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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

What sort of person am I?

The hardest thing to write is a description of oneself that is honest, perceptive, reasonably comprehensive, but neither too self-deprecatory nor flattering to one’s own ego. And yet trying to write it can be an important and salutary exercise, so every thinking man should attempt it at some point in his career, certainly no later than in middle-age. I shall try to write it from the point of an unbiased but informed and broadly sympathetic observer. The description will naturally be in the third person, and naturally stay unfinished. I might want to add to it from time to time for as long as I live – one hopes to keep understanding oneself better and better, isn’t it?

1. He is a most peculiar combination of numerous opposed qualities, most of which are almost equally powerful: this is sometimes responsible for giving him a degree of mental poise which is to be seen in few men who know a little of the world, but far more usually keeps him highly-strung, because he is always having to make painful choices in his mind.To take just a few instances – he is an inveterate romantic dreamer, and yet fanatically calculative about earning and saving and things like that; he can be very gentle and also ferociously angry; he deeply admires statesmen and entrepreneurs as much as poets and philosophers; he has been a voracious reader all his life but despises bookworms; he is remarkably brave in some matters (such as ignoring the weight of public opinion in ordering his private affairs) and quite timid in others (such as exposing his wife and child to the threats and irritations of day-to-day outdoor life, though his intellect tells him he ought to let them go for their own good, and he generally listens to it); very democratic ideas coexist, and sometimes quarrel inside his mind with unabashed elitism; very conservative opinions on some questions cohabit with an extraordinary degree of liberalism on others; he is intensely patriotic in a very old-fashioned sentimental way, yet he often publicly decries the ways of his countrymen in the harshest language, and would like to feel that the world is his family. In a lot of things (such as keeping rooms tidy, being punctual for appointments and spelling carefully), he is a perfectionist both by instinct and by conviction, and yet he can love many people who are neither careful about such things nor much bothered about it. Taken together, they make him appear to be a very complicated character in the eyes of many (his own mother, for one), or even a hypocrite, though others who have known him very closely (such as his wife) regard him as essentially – almost childishly – simple and honest. He cannot fully explain the conundrum himself.

2. If there’s anything that he is really proud of, it is his knowledge – not specialised knowledge, such as has become so very widely available these days, but enormously diverse kinds of information always available at the tips of his fingers, which he can relate and weave together effortlessly and without prior preparation to tell stories and explain things in a gripping style to anybody who cares to listen without ego-hassles. He is proud because it has taken him a lifetime of singleminded reading, thinking and remembering to achieve it, and he is conscious of how rare a quality it is. It is the one talent that has been feeding him lifelong as a teacher who has taught all sorts of people between 14 and 40, and all sorts of subjects from Economics to English and French and history and law and psychology and sociology and management techniques and environmental studies; it is something that has won him many admirers, not a few of whom regard him with awe, and it is also the one thing – combined with the unfortunate facts that he hates illogic and idle chatter and cannot suffer snooty fools gladly – that has also made numerous people avoid him and dislike him, often very strongly. He makes them feel very inferior, often deliberately, and makes his enjoyment of their discomfiture evident. This must be counterbalanced with the fact that he has endless sympathy and patience with people who are open-minded, and eager to learn, and do not claim respect or a right to lecture on the basis of age or office or some other variety of unearned status. Unlike most teachers in this country, he has never felt a need to talk down to a pupil, however young, confused and uninformed, and while he dislikes most middle-class and middle-aged people, he finds it easy to make friends with the very young, and the less privileged/less pretentious of his fellow-men.

3. Other than the one above quality, he does not regard himself as a particularly talented person (he certainly has no gift for chess or puzzles or art, for instance, and did well in mathematics up to the college level by sheer perseverance, not by virtue of brains). Rather, it is a matter of some sorrow to him that too few people notice or acknowledge what a hard, patient and meticulous worker he has always been – mostly on the cerebral level, of course, though he isn’t averse to physical labour either, so long as it is necessary for his purpose and his health can bear it. In fact, this is one area where he is very old-fashioned in his beliefs: he has never been much helped by luck, and most of the good things in his life have been won by slow and laborious effort, and he has seen lots of talented people making a mess of their lives simply because they lacked goals, clear-cut principles and perseverance (his own father being the example that hurts him most to think about). He is both proud and thankful about this, and wishes that more of his students would take it to heart, instead of hoping that luck or special talents would always work in their favour.

