A Teacher of His Own League

I’m retired but not tired.
Prof. P. Kharel

Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication P. Kharel retired from the Tribhuvan University recently. A teacher of his own league, I was among those fortunates to get opportunities to learn from him. During our college days, we had to muster enough courage to face him as he was considered a strict teacher. When I was doing my master’s in journalism and mass communication, I asked him to supervise my thesis on sports journalism for two reason: first, because he had been a sports reporter himself during his career, and secondly, I was writing in English.

In this blog post, I will write some of my interesting experiences with him.  These experience with him probably tells us how his personality is.

1. “Be at 8:05am.”

While doing my thesis, I wanted to consult him and I called him at his home (he didn’t carry mobile phones until it became absolutely necessary). After asking me what I had done so far for the thesis, he asked me to meet him at the Department the next day. Time: 8:05am. “I will finish my class at 8 am, it may take me 5 mins to reach the department room as there may be some students talking to me so be there at 8:05am.”

Well, I am a Nepali student and I reached the department room at 8:10am. When I entered he seemed to not notice me at all. I told him he had called me. He looked at the clock, said I was 5 mins late and asked me to wait before he could find time for me.

I had to wait another 10 mins before which he would look at me and say: “Now, you go.”

2. “Minus 2 for you both.”

I and Tilak Pathak decided to join Master’s in Journalism and Mass Communications late and when we had our admission done, it was already a few weeks after the first day of class. The first time he noticed us in the class, he asked if we had just admitted. We said yes and then he told us that some of the practicals had been conducted and asked us to meet him at the department room after the class.

We went to meet him and he agreed to assign us practical works but said: “Since it would be injustice to other students admitting in time, for you it would be minus 2 marks in practical when you begin.” We had no other options than to say yes.

I secretly thought he would forget that at the end of the year. But we both found out that he perfectly remembered it and reminded us of it at the end of the year.

3. “I can supervise you but won’t ask for marks.”

Despite a few suggestions that I should reconsider not getting him as the thesis supervisor, I was adamant. Others said he was difficult teacher to cope with and wouldn’t make it easy for students. I didn’t want to just finish the thesis but also learn some research and make thesis good.

The first thing he said after he agreed to supervise me: “I can supervise you but won’t ask for marks.” I said ok. He made me promise that I would do my works in time and keep communicating with him.

I really was happy that I chose him because every time I consulted him, he gave me useful suggestions and every time I wanted him to have a look at my thesis, he did it and made sure to point out things to be improved.

At the end, when I was done with the thesis, he said: “I am happy with you have (87 pages total) but if you want marks, add the jungle.” The jungle is a term we used for the big section in introduction (starting with ‘Nepal is a landlocked country…”) and in review of literature (the long history of journalism in Nepal). I chose not to and sure enough my external supervisor pointed that my thesis was short to be given 90.

4. “Good; I will donate you my article’s money.”

In 2009/10, a few of journalism graduates including my good friends Tilak and Bhuwan KC, decided to start a media research center. We named it the Center for Media Research – Nepal and decided that we will conduct researches on media in our spare time (we all were employed and we didn’t wanted to make it an NGO that research issues on donor’s interests).

We went to him to talk about it. He was the Chairman of Nepal Press Institute at that time. He warmly welcomed us, offered us tea and gave us more than hour listening to our idea.

At the end of the conversation, he told us: “Good; I have just written a long journal article for the Martin Chautari, they had told me they would pay me Rs. 10,000 for it. I don’t know if that’s after tax but I will donate to your organization whatsoever they would give me.”

We were overwhelmed. We told him we would only take the money when we felt that it would be spent on worthy enough research. (We never took the money from him, but had always felt encouraged by his gesture and always consider him the advisor for CMR-Nepal.)

5. “It’s all about honesty.”

One thing that I disliked for long about him was that he chose to chair the group of pro-King journalists during King Gyanendra’s direct rule in 2004/5. I was blogging against the Royal Rule that time and had thought time and again why he had to do that.

I mustered enough courage to ask him the question during one of our meetings after the democracy was reestablished and the group non-functional.

“Journalism shouldn’t be about one idea or one opinion; it should be platform for all voices,” he told me: “If I had not been honest, I could have done a research, and proved that media was never as free as it was during the period using a few hundreds of articles published in all media during the time. But that would have been dishonesty.”

I still feel that he shouldn’t have chaired the group.

***

Despite all that, he is always an inspiring teacher for me: ruthlessly true to his words, honest and hardworking. His articles and books (and the research and amount of works he puts on that) always amazes me.

He was one of the senior teachers of journalism and yet every time he taught us, he had notes to consult on a small sheets of paper on his hand. (That I always take as his honesty to his job of teaching.)

I know it’s not end of his teaching years, but in a way or other, I feel numb that he is now at the retirement age.

Kharel sir, continue being at your own league, many of us admire you for what you are!

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