Posted by Sabahat (iFaqeer) on November 18, 2009
Nauman Saahab is no more. The news was as sudden as it was devastating. And like a lot of people, I got it by means of a distribution list of my classmates from NED. Personally, I wasn’t as close to Professor Mohammad Nauman as some of my friends and classmates. But is almost a truism to say that one of the most important measures of a human being is the kind of relationships he or she develops with other human beings, and what kind of respect and affection he or she engenders in others. And in our broken public sector educational system in Pakistan, to find a teacher who commands the kind of adulation, almost, that Nauman Saahab did is very, very rare. He did something that even other, very respected, teachers don’t: he actually mentored students. Throw in the fact that all this was despite the fact that he held political views that, especially in the last decade or two, were not popular in our milieu, and the treasure that has been taken from us is made even more invaluable.
It bears mention here that Nauman Saahab was not just faculty, he was an NEDian himself—and as you will see from the tributes below, his prominence and engagement was not limited either to NED or engineering. He was a national figure. But I will not even attempt to chronicle his life or try to capture his life or personality. Instead, reproduced below are two pieces by former students and links to tributes from other sources. What I’d like to leave each and every NEDian that knew and was touched by Nauman Saahab with, i this thought:
It is often said that we as human beings don’t really become adults till the day our parents pass on. And to a lot of us, as engineers, if not as socially conscious human beings, Professor Mohammad Nauman was exactly that; a father figure. And with him gone, I pray that we can all—collectively, if not individually—help fill the gap he leaves, in NED, in Pakistan, and in the world.
- The most trenchant and comprehensive piece by a student was penned by Tariq Mustafa (“Tee Emm”) himself and is reproduced in full below. It is titled “Dervesh of NED“.
- Sophia Hasnain has penned a personal note that is also worth reading and is also reproduced below. It is titled “RIP Sir Nauman“.
- Cemendtaur wrote an Obituary on his blog.
- Discussion on the NED Alumni group on LinkedIn.
- Shahid Hussain wrote an Obituary in The News, titled “Prof. Nauman Bows Out“.
- “Professor Nauman Passes away“, Dawn’s news item on his passing.
- This blog reproduced an interview with Prof. Nauman in The News earlier this year.
- Beena Sarwar has written two pieces:
- Taraqqi Pasand Media carried a short intro by yours truly and The News Obituary under the title “Progressive Academic Passes Away“.
- … Please send in links to other tributes so we can include them here.
Sun, 15th November 2009, at 10:50pm, Pakistan Standard Time
Professor Mohammad Nauman of NED University of Engineering & Technology died today in Karachi due to asthma attack. His funeral was offered after Asar prayers at the mosque of the university which was attended by an extra ordinary number of people which included former and current students, industry people, colleague teachers, friends and relatives.
Offering his funeral in the open ground next to the administration block (where they process the requests for formal degrees by successful graduates), I was wondering if there could have been a different end to someone so synonymous with NED University than parting away while still a part of the institute.
Nauman Sahib, as we NEDians would say, was an extra ordinary man. From his teaching style, to his end-of-lecture socio-awakening short talks that would draw both immense interest and nay-saying from the back-benchers political Islamists, to his activisim for the sustainable development of the city of Karachi, he was iconic and symbolic in his persona.
He was associated initially with the Department of Electrical Engineering but afterwards he was associated with the new Department of Electronics at the university. While the students at the second year would be awed by his selection of text and reference books and his teaching style, it was in the TE and FE where his grip on the subjects of the likes of Solid State Devices and Advance Electronics was unanimously appreciated by all. His writing on the board, his hair and mostaches and his soft voice would make every lecture unique. Often, towards the end of the class, he would lean towards a bench or table and would talk painfully about the social and economical problems of our era all the while rubbing the half used chalk (we did not have whiteboards at that time) to a small round ball in his fingers. As he walked out of the class, a group of studious and interested students would walk with him all the way till his room to take the conversation further.