4. Hearing him talk in certain circles might give you the impression that he is sociable to the point of being garrulous, and he might have made a successful public man – but the truth is that he has always been horribly shy of being hurt (by neglect, if not rudeness and humiliation), and that has made him very touchy and grumpy, so that lots of strangers who manage to rub him the wrong way at first meeting go away with the impression that he is cold or abrasive, and for the same reason he never enjoyed a public profession (such as journalism) despite its many obvious rewards, and never imagined that he could shine in any public profession, though many things about the arts of politics and big business have always fascinated him. Unless people give a clear indication that they want to listen to him, he would rather not talk at all; where he is not likely to be noticed or heard, or where people are merely passing the time of day or ‘socializing’ in the most obviously stiff and pretentious manner (such as at the typical party or wedding) he would rather not be present at all. This angularity, this revulsion for ‘normal’ behaviour has given him a very unsocial reputation among his contemporaries – notwithstanding the fact that he has far more visitors than a score of his neighbours put together!

5. His interest in people – especially young people, who are still changing – is unusually wide, and he can empathize with a very wide variety too: this has been corroborated again and again by ex-students, male and female, very bright and slow-witted, talented in the arts and the sciences, very conservative and avant-garde, rich and poor, who have taken pleasure and comfort in knowing him, and who have so little in common with one another that they have wondered aloud why and how he can pay so much attention to those who are so very unlike themselves! Nothing draws him to people more strongly than the feeling – often subconsciously given – that they need him, if only as a good listener.

6. He is as passionate about good reading as he is to share his books with all those who would read, even though it hurts him very deeply when they damage and steal his favourite books now and then, and he has not met another man in his life who retains this double-quality even after so many years of hurting. This is one of those virtues which he believes would greatly improve the world if more people had it.

7. He has always had a morbid fascination with the ugly things in life – the deliberate viciousness and unthinking cruelty of man to man, and the savage unconcern for everybody else’s dignity and welfare that lurks just beneath the skins of most of us, which can be released and organized with devastating effect everywhere, and again and again, and leads to everything from inhuman ‘ragging’ in colleges to concentration camps and atrocious torture to break both the body and spirit, and vivid nightmares about such things coming true in his own life, in his immediate circle of loved ones, have haunted him all his life, so intense a torment that he does not wish it upon his worst enemy, and which he sometimes believes is punishment for a previous life very badly lived; the only thing that keeps him going is the fervent hope that this suffering is burning away his accumulated sins (he hasn’t done enough evil in this life to merit it!), and whatever little charity he has done without allowing his ego to swell will allow him either a peaceful extinction or a much less agonized life hereafter.

8. He has had some very strong and abiding ambitions, chief among which, the most consuming passion, is his fascination with greatness. And the sort of greatness he most strongly desires (because it is the sort that is least impossible for him to achieve, perhaps, and least harmful to the world) is to make a vast fortune through writing and preaching, and giving away most of it to work that might benefit the world in some way – for the good of children and the old, distressed women and handicapped people, small folk struggling against injustice meted out to them by big people and organizations, institutions working for the protection of the natural environment, against superstition, for the spread of civic sense and community feeling, for the encouragement of artistic and other talent among the poor, for working out a synthesis between science and religion. If he desires any kind of ‘status’ at all, it is the kind of status that can come from being acknowledged far and wide as a true teacher of mankind, as Socrates, the Buddha and Confucius were, as Dickens was, as Robert Fulghum and Richard Bach and Neale Donald Walsche are. He is well aware that not a single other member of his family, as far back as he can look, was haunted lifelong by such an ambition, so it puzzles him. He has always despised the scale of middle-class ambitions, and has often been heard to regret that all the big money (and the associated power) in the world is in the hands of the wrong people – your average president or billionaire businessman is, if not downright vicious and stupid, certainly a very unimaginative, uninformed, unsympathetic, conventional and timid person, who cannot think of doing better things with his money/power beyond amassing all kinds of toys (palaces, limousines, yachts, harems, bodyguards, vast ‘designer’ wardrobes…) at absurd prices to bask in the envy of equally foolish and trivial people, mistaking the envy for admiration and respect. The world needs people to look up to, but it will not change for the better until they have better role models than these quite ornery ‘leaders’. And he knows that if he cannot do something to fulfil his ambition, even very big money will not make him happy, for his wealth will exist only to mock his inconsequentiality.

