Thrilling Moments of Searching Langerhans


M. Saadat Noury
by M. Saadat Noury

In the mid 1950s, while the British government was nationalizing its basic industries, the government of Iran was bust to implement the nationalization of the British interests in the Iranian oil industry. At that time I had finished the elementary school and I was in the second grade of the high school, which was called in Persian as Dabirestaan-e-Rahnama. And I distinctly remember the events on those days I spent at Rahnama. After a light breakfast, I would have left home around seven o'clock in the morning, and would have walked about one mile to reach the school. Then the bell would ring, the principal would make an announcement, and the classes would start. For about four hours, teachers for different sessions would come and go. Around noon, I would have returned home for a tasty and delicious lunch, and would go back to school at two o'clock in the afternoon. Some days I could stay in the school in the lunchtime and had a snack or a small sandwich. In the afternoon, the same story would happen as in the morning, which included listening to the lectures by different teachers, playing out with friends, having some wonderful or terrible moments until the end of the day.
I remember some good stories of my school years. Almost all unforgettable stories have occurred when we were teenagers and young. They most commonly have been happened when we wanted desperately to find a place among our peers:

What can a flame remember?
If it remembers a little less than is necessary, it goes out.
If it remembers a little more than is necessary, it goes out.
If only it could teach us, while it burns, to remember correctly:
George Seferis, “Straits the Sailor Describes a Man”.

This is one of those stories that I try to remember correctly: In the biology class we learned that some parts of Pancreas are called Islets of Langerhans . So, we decided to tease our “geography teacher” who came to the classroom after the ” biology teacher” left. The “geography teacher”, a man of his 40s, tall and slim, talkative, and always very proud of himself, a real narcissist, walked in. He patrolled the room like a bird of prey, circling, circling, and staring at every one of us, until he stood behind his desk to deliver his lecture. Before he could have any chance to bring up a word out of his lips, one of the most promising and clever students raised his hand to get permission to talk. As our clever friend was raising his hand, we were sitting and slouching over our desks with our fingers crossed beneath them, hopelessly attempting to remain cool, and to hide our nervousness. There was a tense moment of silence. Then, as the permission was granted, the clever guy calmly and politely said:

“Sir; before you proceed, we all have a very simple geographical question.” He paused and after turning around and looking at all of us to gain some sorts of energy and powerful assurances, he asked: “We would like to know where are the small islands or islets of Langerhans?”

The teacher, shocked by such unfamiliar question, put the palm of his right hand behind the pinnate of his right ear, pretending that he could not hear, and with a contracting throat said: “What? What did you say? Say it again, please.” And he said all that while his face was turning red and his voice was switching from very high to very low. Our promising classmate, now feeling strong and somewhat superior, slowly and with very pronounced words, repeated his question: “We like to know where are the islets of Langerhans?” After a pause, he quickly added: “And what is the population in those islands and what they are doing down there?”

Full of joy and exited, we were all pleased for what was going on. We all knew the answers completely. And we all were sure that our “geography teacher” did not have a single clue about the Langerhans. We could easily see that not only he was inexperienced and incompetence in that trapped situation, he was also entirely ignorant about those islands. He could not deceive and mislead us. We all knew that he was fighting with himself, pretending that he could find some correct answers for us.
“Long Island, Las Vegas, Florence: Yes. Langerhans: Certainly, not. In what world map these islands are anyway ?” He demanded, as he was walking back and forth in the classroom.
Soon after he responded our question by asking us a question, any one of us got the impression that the teasing period was over. That was the time to close the case. Our bright fellow-student, looked proudly at all of us, and promptly got the message that he should not go further. MAN GOT TO KNOW HIS LIMITATIONS! So he stood up and with a calculated manner he gently began to read these lines from his lecture-notes of biology:

“Well, the Pancreas in our body consists of exocrine tissue that produces digestive enzymes and exports them to the small intestine via the pancreatic duct. Scattered among the exocrine tissue are the islets of Langerhans , clusters of endocrine cells. Each islet has a population of alpha-cells, which secrete the peptide hormone glucagon, and a population of beta cells, which secrete the hormone insulin. Glucagon and insulin are antagonistic hormones that regulate the concentration of glucose or blood sugar.When the mechanisms of glucose homeostasis go awry, there are serious consequences, leading to Diabetes Mellitus. This is about Diabetes Mellitus, Sir. That is why the islets of Langerhans are so important that everybody must know about them , Sir ”!
While our friend was reading about Langerhans, the teacher seemed to be astonished, as he could hardly believe his ears. Sometimes he was also shaking his head with disbelief. At the end, he smiled and started to laugh like a horse. He pondered then and said, “Geography is very important subject in daily life. You see, even in biology you find some signs, forms, or particles which only by geographical means you are able to name them!”

We were happy that he kept his temper, behaving nice and friendly, and he was not angry at all. So all of us praised him by handclapping. Everybody outside our small classroom could hear our applauding, the sound of approval.

Days later, whenever I was coming across the “geography teacher”, he was smiling and saying: “That was a great day. Remember it? You smart kids converted the Geography Class to the Biology Class”! And he laughed and laughed and laughed.



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Thank you for sharing.