Prof. Nauman (1951-2009): R.I.P. Sir Nauman

Posted on November 20, 2009
Filed Under >Sophia Hasnain, Education, People
14 Comments
Total Views: 62737

Sophia Hasnain

(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 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 (EE lecturer) 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 (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 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 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 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 (in Germany) to see his brother, he called me and said, ‘kuch dil ka maamla hay in kay saath, laikin ab 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.

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. “Many 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,” Syed, former city editor of a leading English daily told The News. “At about 6am he came out of his room complaining breathing problem and left us mourning,” 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. “I never saw him hurting anybody even if he differed with him,” said Tariq Saeed, a senior structural engineer and an old friend of Prof. Nauman. “He was always a helping hand and a true dervish,” he said. “Right from the beginning Nauman was dedicated, committed and disciplined. He was never late,” 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 Karay… 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.

14 responses to “Prof. Nauman (1951-2009): R.I.P. Sir Nauman

  1. Owais Mughal says:

    Nauman Saheb..may his soul rest in peace. I don’t think he remembered me by name. I was usually just a face in the crowd in his class. He was one of few teachers whom students respected and there were no ‘billi and dog’ sounds made in his class. You see, Pakistani students are very smart. They see through a teacher very quickly and know who is a genuine teacher and who is not. And there were quite a few not-so-genuine teachers and they were treated with ‘billi and dog’ sounds in their classes.

    For Nauman Saheb, my interaction with him mostly came during practicals where he made sure we accounted for all voltages and currents in Transistor amplifiers and diodes.

    Viva was another time where I interacted with him face-to-face. I remember he asked me about what goes on in Green LEDs and Red LEDs at photonic levels. There were few questions on Saturation current, biasing, avalanche breakdown in transistors etc etc. I answered few questions right and few wrong and that was it. I believe questions were fair. He was not trying to show he knew more than me (which some teachers do in viva) and I got ok marks.

    I don’t remember him ever talking about politics in the class or outside. I heard from others that he was a ‘surkha’ but never got any feeling whether he was one or not. This I would put to his credit that in class he kept to his teaching job with sincerety.

  2. Muhammad Abid says:

    Its really sad news for all of his friend and lovers.I always remember him,he was great and respectable.

  3. shahran says:

    Nauman sahib was a really humble person and never wanted to be in limelight but ofcourse he was very popular amongst the student and teaching community.

    It is unfortunate that our governments were unable to use the true potential of these professionals.

    I think we should read our friend Tariq Mustafa’s comment which shows another aspect of his personality.

    “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”.

  4. Gardezi says:

    I was looking for his publications and research but did not find much. Can you point me to what his research was on?

  5. KARACHIWALLA says:

    Sad to hear this. I remember him from 15 years ago.

    ALthough I thought he was usually more interested in his politics than his own field, but as a teacher he was good.

    May he rest in peace.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*