9. He also has a fascination for beauty and delicacy and quiet pleasures, things that can be best enjoyed alone, or in the company of one or two soul-comrades. He has been quite sure ever since he was a boy that nothing would please him more than to be able to live in a large and well-appointed villa in the midst of a huge and pretty garden – in part wild woods, in part as tidy as a zen garden, several hundred acres of it – with lots of books and movies and music and fresh air and an all-weather swimming pool within his reach, and silence and birdsong and the rustling of leaves in the breeze and the patter of rain and the chirp of crickets and frolicking rabbits and dogs and squirrels, not to be disturbed by ‘civilisation’ except when he wills it, and a notice at the gate that reads ‘Don’t come in if you are between 18 and 70, unless you are a favourite ex-student who has kept in touch, or you have been invited, or you have a warrant issued by a magistrate: you are not welcome!’ And nobody is likely to be invited unless he is a truly simple, gentle and friendly soul, or else an enlightened one, defined in terms of knowledge, compassion, courage, imagination and nothing else: not fancy calling cards and costumes of any sort. So it’s quite obvious that having been born lower middle-class in a crowded, poor, noisy, superstitious and unruly country, he has been in this sense deeply frustrated all his life, and sometimes dreams that his daughter would settle comfortably somewhere in Canada, Russia, Australia or one of the most thinly-populated states in the US of America, like Washington or Arizona, where even middle-class people can afford garden-villas in the small towns, and there’s lots of unspoilt scenery all around. He believes it’s a bad world where simple peace and decency with security are so hard to come by.

10. He has always been his own harshest critic. When other people speak ill of him (by and large behind his back, which they believe is the ‘proper’ thing to do!), they mostly speak out of ignorance, or out of mere envy or spite (why should a self-employed teacher be so well-regarded by so many of his pupils, so well-off and so self-possessed?), so their opinions have little value. In general, these criticisms are of two kinds: that he is ‘not a good character’ (this is the opinion of the most ignorant, foolish, goody-goody frogs in the well, who are mentally still living in Bengali villages of the mid-19th century – where girls were married off before ten and teenage widows routinely starved and frequently raped by their relatives in ‘good’ families – so there would have been no need to pay any attention to them, were it not for the fact that he has to keep in mind that it is mostly their wards who supply his bread and butter, so he cannot shake them up too violently for fear of losing their custom, and that, alas, cramps his style considerably, though God knows he has taken very big risks…); and that he is an arrogant and aloof snob. For the latter, some degree of explanation has already been given above. He would have liked more people to try and get to know him better before they made up their minds about him – but probably it cannot be helped at this date; his image is too firmly set. It is a matter of no small wonder to him that nobody in his neighbourhood has approached him closely enough either to extort money or to make friends – not the residents’ committee, not local hoodlums, not the police or taxmen, not even representatives of the supposedly all-powerful political party that has been guiding Bengal’s destiny with an iron hand for twenty five years. Indeed, they have never found out that he would have been glad to give a little more than he does to deserving causes! The only people who seem to know are stray dogs and beggars and maidservants, who routinely make a beeline for his door round the year, giving all his neighbours a very wide berth. Also petty shopkeepers in the neighbourhood market, who all know him to be a mild-mannered soft touch!

