Srinagar: 73 year old Professor Asrar Muhammad is a living legend. Professor Asrar once used to be the lone person in Kashmir and perhaps the very few in India who were experts in Modern Algebra.
The Professor who prefers to live a secluded life has been serving the students community in Kashmir from the last 42 years and even today he wishes to escape the gaze and limelight.
Wearing tattered clothes and keeping a low profile, the Professor doesn’t want to waste his time in ‘petty little’ things.
Even when this reporter met him, he was braving the winter chill at the famed ‘Zero bridge’ sitting on a wooden bench and evaluating the answer sheets of his students.
Hailing from Bulandshehar district of Uttar Pradesh, Professor Asrar did his Masters in Mathematics from Aligarh Muslim University and then secured his admission in the same University for a PhD on 1 August 1971.
He did most of his work for PhD by supervising himself as there was nobody who could guide him on the topic that he had chosen-‘Modern Algebra’.
“After some time I got a guide to help me in my thesis who then helped me with it,” he said.
While he was doing his PhD he was offered lecturer ship at AMU and was awarded an M.Phill degree as well. Asrar, accepted the M.Phill degree but refused to take the post of the lecturer.
“I had plans for completing my PhD, which was a fulltime affair, and I rejected the offer,” he said.
After the refusal, Asrar was told that he had disobeyed the University and that’s why he won’t be offered any post in future.
“But I carried on. I completed my PhD in Modern Algebra from AMU,” he said. After the completion of his PhD, he was offered a job at Jamia Milia Islamia, New Delhi in the year 1975, where he continued till 1977.
The examiners panel for his PhD degree constituted a member from a foreign University and one from a national University.
“The expert, Prof Abraham Jackson came from an Israeli University and one from a Banaras University, Prof A K Tiwari was the second expert,” recalls Professor Asrar.
“Somebody told me that given the fact that Abraham Jackson was a Jew and I was a Muslim, he was going to reject my thesis. I was a bit concerned but Professor Jackson turned out to be a through professional and he did exactly the opposite that I was told otherwise. He wrote an excellent report and I was granted my degree,” he said.
Recalling his Kashmir connection, Professor Asrar says that in the year 1977, Kashmir University advertised a post of a Maths Professor with expertise in Modern Algebra.
“I applied for the post and he was called for an interview at Kashmir House, Chanakyapuri New Delhi,” he says.
“I was selected on a monthly remuneration of Rs 865 and after much ado, because some professors on the panel didn’t want my appointment, I joined KU,” he says.
“Finally, in May 1977, I reached to Kashmir University’s Mathematics department, but I was not received well by the colleagues, who told me to go back, as Kashmir was not suitable for him,” says the Professor.
“Even the then head of the department Jan Muhammad told me to go home. He said Kashmir was not suitable for me,” he said.
Professor Asrar was told to leave Kashmir even by his colleagues, who as per Professor did not want him to be here. His colleagues even went to the Vice Chancellor and told him to terminate him as he was not even able to solve the basic problems.
“Some of my colleagues and even the head of the department often used to complain about me that I was not a competent person to work in the department,” he said.
But amid all this, he continued to work despite all the hurdles that were being created in his way and with every passing day gained respect from the student community.
“I have formula for life and that is silence. Keep working, no matter what and listen to people and whatever they want to say, but at the end maintain silence, and keep working,” he said, adding that the formula has worked for him.
For 42 years Professor Asrar has been working tirelessly in Kashmir and he desires to live for another 60 years.
Professor Asrar has also served at University of Sulaimani in Iraq for two years, from 1980-82, when he was working at Kashmir University. He came back from Iraq after spending two years and retired in 2004 from Kashmir University’s Mathematics Department as Professor.
“God willingly—with continuously keeping myself busy in what I love to do: teaching numbers, I wish to live for another 60 years and help students to master the art of mathematics,” he says.
Prof. is living alone at Rajbagh, with his sons working overseas. Professor’s wife passed way in 1993 and since then he has been living alone with only numbers providing him company.
Prof is currently teaching at some private institutes, and also a lifetime professor at IGNOU’s Srinagar branch.
When asked that if he has got any plans to go back to his hometown after 42 years, he said to whom shall he return.
“There is no body living there who knows me. There is no one there, and here everybody knows me and it is here where I wish to stay forever. People here need me and I need them too,” he says.