Redefining Proselytism: Prof. Arjun Mukerji
Right from creating a sense of belongingness and sporting his blissful aura augmented with his knowledge in the classroom, to treating the students with the favourite chai-bisket of the young populace, Prof.Arjun Mukerji has been on the minds of the institute’s majority for the right reasons. Performing his duties diligently as a Professor in the Department of Planning and Architecture, he also has exquisite tastes for language, art and history. In a tete-a-tete with Monday Morning, this winsome professor shared a few of his life’s most valuable experiences.
Born and brought up in the city of Kolkata, Prof.Arjun Mukerji grew up with the values of a joint family. He completed his schooling from Pathabhavan, which follows the education principles of Rabindranath Tagore and takes out of the box decisions like exempting examinations for children up to the fifth standard, as it believes that learning through cultural activities having better impact on tiny tots. At the end of his tenth grade, he was keen on taking up the fine arts course at Kala Bhavan of Shantiniketan, which he postponed to his twelfth grade due to the insistence of his parents to undertake a less unconventional path. However, he changed his plans after twelfth and turned towards architecture which he believed was intrinsically and inexplicably connected to fine arts in a way or two. This urged him to take admission into the B. Arch programme of the Bengal Engineering and Science University now the IIEST, Shibpur. He further went on to pursue his masters in city planning at the renowned architecture department of IIT Kharagpur, during which along with four others all over India, he was selected for the Early Faculty Induction Programme (EFIP) by the AICTE. Teaching was always one of his first career choices but in spite of all the plans to take up teaching as a profession, Prof. Mukerji eventually ended up initiating his professional career as an Architect and Town Planner at TATA-JUSCO, due to a few inconsequential proceedings between the placement committee of IITKGP and the AICTE. Unsurprisingly, he couldn’t find much scope in the job he did, leading to a prompt decision of quitting it, after 3 years. Later he was cleared of all the clouds of commotion about his career, when he joined as a research scholar and eventually started teaching the undergraduates at IIT Kharagpur, leading to him choosing NIT Rourkela as the platform to start with his teaching career, with a brand new department and ever-enthusiastic students.
While recounting his experience at the architecture department of IIT Kharagpur, Prof. Mukerjee states that there are indeed a lot of notable things about the department, one of them being, the long history associated with the department. It would be very unfair to draw a comparison between the departments of NITR and IITKGP, owing to the difference in their establishment times and also the variety of students who are encountered in the process. He feels that the present Architecture batches of the students, at NITR approach the subjects with a much more passionate yearning for knowledge, primarily because of the urge to succeed in core disciplines instead of branching out to other sectors. However, the lack of space in the department of NITR makes it extremely difficult to accommodate the growing number of students, which has to be looked into, as soon as possible.
Apart from having exceptional command over his area of expertise, Prof. Mukerji also nurtured his interests in the field of language, art and dance. It is a lesser known fact that he was trained in Odissi, for 8 years. He also engages himself in studying French during his leisure time and also considers photography as one of his evolving interests. He perceives photography as art form rather than a mere skill to portray pictures with good views.
Prof. Mukerji, believes in debates and discussions regarding the various parts of the curriculum to ensure a free flow of thoughts between the tutor and student. Talking about the methods of educational discourses, he says
We, at the various colleges and universities are not teachers; we are professors, who profess ideas. I personally, feel that my personal view about various topics of interest should not be emphasised at a greater level on the students as it essentially restricts their ideas and creativity
As the professor-in-charge of ZONASA, a convention for the students Architecture and Planning, Prof. Arjun Mukerji firmly assures that it shall offer a feast of fun, knowledge and experience to its participants as a battle of brilliant ideas igniting the fire of creative competition. The assembly would urge interaction among the students from various institutes in East India as well as professionals, which would be an enriching experience for the aspiring architects of NITR.
While giving a piece of his mind to the students, he says that there is always a conflict in the young yet diligent minds at this level, the conflict which speaks of newly found freedom and newly imposed responsibilities.
“It is always necessary that one should strive to strike a balance between these two to make the most out of college life and this comes only when it is consciously followed as a daily ritual”