11. He has tried very hard to make people laugh and relax and enjoy themselves, but deep inside he has always been sad with an aching, haunting sadness. From his reading of medical texts as well as his experience of men, he is now aware that part of this is ascribable to something organic/genetic: he is a depressive in his makeup. Someday there will be drugs to cure melancholia just as there are already drugs for diabetes and thyroid imbalance and cardiac arrhythmia, which have wrought miracles in so many lives. But he is also aware of several other facts in this connection: firstly, that people who live permanently on anti-depressants might gradually lose many things that were good and valuable in their personalities (such as empathy, and imagination, and the urge to fight and overcome obstacles), because mental attributes are so closely intertwined – he most certainly doesn’t want to mutate into a happy fool! – and secondly, that this melancholia is not entirely irrational/organic in nature, nor indeed a wholly bad thing. As said before, he knows perfectly well that there are some definite external reasons that work as causal, or at least aggravating factors, and some of these reasons have no cure, because they are too closely woven into the woof and warp of existence, of the nature of the cosmos as we understand it, and the kind of society he is compelled to live in. A little more understanding and sympathy and appreciation for his best instincts from those who have known him fairly closely would have made him a much happier person; so also would have a large monetary fortune, which would have freed him from doing everything that he does not like (teaching unwilling and inert pupils for the sake of a livelihood, for instance), and allowed him to indulge some of his pleasures – none of which are of the sort that harm the world. At the same time, death and oblivion and the apparent meaninglessness of life and suffering, things that have oppressed the best minds down the ages in the east and the west alike, things for which there are neither satisfactory universally-accepted explanations nor efficacious cures, unless people find enlightenment and salvation inside themselves by a supreme effort of will – as the Buddha did, the stoics tried, and Morrie Schwarz apparently succeeded in his last days – these things keep his soul aching all the time, in a way that the glories of the world cannot cure, though, like Tagore, he is aware that those glories are very many, and it is his sense of the transience of all things that allows him to enjoy many of those glories much more keenly than many of his fellow-men who sleepwalk through life, and also makes him deeply compassionate for the least of creatures. He wouldn’t like to give them up for a kind of nirvana which entails a deadening of joy and sorrow alike until his time on earth is up. He wants to live life intensely, so in a sense he is reconciled to feeling both joy and sorrow intensely all the time – his only grouch is that sometimes the sorrows seem so unfair, and so overwhelming!

12. He loves his daughter very dearly, and likes to believe that it is pure love, and not possessiveness or pride or blind biological attachment or internalised custom or a rationalization for all his unfulfilled dreams that he would like her to fulfil for him. Having enjoyed a lot of pleasures – including interacting very closely and fruitfully with hundreds of youngsters for over twenty years – he is quite sure, eight years after the event, that the moment he heard her first cry was the single most delightful event of his life, and it is as fresh in his ears today as it was then, and the awe and wonder it filled him with is still undimmed by habit and familiarity. His wife laughs all the time about how he can gape at his daughter frolicking about, or chattering away about school and friends, or drawing pictures, or even sleeping, literally for hours on end, filled with an ineffable peace, and wanting nothing more from this world other than that this joy will not be taken away from him until his last breath. He was filled with an infinity of gratitude that she was born ‘normal’, medically speaking, and prayed most fervently that she may be healthy and happy all her life – beyond that he would never ask God for anything more on her behalf, knowing far better than most parents of today how much he has asked for, and to how few it is given. He is keenly looking forward to all the thousands of hours of conversation he is going to have with her on every interesting subject under the sun, the kind of ‘feast of reason and flow of soul’ he has enjoyed a thousand times over, but only in snatches, with all his favourite old boys and girls. If he wants something definite for her, it is that she may grow up to be a wise, brave and compassionate human being, of much greater use to mankind and the earth than her father managed to be – as a dancer, actor, teacher, judge, bureaucrat, doctor, writer, politician, environmental crusader, homemaker, whatever. He does not really want anything from her, though he cannot help hoping that she might continue to love him all her life, as she does now – but in a clear-eyed fashion, knowing all his faults and limitations, and without obsession. If she quietly wipes her tears away after his funeral and tells her own child ‘He was a good human being, I’m glad to have had him for a father’, his soul will rest in peace.

