I retired 18 years ago. I am proud of their achievements and humbled by their acknowledgment of the part I played in it.

In 1970, visionary vice-chancellor MS Randhawa set the journalism programme rolling at the PAU to produce people who could write with knowledge on agricultural issues and rural development. Two students of the first batch are very close to me. Surinder Sud became the first full-time agriculture editor on Business Standard. Prithi Pal (PP) Singh Gill became chief of bureau on The Tribune and, later, the first journalist information commissioner of Punjab.

Three students of a later batch rose to become editors. Keen to be his own master, Brijender Singh Panwar, editor of Free Press Journal, built the MS Panwar Institute of Communication and Management at Solan. Imbued with idealism, he has been the role model for responsible journalism.

Varinder Singh Walia is editor of Punjabi Tribune. He quit a cushy government job to join as staff reporter on The Tribune but his heart was always in Punjabi journalism. He set new standards in vernacular journalism. His weekly column, "Harfaan dey aar paar", is a testimony to his literary skill and style. Another of my former students, now heading the Chandigarh edition of a leading national English daily, sought my advice at important stages of his career. I dedicate Allama Iqbal's inspiring couplet to him:
Tu shaheen hai, parwaaz hai kaam tera
Teray saamney aasman aur bhi hain
(You are a falcon, your job is to soar
And explore many skies more)

Another talented student of mine, Sonia Bathla, earned a doctorate on a scholarship from Leicester University, UK, before cancer claimed her in the prime of her life. She was a lovable person, a popular teacher, a brilliant researcher, and a sensitive poet. She shared her notes on spirituality with me till the end.

As teacher in charge of the university magazine, I appointed Manjit Singh Kang its editor, and he paid back with regard when he became vice-chancellor of the PAU. As mentor of the speakers' union, I appointed Jai Rup Singh its secretary. Now he is vice-chancellor of the Central University of Punjab, Bathinda. When he was V-C at Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, I happened to be at a function where he was chief guest and Manjit guest of honour. It was one of the proudest moments of my life.

Assigned charge of lawn tennis, I inspired the team to be the only agricultural university to play in the north-zone and all-India finals. Satish Narula, Surjit Singh Mahal, and Yurinder Singh received roll of honour for bringing laurels to the alma mater.

The students who excelled in life had two qualities in common: positive attitude and moral values. I had reminded them of this observation of William Shakespeare:
This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

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