The "Wrong" kind of Education
The old boys of a prominent public school were having their annual re-union
dinner at the house of one of the alumnus of the School. While there was a
banter of noisy conversation outside on the well manicured lawn among the
old boys, mingled with the tinkling of juice and soft juice glasses, the
wives were huddled in the large and well appointed sitting room having their
own tete-e-tete. It was like any other year, but for one difference.
The 80 year old former principal, still physically erect and mentally agile
who had retired about a decade ago after serving the School in different
capacities for over 45 years had also come to the party. A graduate of the
Government College, Lahore, with a Teacher's Diploma (T.D) from London, the
former principal never tired of saying proudly that he loved boxing and
played hockey with the great "Col. Dara."
The friendly and cheerful atmosphere was broken by a loud and aggressive
remark by Azmat Qureishi, "Mr. Khan, you have given us the wrong kind of
education!" Everyone looked in the direction with a start, but the cool and
composed principal Khan only raised his bushy eye-brows to say, "Why do you
say that, Azmat?"
"Didn't you tell us Mr. Khan that honesty and fairness are called for in all
matters, great or small, from everyday issues to national policies?" asked
the Deputy Superintendent of the Railways.
"Indeed I did," replied Mr. Khan.
"I followed your advice. Did not take any bribe, nor allowed anyone else to
do in my departments, including my superiors."
"That is very creditable Qureishi."
"But do you know the price I had to pay for this?" demanded Qureishi. "I
have had fourteen transfers in as many years which has made a mess of my
children's education and my household effects as these are carted carelessly
from one mofussil town to another."
"Qureishi is right," interposed Irfan Malik, "Your education has been
ill-suited to our present day society. Did you not tell us repeatedly not to
bow our head before any man and that we should submit ourselves completely
before Almighty Allah alone? That all the postures of Namaaz practiced by
'Kaafirs' before the arrival of the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) are for
"Ofcourse I did. Anything wrong with that?" asked Mr. Khan in his usual soft
"Yes, plenty. Because these norms are no longer applicable in the world of
corporate business," insisted Irfan. "We must stand bolt upright as soon as
the boss enters our office, bow to open his car door bending like in a
'Ruku' and even perform the 'Sijda' when he feigns difficulty in tying his
shoe-laces, on account of the expanding girth," added Irfan with a smile.
"And, " added Kumail, a junior executive in a private firm for over fifteen
years, "if you do not perform these acts of obeisance every day you are
going to be overlooked for promotion or any kind of career progression in
the organisation, like I have been, following your advice, Mr. Khan."
"That is sad," said Mr. Khan remorsefully.
"But, sir...." started Mohammed Jaffer.
"Now, now, Jaffer, don't you remember my telling you not to call me sir.
Just Mr. Khan will do. Infact now as a grown up you can even be more
informal and call me just Rashid. My age will weigh less heavily on my
shoulders," said Mr. Khan good naturedly.
"Really, Mr. Khan?" said Jaffer. "In my office I must address all my seniors
as sir, seth or sahab. Infact I do not know the first name of many of them
because they even call one another as 'Seth'!" There was a loud guffaw all
around on hearing this.
"how's your tennis getting along?" principal Khan asked Ashraf the former
school champion and tennis captain. "Does your elbow still hurt when you are
stretched to the fifth set by an opponent?"
"This is incredible, Mr. Khan. How do you remember all this. I left school
over 20 years ago?" exclaimed Ashraf. "In any case I now hardly get the time
to play any games in my present job at the bank."
"Have you forgotten my emphasis on sports and hobbies as part of all-round
"Like at Eaton and Harrow," echoed Noman, Shahid and Pervaiz in unison
remembering the old principal's daily advice to the pupils in the morning
"Yes, yes, that's what I mean. all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,"
advised Mr. Khan not for a moment forgetting his role as a teacher for many
"You must be joking Khan Sahab," said the former tennis champion." I work
from eight in the morning until eleven at night and enter my house
stealthily every night after everyone else in the house has gone to bed;
have a cold dinner and retire to an uneasy sleep. I get good money but I am
a stranger to my wife and children and will have no opportunity of spending
this money until, perhaps, it will be too late and of no use," said Ashraf
"Khan Sahab," interjected Saifullah wanting to take full advantage of the
presence of their popular and knowledgeable teacher that evening, "Did you
not tell us at the Islamiyat class that a true muslim is one who treats the
poor and the weak with compassion and does not fail to speak the truth,
whatever the odds.?"
"That is the spirit of Islam," said the aging principal.
"But it is not the key to a successful career," pointed out Saifullah whose
liberal and radical views had, apparently, carried well beyond the portals
of school, college and the university. "The hallmark of success is to ride
roughshod over the sub-ordinates and the weak and not to speak the truth in
front of the superiors. The only truth the boss knows is what he wants to
hear, 'Yes, sir,' or 'As you say, sir.'"
"Oh, how the values of life have fallen," said Khan nodding his head sadly
and for the first time the etched lines on the forehead had become sharper
and deeper. But not for long. With spark and hope in the eyes he said, "What
counts most in the matter of piety and goodness is not merely religious
affiliation or formal acts of worship and prayer but the way we discharge
our obligations to our fellow human beings."
"I try to do that in my life, sir..I mean, Mr. Khan," said Anwar.
"You have joined politics, haven't you Anwar?" asked Mr. Khan.
"Yes sir..I mean, Mr. Khan," stuttered Anwar who was an outstanding debator
in school and used his stammering at just the right place to underscore his
point, "But I have followed your advice all along. I have not switched
parties or sold my loyalty to the highest bidder or misused my political
power nor compromised my principles or manifesto on the altar of Mammon."
"That is very good," said Khan with unhidden pride.
"Not so good, sir..I mean, Mr. Khan. I am way behind my house building
finance loan and am unable to replace ny 1970 model Mazda car. My wife's
jewelry has been mortgaged while my children go to a government school as I
cannot pay the hefty fees charged by private schools."
"No price is too high for following the right path," said Khan with
At this stage the old boys, hand-in-hand with their favourite teacher who
had given them all the 'wrong' kind of education moved to the dining room
for a sumptuous dinner laid out by their host who hadn't said a word all
evening. But somehow, that evening, he felt uncomfortable about the opulence
of his palatial house and his riches earned by not following the advice of
principal Khan in practical life.
P.S. This is a description of an imaginary party. But if it mirrors your
life in any way, it is not that imaginary either.
Anwar Abbas, c/o Mr. Zafar Akber, Manager-Sales & Marketing, Saudi Arabian
Habibians Ahoy! | I as a Habibians |Observance of 40th anniversary
The "Wrong" kind of Education