13. About his attitude to work – here too there are strong and conscious contradictions. On the one hand he suspects that deep within he is a lazy person who can go to pieces if he is ever at a loose end for any length of time, so he loves routines – as long as they do not oppress his spirit by their unfairness or pointlessness: he naturally prefers to set them himself – because they keep his nose to the grind. And he has learnt equally well from introspection and from experience of other men that an idle mind is truly the devil’s workshop (half the psychiatrists and policemen in this world would be out of work if people liked to work and liked their work!), so he wants to keep working till the end of his days, even if and when he no longer needs to work for a living; for him, work has been deeply therapeutic. Being also terribly choosy about work (he knows very clearly how many different kinds of occupation which bring more or less as much money as he makes now – from a bank manager’s job to a police commissioner’s – would have driven him to suicide), he thanks God for choosing just right for him. This makes him a far happier person than most people he meets in the course of a working day – they are all deeply, quietly unhappy, and foremost among the reasons is that their work brings them no pleasure, either intellectual or monetary or spiritual, yet they are stuck with it, eight to ten hours a day, six days a week, perhaps forty nine weeks a year, for 35 years or more. But being thankful for his own lot does not prevent him from inwardly regarding all such people with either pity or contempt, because they chose badly, or rather, they never believed they had a choice at all when they were led by the nose by ‘society’ and jumped for the first opening in their youth. He is horrified to see that all these foolish people, too timid and lazy to know and follow their own minds, nevertheless keep lecturing the young to follow in their footsteps – a boy recently told him that one of his elders had said ‘A career is not what you want, it is what you get’! Cowards do not deserve either success or happiness, and if God is looking, He helps only those who help themselves. He also appreciates the value of leisure: a bit of it every day to unwind, and considerable stretches of it after several months of hard work so that he can relax and have fun, travelling, idling, chatting, reading, writing, or just plain admiring the world in all its splendour: and again, he is deely thankful that his work has brought him some opportunity for such occasional leisure to be spent at his own sweet will, and that he still retains enough of a mind (and a healthy body) to enjoy it when it comes. He would have been even more pleased if he could have done his idling in a more ‘constructive’ way – writing good fiction, for instance – but one is not given everything in one lifetime; and perhaps he never really had either the brains or the energy for that sort of thing! Besides – though he has not yet been happily reconciled to the reality – he has accepted for a fact that it is both wrong and futile to expect particular results for particular kinds of work; many people of the highest calibre have been recognised ages after their demise, and Jesus himself would probably have been struck dumb to see what the church established in his name had grown into twelve centuries after him.

14. He believes that the long-term prospects for mankind are good – provided we do not self-destruct through senseless breeding and violence (rationalized with one kind of religio-political ideology or the other) and pollution of the natural environment. In the long run – meaning several centuries, or even millennia – men are certainly going to spread far beyond the confines of earth, and even this rather marginal and insignificant solar system; they are also going to tune into, and harness, all the various and vast powers of the universe to live lives infinitely richer than we (all of us except science-fiction writers with the most vaulting imaginations) can yet imagine. He also believes, in consonance with the most farsighted of ancient seers and the most well-informed of today’s scientists, that true progress henceforth will mean by and large development of all the powers of the human mind – the most wonderful and complex piece of organized matter in the universe yet known. This will naturally involve a lot of things by the way: removal of extreme economic inequalities (because both poverty and great personal wealth are blights and drags on civilisation), universalisation of birth control and basic education, abolition of war and all kinds of gender-based deprivations, learning to live more in harmony and less in conflict with Nature, and a concerted worldwide attempt to take the essence of religion while rejecting all the particularism and the superstitious dross accumulated over aeons, and fusing it with the best and latest scientific knowledge, in order to know what the good life means, and how best we can all live it. It will mean hanging on desperately to the liberal-democratic ethos of government, because it is the only one yet invented which takes into account the enormous and essential diversity of human tastes, ideals and talents, does not completely ignore the common man, and seeks to impose the minimum possible curbs on our instinctive urges in the collective interest while encouraging a thousand flowers to bloom, a hundred schools of thought contend. It will mean subordinating national governments to some kind of overarching global authority, which will have only the interests of mankind as a whole in making policy decisions that will affect the long-term condition of all mankind, such as those regarding permissible birth rates and pollution-levels and crime control and education for global citizenship. It will also mean that we must find some better way of organizing our lives than living for the sake of acquiring and consuming produced goods and services, not because we really need them but in order that the wheels of commerce may keep turning, as if commerce of the early-21st century sort were a part of the natural order of things (the way people once upon a time thought about feudalism or monarchy by ‘divine right’), and therefore eternal and immutable.

