Ten Years at KU: Pondering over Meanings

Ten years! They have slipped like seconds. My first day at KU is afresh as if it were yesterday — the confusion, the compunction, the curiosity, and what not. Only when I see the changed part of its surroundings and the new establishments, and only when I count the number of school-going children from KU quarters with my own son along, I begin to ponder over the days, months and years I have spent here.

I am trying to trace my transitions and transformations  in reminiscences, in my diaries, and sometimes in the grey hairs of my friends and colleagues. I can’t be more organized now while the flashback comes like a hillside stream during a heavy rainfall.

How detached and confused I was about starting a career at KU ten years ago!  Kathmandu was so appealing for half a dozen vacancy announcements per day,  the work at TU and its colleges looked so leisurely and independent  that the job offer at KU with eight hours by six days compulsion did not tempt me in the least. But I joined KU because I had always respected the first option and a reasonable offer, regardless of what better opportunity further struggle and waiting would lead to. There were assurances from outside KU that I had not landed in a wrong place. Inside everyone looked satisfied despite the minimum sixty kilometers journey daily and the 8/6 reality. I had learned from previous experiences that once one was at home in a work place, one did not have to strive fruitlessly for a productive space. After all,  I was entering a place where there would be no boundaries for intellectual productivity. To be at a central station of a growing university would naturally mean to be a part of the growth itself. I sustained because I wanted to become such part. And it was long before being infested with the contagion of ennui and frustration that the comparison with a more ‘colorful’ life at Kathmandu market would bring.

“Ten years are sufficient to grow confident and passionate for a job,” said one of my old acquaintances recently. His assertion rings true to me. But it was a decade at one place with extremely rare absence! And the period is worth a book because it hasn’t been without upheavals, albeit small to others; they haven’t been without friends and foes, joys and jerks. I now recall how I had found myself amid the air of resignation at my work station when fully inside and how much I worked to help restore optimism which everyone around me feels these days — how it changed largely with me, and only partly without. I have a confident claim for the share in transformation of my Department. I need a larger (more serious) space to justify this.  My confession for now is I did not go to explore greener pastures elsewhere.  I think I have grown as confident and passionate as my old friend’s theory assumes.

The conditions are worth sharing.

First, my association and closeness with hardworking people. The people knew very well that only a slight lag in the quality of service and that of the students would endanger their dignity and ultimately the job itself.  I happened to join at a time when the University’s youthfulness was written largely on the working spirit of the majority. There was enthusiasm like a contagion, at least in those who initiated and helped the institution grow. Perhaps the contagion easily took me. I now take it as a proof of what V. S. Ramachandran puts, “I realized a long time ago that the best formula for success is to be around people who are passionate and enthusiastic about what they do, for there is nothing more contagious than enthusiasm.”  People here, in fact, were a rare lot for hard work and perseverance, and still are.  Their company is one the most remarkable incentives.

Second, the need for creating a space; of securing what was given apart from the general challenge: “What you’ve  got  is just enough for entry; to go ahead you must be different from what you are now.” Anyone who landed KU for a career would share this sometimes disillusioning, sometimes annoying warning on disuse and redundancy and suffer a productive unrest for higher studies. Besides, because the place was manageably small (or big), one could immediately find himself (in)capable of creating impact; he would be visible in a short time. This visibility, which is rather absent in highly populated institutions, would either force one to choose a path of growth, or explore  a more leisurely and riskless space elsewhere. Those who sustained this dilemma for the path of growth, ushered the university further. This is why almost everyone who has spent half a decade here owns KU.

Ten years — a child grows enough to adapt to some of life’s vicissitudes; an adult greys enough to understand the futility of excesses; an old person is gratified enough by life’s heydays and has adequately rehearsed for the pains of last days. Yes, I have seen all of these here, and therefore think that my life in this hillock has become all the more productive than it would if I had chosen to strain myself for the  “greener pastures.”

I would end my ruminations by quoting one favorite anecdote I read online sometime during my early days at KU. I often use it to begin my classes in each new session.

An old lady and a young man happened to compete for a promotion to a university’s permanent post. The lady, who had spent years teaching at the university, was somehow sure that she was going to beat the young man, who had been there two years only.  But she lost; the young man was selected for the post.

Wounded because she was denied this last chance before retirement, she went to complain with the President: “It’s unfair, sir. I’ve taught for twenty years, but you’ve denied me promotion for the young lad who hasn’t been here more than a couple of years.  I can’t simply take it as natural. What’s that boy done, after all?”

The President was in the best of his wit. He simply said, “I understand what you feel, Madam. But it is not how many years that really counted, but how many achievements. From what the selection board knew, and as the reality also is, Madam, you’ve only taught one year for twenty times. That’s made all the difference.”

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