(Editor’s Note: Professor Muhammad Nauman was a highly respected academic (Professor of Electronics) as well as a dedicated political and social activist. For more than 20 years he taught at NED University of Engineering, Karachi. He died on Nov. 15. One of his former students and colleague, Sohpia Hasnain wrote this memoir.)
Electronics IIâ€¦ Third yearâ€¦ NEDâ€¦ for me the teacher always had â€˜hmmm bachoooâ€™ look in his light brown eyes and a hidden smileâ€¦ 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 Aquilaâ€™s (EE lecturer) office who sat next to her. His part of the office had â€˜once they came forâ€¦â€™, 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 (Chemistry) 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 familyâ€™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 a teacher, 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 Department was established at NED, separate from the Electrical Department, 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.
We arranged a Live With Talat show outside the KPC, he came to attend, standing in one corner, delighted to see me. Last year we met at Neeloferâ€™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 (in Germany) to see his brother, he called me and said, â€˜kuch dil ka maamla hay in kay saath, laikin ab umer itni hay kay asli dil ka maamla hayâ€˜â€¦ I drove twice to meet him. He was telling Tara what she should ask her abba, after all he introduced himself as â€˜tumahrae walid ka dost hoonâ€˜!
Sir Nauman died today.
Here is what The News wrote on his death:
Prominent Marxist, an associate professor at the prestigious NED University of Engineering and Technology and a social activist Mohammad Nauman passed away on Sunday morning, leaving thousands of his students, friends and colleagues mourning.
Born on December 19, 1951 in Bahawalpur, Nauman acquired his secondary education at Cadet College, Petaro, and then graduated from NED University in electrical engineering in 1974. He did his Masters in electrical engineering from North Carolina, USA. After completing his education, Nauman initially joined Karachi Nuclear Power Plant for a while but his inquisitiveness prompted him to opt for NED University where he was teaching for almost 30 years.
He was a prominent student leader associated with left-wing National Students Federation (NSF) during late 1960s and early 1970s and actively participated in the democratic upsurge in 1969 against military dictator Gen. Ayub Khan. Despite having a brilliant academic record, he preferred to teach rather than acquiring lucrative jobs at multinational companies. However, one could find thousands of his students in different organisations across Pakistan at key positions.
Committed to the well-being of the common man right from the beginning, he helped Edhi Foundation to develop its wireless service on a voluntary basis and also served as technical advisor to the defunct Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) in the early 1990s when Fahimuzaman Khan was its administrator. He wrote hundreds of research papers on topics such as bonded labour, and water and power and campaigned for the displaced people of Chotiari Dam and other similar causes. He was widely quoted in national and international media.
Prof. Nauman was quite well till Saturday and attended a dinner in honour of his friend Prof. Tauseef Ahmed Khan who has been awarded a PhD degree recently, at the residence of an old friend Abid Ali Syed. â€œMany old friends had gathered at my residence where we had arranged a dinner in honour of Prof. Tauseef Ahmed Khan and Prof. Nauman was also there chatting with eminent lawyer Ali Ahmed Kurd, politician Yousuf Masti Khan and other friends,â€ Syed, former city editor of a leading English daily told The News. â€œAt about 6am he came out of his room complaining breathing problem and left us mourning,â€ his uncle who lived with him said. Prof. Nauman was suffering from asthma for the last couple of years.
Thousands of students, friends, political leaders and activists bode him farewell at the University of Karachi graveyard. Prominent amongst them were Prof. S. M. Naseer, economists Aly Ercelawn, Haris Gazdar and Dr Asad Sayeed, Executive Director Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) Karamat Ali, ex-president Karachi Bar Association Akhter Husain, politician Yousuf Masti Khan, B.M. Kutty, Hameed Haroon, Fahimuzaman Khan, educationist Dr. Syed Jaffar Ahmed and actor and academic Khalid Ahmed. â€œI never saw him hurting anybody even if he differed with him,â€ said Tariq Saeed, a senior structural engineer and an old friend of Prof. Nauman. â€œHe was always a helping hand and a true dervish,â€ he said. â€œRight from the beginning Nauman was dedicated, committed and disciplined. He was never late,â€ said Shahab Aftab, another senior engineer and an old friend of Prof. Nauman.
Note: This post is based on original that also appeared at NED Naama.
More Tributes to Sir Nauman
1. Haqq Maghfirath Karayâ€¦ Nauman Saahab Passes On by Sabahat Ashraf.
2. Dervesh of NED by Tariq Mustafa.
3. An Obituary by Ali Hassan Cemendtaur.
4. Silent middle class hindering social change by Aroosa Masroor.
5. Farewell Prof. Nauman by Beena Sarwar.