15. On sex, love and marriage: he has been curious, open-minded and experimental since childhood; he has read a very great deal about these things too, and he has allowed his views to be moulded by personal experience. At 41, he can say to any healthy-minded adult without any sense of shame or discomfiture that he has had a lot of fun and never deliberately hurt anybody in the process, physically, mentally or socially, and believes he could have enjoyed himself much more if he did not have to battle so much of both prudery and prurience all around him. He feels that much of the evil and suffering in this world is due to stupid superstitions, inhibitions, delusions and perversities involving these matters, as well as rigid and often irrational traditions, besides apathy, and the world would be a far better place if people were more willing to think for themselves and freer to choose for themselves. But since these things also have great potential for evil, because the real things are too easily corrupted by the urges to dissemble and to possess and dominate and depend upon parasite-fashion, and lend themselves too easily to ignorant or motivated social manipulation (by parents, religious leaders, commercial advertisers and movie-makers alike, albeit in different ways), it must be a very important part of education to know how to choose wisely, taking both personal tastes into consideration and genuine social needs – because it is dangerous to put too high a premium on either. He has been very lucky in his own life, and so naturally he is all for marriage, but he will be the first to acknowledge that marriage has always been ‘a curse for many, a blessing for a few, and a washout for most’. There is an inseparable element of luck involved, and also a great deal of trying to adjust on the part of both parties in question, always. A happy couple must be able to make their own rules and create their own private space that is inviolable by mutual consent. On the other hand, a couple who after several years of sincere trying have become quite sure that they are absolutely incompatible must be socially and legally allowed to separate and remarry with the minimum of fuss and heartache, allowing for the least hurt and harm to their children if there are any, remembering that it is better for children to be adopted or even brought up in an orphanage than by really unhappy and hostile parents. Certain facts must be kept in mind by all social rule-makers in future. For instance, that the needs for sex and love and marriage and children are all real, and can all be deeply fulfilling, but they are not synonymous, nor equally important to everybody, and therefore rules must not be made to fit everyone into the same straitjacket, Procrustes-style – society is robust enough to tolerate a lot of different kinds of deviants, including homosexuals and celibates and divorcees and live-in couples outside marriage and people who fall in love across wide chasms of race, religion, language, nationality, social class or age, so long as these deviants do not seriously threaten the public peace or try to make converts through dishonest or violent means. And that it is better for parents to teach nothing about sex and love and marriage at all than to teach shame and guilt and prurience and gender-bias and ‘goody-goody’ morals which benefit nobody but only make children grow up warped, and therefore unhappy and dangerous to many others in many ways. And that the best thing that teachers and governments can do is to spread the best available scientific knowledge (biological, psychological and social) and good literature as widely as possible, besides encouraging the young to be gentle yet adventurous, exploratory yet accommodating, sensitive yet resilient, in short, to grow up into a race of vigorous philosophers. Beyond that, a hands-off attitude is the best prescription: as of today, elders know too little, love too little, and do far too much!

16. If he admires or envies anybody at all, it is those people who not only find all the fulfillment they want in their work but have been able to maintain a sunny outlook on life, and a friendly and benevolent attitude towards their fellow-men, with or without the advantages conferred by health, wealth, fame and good marriages. He has known quite a few, mostly through books but some also in flesh and blood; he believes that these are really blessed people, and has always wished that there were many more of them. In the same vein, he wishes there were far fewer people who just cannot manage to be happy with themselves and by themselves, and therefore look for happiness or at least distraction in troubling and hurting others in every way they can think of!

That, I suppose, is an adequate representation of my character for the present. I wonder what I should like to change, or add, in twenty years’ time. It is this kind of wonder that prevents life from becoming utterly boring! How truly it has been said that the most important knowledge by far is self-knowledge (you cannot even begin to know anything seriously about anybody else until you have known quite a bit about yourself), and how difficult it is to attain: I have known very few people in my entire lifetime who will ever take the trouble to write up something like this chapter about themselves. Either it will never occur to them, or they will promptly come up with a thousand excuses for not trying it, the commonest among which is ‘being busy’ – and yet they are always so eager to tell others how to think and talk and act, whether they are teachers or parents or priests or financial consultants or cabinet ministers!

(written October 2004, at age 41)


Nishant said...

Sir, this analysis of your own self has been truly enlightening in more than one way. Firstly of course it made a good read. It is very composed. And most importantly, I have tried several times myself to sit and wonder about the sort of person I am. I have tried to be objective and tried to find out if my thoughts and actions are governed by my effort to be right or my inability to do the contrary. But maybe because I am impatient or flippant, I give up trying to delineate myself after some time. I am sure knowing oneself is as hard or perhaps even harder than mapping the human genes. I haven't met anyone who has tried to be so introspective.

SoumyaPlus said...

Sir, I have been regularly reading your older posts in your blog, article by article and must say that after reading this post at 1 am on a Saturday night, found this article on self analysis most interesting to read.
I just wonder why it attracted so little number of comments as anyone who has interacted with you in the past would find this most interesting. It also raises a question in my mind..Have I got such a clear sense of who I am so far...after having spent 33 years of my life already? If I can write objectively like what you wrote I am sure it will help me to define and refine thoughts about myself...and also I would end up spending more time thinking about myself...and being more selfish..in a true sense of selfishness.