Nauman sahib was an early adoptor of new technologies and trend observer. It was in 1995 that he, with the help of some of his old students in the US, got the ned.edu TLD registered for the university and got it hooked up with the UUCP store and forward email system that while being very limited in use and usability was akin to putting the university on the Internet map. In 1996, he helped me convert my hobby university email gateway project (ned.edu.pk) into a full fledged graduate project that helped students with free and personalized unix terminal based email facility over the SDNPK UUCP network for the next many years. He also set up new labs and facilities with the help of young energetic students whom he would mentor endlessly and whose number would not dwindle down with the passing of time.
As a young, religious but apolitical minded NEDian, I often got to listen to students belonging to Jamiat about the ‘evil’ that he was and that how ‘the man pushes the atheist agenda’ and the ‘former background’. I would have fallen for this incorrect information had I not got the chance to get even more close to him after my graduation when I visited his home where he lived with this mother. He was a confirmed bachelor. With my attire and get up, the ‘evil’ Nauman would have not even bothered to talk to me let alone spending his preciouis time and efforts on projects of common interests. A few seniors who were enthusiastically associated with Tableegh detailed their discussions with him on the ‘gasht’ and how respectful was he towards the view points presented to him.
He led a simple but hyper active life. He taught at the university in the day and rest of the time, he was associated with organizations that were actively fighting for the good and development of the city of Karachi often taking it opening against dozens of mafias that are hell-bent on ruining the city for monitory purposes. His talks and analysis about the planning, growth and problems of Karachi were a permanent feature of newstories and only on 8th November 2009, he talked about the problems with the vertical growth of Karachi.
His departure is sudden and unexpected. He would be remembered by a very large number of NEDians across the world and others who shared his ideals. The ‘Dervish’, which was part of his email ID, has moved on.
Sunday, November 15, 2009 at 4:48pm, Central European Time
Electronics II… Third year… NED… for me the teacher always had ‘hmmm bachooo’ look in his light brown eyes and a hidden smile… enough to make me crack light jokes in response to his questions, to which he would sometimes respond back with some encouraging sarcasm. Saba was too scared of him to do it and another friend was secretly in love with him. Electronics II was the only subject that I understood in all my four years.
We seldom went to his office, we never had a question to ask, instead we sometime went to Aquila’s office who sat next to her. His part of the office had ‘once they came for…’, some marxist poster and always some peculiar lefties protest / meeting invitations.
The same year, I was introduced to YSP (I think this was the name), that his students had made and they used to meet in his friends office around Regal. It was more or less the same crowd that used to bring out Quest, again something that he inspired students to bring out. YSP was about owning schools, teaching computers in schools and setting up some one computer lab in the early 90s. Some members even painted the schools. But we never talked.
By our third year we were fast friends with Neelofur and used to spend quite a bit of our afternoon time in her apartment in Sharfabad. He frequented that place. There we came to know more about him. His photograph was on her wall where her family’s photos were. He was part of her family.
In 90s US visas and NED students went hand in hand. He was invariably the first choice for recommendation letters. He even arranged jobs for many of his old students in companies of his friends. He made our lives!
Once I went back to NED during my vacations, I had no intention, but bumped into Ghulam Hussain, who out of the blue offered me a teaching position, bewildered, I went to see him and he laughed out loudly, his oh-that-well-known laughter. This was enough to show how to take the offer.
But once I returned, he was the first one to start sending his students to me for those final year projects.
Then I got married, he was there in high spirits and we were trying to hook him up with a friend of Riaz.
Electronics Dept was established, he refused to be Chairman, but asked me to teach there part time.Then I used to meet him twice a week and almost always complaining about administration, he listened with his hidden smile. We made tea in his office during Ramzan time. He had a very elaborate tea set up there.
From PR we arranged a LIve With Talaat show outside the KPC, he came to attend, standing in one corner, delighted to see me.
Last year we met at Neelofer’s place again, he was constantly talking. He had very strange sense of humor and we sometimes laughed out of respect.
Few months ago, he was here [Sophia is currently based in Germany] to see his brother, he called me and said, ‘kuch dil ka maamla hay inkay saath, laikin abb umer itni hay kay asli dil ka maamla hay‘… I drove twice to meet him. He was telling Tara what she should ask her abba, after all he introduced himself as ‘tumahrae walid ka dost hoon‘!
Sir Nauman died today.