Henry Brooks Adams – “Teachers affect eternity; no one can tell where their influence stops.” Major G D Langlands – orphan, commando, officer, gentlman, educationist, humanitarian, institution, Order of the British Empire, Order of St Mary and St George, Sitara-e-Pakistan, Hilal-i-Imtiaz, born English but a Pakistani hero – embarked on his final trek on January 2nd, 2019, aged 101 having touched and influenced innumerable lives in his career. Despite never taking Pakistani citizenship he was a greater Pakistani than most of us. He served his adopted country with passion and distinction and boasted among his former students, our current prime minister, who remembers Major Langlands as firm and compassionate and crediting him for instilling within him a love for trekking and Pakistan’s northern areas. Major Langlands started his professional life as a mathematics and science teacher in England. At the advent of World War II in 1939, the future major joined the British Army becoming a commando in 1942. In January 1944, he arrived in British India as an army volunteer and upon its independence decided to move to Pakistan where he joined the new nation’s army working as an instructor, eventually joining Aitchison College in Lahore at the request of Ayub Khan. He taught his students – myself included – not just in the classroom (he was an excellent teacher of both mathematics and English) but by words, deeds and example. His shoes always polished, his blazer always pressed he stood tall in our lives despite his diminutive physical stature. He was indefatigable. Even in his sixth decade (and beyond) he would take a bunch of his students trekking up into the mountains in the north of the country every summer and at an age when most people would have been looking forward to a cosy retirement he was ready to take on even greater challenges. A fine testimony to the great man’s legacy were the thousands of former students who came out and lined the grounds to pay their respects to their former headmaster as the funeral procession made its way to the Major’s final resting place. Each and every one of them revered him. Each and every one of them loved him. In a society where taking pot shots at even someof the greatest of heroes is a national pastime not one of them had a negative word to say about him despite his exacting standards (when once asked his opinion about Imran Khan as a politician, Major Langlands had replied, “The less I say the better.”) He left Aitchison in 1979 after having spent a quarter of century there to help establish the Cadet College, Razmak in North Waziristan where he served as principal for a decade, not letting even a six-day kidnapping slow him down. But he wasn’t done even when his stint with Razmak was over. In 1989 he took charge of Chitral’s first private school (later renamed in his honour), taking its student body from 80 to 900 – more than a third of them girls – and sending its graduates on to colleges and universities (many of them on scholarships) and even doctorates. He was shaping and changing lives almost right up to the very end, living up to his own, private motto, “Be good, do good.” Even a stroke in 2008 didn’t lay him completely low. He only returned to the grounds of his beloved Aitchison College in 2012 to live out his remaining years. A fine testimony to the great man’s legacy were the thousands of former students who came out and lined the grounds to pay their respects to their former headmaster as the funeral procession made its way to the Major’s final resting place. Each and every one of them revered him. Each and every one of them loved him. In a society where taking pot shots at even someof the greatest of heroes is a national pastime not one of them had a negative word to say about him despite his exacting standards (when once asked his opinion about Imran Khan as a politician, Major Langlands had replied, “The less I say the better.”) Major Langlands, in his own quiet, self-effacing way, was a compassionate, observant and empathetic man. When I enrolled at Aitchison College after the family had moved to Lahore from Karachi I was having a hard time adjusting but I kept my worries to myself (or so I thought). After a month or so I was summoned to the headmaster’s office much to my surprise (and a little bit of consternation, as you can imagine). But in a little chat in which he did most of the talking he told me in his kindly way that things would get better (and, if they didn’t, I was most welcome to come back and talk to him). That little talk – perhaps no more than ten minutes long – meant the world to me at that point. And the Major was right. Things indeed did get better – a lot better – and very soon too after our conversation. A good teacher can instil a sense of duty and responsibility. He can fire the imagination and a love of learning. He can inspire his students to go on to do great things. He can shape lives and change them. Major Langlands did all of that and more. He wasn’t just a good teacher but a great one. Rest in peace, sir! The writer is freelance columnist Published in Daily Times, January 10th 2019.