Souvik said...

Sir,this is truly the toughest job that you have done so wonderfully.I have wondered so many times as to what sort of a person I am but I ended up wondering only.Sir,hats off to you for what you have done.

Sayan said...

People who think you are a hypocrite should read this essay slowly, carefully and open mindedly. If they can do that and if they can penetrate the veneer of their egos, I am more than one-hundred percent sure that all the apparant contradictions will vanish and they will be able to take a look at the real you.
Sayan Datta.

SleepyPea said...

Dear Suvro da,
I’ll keep my comments short for this post of yours. I certainly don’t want my comments over here to run into 1700 pages!
Much can be said – but what strikes me is the sheer wit, and your fine balance between deep despondency and grace (apart from joyfulness, delight, sensitivity). It makes me wonder though with absolute amazement as to how you’ve managed to keep yourself ‘sane’ in spite of the insanity all around, with such a finely tuned keenness to not just the world around you and others but towards yourself. I have much to thank God for this...and will.

“Jesus would be struck dumb if He were to see the churches established in His name…” This time around this one did make me break out into peals of laughter (among many others).

I can’t help wondering though whether I get annoyed and deeply irritated (as only I can) or just wish that I could wish folks who send in mindless comments while hiding behind pseudonyms like “Learned” (while they call you names like ‘megalomaniac’!) to be whisked away into nothingness. Why they would take the time to write on your blog, why they would call themselves ‘Learned’, why they cannot read and comprehend that which is absolutely crystal clear, why they use words that which they know not…I could go a long way on this vein – but I shall resist. Maybe this is why that The Dalai Lama is so fond of the word “foolish”, which he says with a stark, shining glint in his eyes. Also what mitigates some of the distress is that I know that all through human history, the rare individuals who do stand out are the ones who are subject to name-calling.
I end my post here. Thank you for this one as well.
Deepest regards and love,

sumandatta said...

reminds me of wordsworth's 'the prelude...'

< THE Poem was commenced in the beginning
of the year 1799, and completed in the summer of
The design and occasion of the work are described
by the Author in his Preface to the EXCURSION, first
published in 1814, where he thus speaks : — "
Several years ago, when the Author retired to his native
mountains with the hope of being enabled to construct a
literary work that might live, it was a reasonable thing that
he should take a review of his own mind, and examine how
far Nature and Education had qualified him for such an employment. "
As subsidiary to this preparation, he undertook to record,
in verse, the origin and progress of his own powers, as far as
he was acquainted with them. " >

Expecting nothing less from a dear teacher of mine.

-suman datta ('95 xavier's)

abhinandan said...

Truth is contradictory, which in reality is the primary reason for its beauty. The theory which explains the largest and the one which explains the smallest do not match and that is why it is such a wonderful world. But confusion can never create contradiction. In this context the clarity with which you have spoken about yourself is definitely impressive.
The questions – Who am I and why am I on this planet, is the first step towards ones
conscious existence. Comically, if you seek the answers from others – the ones who do not know will give you a counsel and the ones who know will never tell you.
In all your write up is good for two basic reasons :
1. It makes the reader feel that there is need of some introspection about oneself in the environment in which he plays his part.
2. It is written in good English.
Greatness as I believe is achieved in two steps firstly when you become nobody from being somebody and then you become everybody from nobody! It is irrespective of your achievements from your own or the world’s perception. Greatness is bliss, and it is not difficult, it requires time (as you have repeatedly stressed upon), may be more than several lifetimes and of course a lot of love.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

This post has been on the blog for three years, and the link is provided as a permanent fixture at the very top of the home page. I should have thought more people would have liked to comment here by now!

Saikat Banerjee said...

This description reminds me of the day when you had asked us (ICSE '06) all to write on what we think about you. It was truly difficult and now I know why. Most of us have known you face-to-face for only two years, a really short time to understand and describe an intense and diverse personality like you. This piece has inspired me to write about myself too.

Dipayan G said...

