Grandfather teacher

In six decades Mohammed Maqbool Sangeen’s name has become synonymous with teaching Urdu. And his students have a fan club on Facebook for him. Haroon Mirani profiles Grandfather teacher.

He has taught Urdu to three generations of students. Even when pushed aside by English and its popularity in Kashmir going down, the strength and zeal with which Mohammed Maqbool Sangeen teaches Urdu remains undiminished. All this despite Sangeen being 80.

“I have become a grandfather teacher,” laughs Sangeen. “There are many students here whose fathers and grandfathers have been taught by me.”

He lives in a modest house in Jawaharnagar. There is no signboard but students knock at his door as early as 7am in winters. The first batch is of girls and some of them come from as far as Pampore and Buchpora.

Son of a goldsmith, Sangeen has been in the teaching profession from 1951, when he was appointed as a teacher at government primary School, Delina in Baramulla. He had just passed matriculation then but he went on to pursue his higher studies that included MA honours in Urdu from Aligarh Muslim University.

When he started teaching in 1951, he would have hardly imagined that his career will span six decades. He has been continuously teaching for 59 years.

Everyday students arrive at his doors irrespective of the situation. “Even at peak of militancy I don’t remember students missing the classes,” says Sangeen.

After retiring from government services in 1985, Sangeen was engaged by Minto Circle School where he worked until March 2009. “I tried to quit after that but couldn’t as pressures, persuasions and passion kept me going,” says Sangeen. “At present I teach one period (class) at Linton Hall School and you can call it my third service.” Linton Hall School’s pass percentage had been plagued by low grades in Urdu, making them to engage Sangeen’s services. Their results have improved since.

Most of the students that come to Sangeen for tuitions are good in English but Urdu is their weakest subject. All this puts onus, for extra effort, on Sangeen Sir, as he is popularly known.

To overcome the difficulty, Sangeen has developed his unique methodology to teach his students. “I try to teach them differently,” says Sangeen. “I force them to write their notes, write essays and random notes on any topic, take test after every lesson, verbal test about yesterday’s lesson and much more.”

Presently Sangeen teaches for three hours at home and one hour at Linton Hall School. Still more time is consumed in checking students’ notes which he often does after 11 in the night. At the peak of his career he used to teach even upto seven hours a day.

Sangeen admits that when a student has to write from ‘left to right’ for six classes out of seven, “you can imagine his plight in the only single class which demands writing right to left.” His family has repeatedly been asking Sangeen to stop giving tuitions, but there seems to be no retirement plans for now.

According to Sangeen, “These students need special care and way of teaching Urdu that easily slips into their minds and that is where my methodology of teaching tenses, grammar, conception etc come to help.”

A soft spoken Sangeen says he never uses the stick.

“I was not competent enough for this but Allah endowed me with such an honour, I try to do justice to it,” says Sangeen.

Feeling sorry about the rise in social evils in the society, Sangeen occasionally imparts religious and moral lessons during his Urdu teaching lessons. He takes separate classes for girls and boys.

His students have dedicated a fan club on social networking site Facebook to him. Created under the name of ‘Sangeen sir……. the Urdu wizard!!’ at present has 251 fans and their number is growing. His fans range from ordinary students to doctors, engineers, expatriate top guns to separatist leaders.

Sangeen’s students have excelled in every field and are almost in every country ranging from America to Europe to Australia. When Sangeen decided to perform Hajj his students ranging from officials in Hajj committee to doctors in Saudi Arabia made every effort to make the journey easy.

Sangeen himself tries to keep away from publicity. “I heard about this internet thing from a Bangalore based relative, but I have not seen it,” says Sangeen. There is no scarcity of appreciation for his teaching from the students and every year he receives letters and calls from students all around the world especially on Teachers day.

Despite having an unblemished and an illustrious career, Sangeen’s contribution has never been recognized by the government. “I never indulged in official appeasement and maybe that is the reason for it,” said Sangeen.

He has been instrumental in igniting the interest for Urdu among students. Even on his Facebook page, many students have admitted that before their interaction with Sangeen sir, they used to hate Urdu.

“One Pandit student Amit Zaroo was so excited by this language that after studying Urdu from me he asked for lessons in Arabic and I had to refuse him as I myself am not fluent in Arabic,” recalls Sangeen.

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