Gripping, poignant... I've never come across a self-evaluation of such exquisite detail and simplicity, and such a meticulously arranged order of thoughts and the sheer frankness about everything that made the reading so very interesting. Truly, the best things done/performed/written in this case, are simple, but never easy. Anyone can sound complicated, but it takes something special to keep things simple. This article reflects a genius at work.

My deepest regards to you Sir!


Suvro Chatterjee said...

For a long time I have been noticing that this post stays fixed right on top of the "most-read" list of posts. And yet, given that so many people have read it, I cannot help wondering why so few people can think of writing any comment at all - whether to criticize anything I have said (with reasons, of course), or to ask me to clarify a point, to raise a question, or only to tell me why they liked to read the post.

Bhavin Sangoi said...

I landed up on this blog accidentally via Indiblogger 3 days ago. I read your post "liberated Women" liked it and hence voted it on Indivine. after that I read some of your other posts. I read a brief introduction of yours in "About Me" section and the thing which I liked was a notice put by you for commentators about not to comment anonymously.I found you quite an interesting person and hence I followed you. Today I read this detailed self description written by you which was quite fascinating and the most important is very few people write about themselves with the sense introspection. I found many things similar between you and me like your thoughts on love, marriage and sex, passion for reading and greatness and the sense of introspection. Loved reading you and will read other articles in upcoming days.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Thanks for commenting, Mr. Sangoi. It is always nice to have comments from observant and thoughtful people. In fact, I rather rue the fact that, although my blog is so well visited, so few people have bothered to write (sensible-) comments on this particular post.

I shall be glad to have comments from you on other blogposts as well. And if you care to email me, we can converse more privately too...

Bhavin Sangoi said...

I would like to be called Bhavin rather than Mr. Sangoi and no need to get surprised over fewer comments. It’s a human tendency which we have acquired during a course of evolution that shallow, mediocre, cheap and bitchy things attract our attention much easily than deep, thought provoking and sensible things. In this age of Media mania mediocrity is at its ever high. From Digvijay singh to Amar singh, Punam Pandey to Rakhi Sawant, Congress to BJP, CNN IBN to NDTV, everywhere mediocrity and hyppocracy is being hailed and blogosphere is no exception to it. Recently a girl spewed her racial venom in a blog post and very soon she received 2500 comments, more than 1300 followers and few hundred thousand hits. Although she got much popularity in less time but what she gave to society was mutual hate or each other, virtual North-South over Facebook and blogosphere. I don't care about such popularity where the only policy is "Badnam hue to kya hua naam to hua". Comment by few sensible people is better than hundreds of nonsense comments.

For private communication my e-mail id is- contactme@bhavinsangoi.com

Suvro Chatterjee said...

To those who feel that 'they don't really know me' I'd like to ask: doesn't this essay help quite a lot, or is it that you have never read it closely? And if you have read it closely, doesn't it make you feel like asking some questions?

ananya mukherjee said...

Dear Sir,
Sir I am grateful to God for having got you as my teacher. This post made me realize that knowing oneself should be the most important work of one's life. When we are not aware of ourselves we don't know what we actually want which is sure to leave us in a state of utter confusion and anxiety and bound to destroy relationships or disrupt social life.The quest for self awareness (like wisdom and death) can be the lifelong preoccupation of one's life because the mystery never gets unraveled completely.

1.Despite acquiring the rare ability to speak regarding any subject under the sun and many such qualities you have not lost the sympathetic insight that enables one to admire humble and quiet people.Had I been in your position I would have lost the common touch!

2.You have led a disciplined life Sir and it never fails to amaze me that even though you indulge in childlike imagination and enthusiasm you are so knowledgeable about the practical world and have your feet planted firmly on the ground. This is somewhat similar to Rabindranath Tagore whose resourceful imagination never dared to enter his account books which he maintained quite like a canny businessman!

3.Despite the vilification you had to endure for being a teacher with a difference you have not lost faith in mankind Sir and you are so keen to do acts of charity an social service. The Buddha's greatest truth is life is full of sorrow and yet He established the greatest form of social service that India has ever seen.

4.You hate servility and believe that a teacher and a student can develop a strong relationship based on mutual understanding and respect and that is something very different from the common melodramatic types.It is a pity that so many of your students have never bothered to know you Sir.

Thank you for everything you taught me Sir. I am still in the process of knowing you. You are an inspiration for all of us Sir. Please keep enlightening us through your blogs Sir.

Warm regards