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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Don't be a teacher with a heart!

I deliberately started this day with posting a happy post, because the fact is that I have been living in agony over the last couple of weeks: red hot skewers driven through my innards couldn't have hurt any more - and this is NOT meant for dramatic effect; I have been operated upon without anesthesia.

One of my oldest and most beloved ex-students has let me know just how trivial our relationship always was. He will deny it vehemently, and shout from the rooftops that it's all my fault, I have completely and deliberately misunderstood him and his 'pure' and 'loving' and 'respectful' intentions. If he had just told me to 'f*** off' and get the hell out of his life, he would have been far more honest and no more hurtful. Four months have made him forget two decades, or rather, he has declared unequivocally that if he has to choose between what happened in those four months and what happened over the previous 19 years, he is prepared to forget the 19 years (when nobody even asked him to choose!). Oh, of course, if pushed to the wall, he will exercise all the casuistry at his command to try and convince me and everybody else that this is all an old man's delirium: I have taken umbrage over nothing at all, and it is he who has been really hurt, not me. It has taught me once and for all never to imagine that I have got to know someone well, and that when people say they love and respect you, they usually don't even believe themselves, so I should be all sorts of a fool if I believed them for a minute.

What I have decided to do, after this most distressing episode in my life, is to make up my mind, once and for all, that no pupil will ever be allowed to matter in my life again. They will come, take notes, pay their fees, never to be given a part of my heart, and to be instantly forgotten the moment they leave. There is a limit to how much undeserved pain a man must endure, and I have most certainly reached the end of my tether.

And if my daughter ever becomes a teacher for her sins, I shall ask her to remember that her daddy warned her never to make the mistake of thinking that teachers really matter. Parents yes, spouses yes, children yes, maybe bosses and colleagues and neighbours even, but teachers, NEVER. She must do her work with all the honesty and sincerity at her command, but never forget that she is just doing it for a living, and she must never expect anything but fees from her students. It has taken me all of 27 years to realise that that is the only way a teacher can keep his sanity as well as humanity: I don't want my daughter to suffer like that. I won't wish what I am going through on my worst enemy.

I know now why my beloved Father Gilson did not pay the slightest heed to the boys upto class nine, taught magically the boys of class ten, and forgot them as soon as they passed ICSE. Wisdom does indeed come with nothing other than age, and painful experience. I made a terrible mistake to think that ex-students should be allowed to matter. Well, it won't happen again. I am a slow learner, but I learn my lessons well.


SleepyPea said...

My dear Suvro da,
All I will say here for now is that you have all my prayers, my love, and everything else. I know that it's not "an old man's delirium", no matter what.

For the time being, do you remember what you yourself told me some 11 years ago in the sunniest, and the most openly honest and “barmiest” (only it didn't feel that way then!) conversation that I ever had with anyone during one of the most greyest phases of my life? It's in The BOB.
More later.
My Love, peace, and prayers will be with you.

Aakash said...

Dear Suvroda,

Our apologies on behalf of him who has wronged you.

With regards and warm wishes,

Arani and Aakash

Tanmoy said...

I shall say Suvroda don't feel so sad. You are a true definition of the noun "teacher" who has shaped lives of many people. Some of them are stupid enough not to acknowledge that but there are I presume many who realize your value. I respect your decision to restrict your relationship to only those who know "what Suvroda means and stands for".

To me Suvroda, you stand for: extreme courage, a person who leads by example without making any big noise about it, who preferred isolation than probably bad company, who always enlightened whenever possible, who ALWAYS encouraged to do the right thing and left the choice to his students to take up the path of his / her choice. Most importantly, Suvroda always did beautiful things and ensured in his own way that a student can choose beautiful things around himself.

Some students who grew up could not understand those beautiful things which actually make a life. Why should you feel sad about them? Both you and now even I see many teenagers grow up to even not to understand themselves and I think you should better forget such people.

Today, I am thirty and have seen a bit more of world than the teenagers who are around you and I can proudly say, seldom one gets to interact closely with a human being like you. Within realms of realities, good as well as bad if one can become an inch of what you have become then one should feel satisfied. It is a pity that in to-day's world most people are poor judge of themselves and you should ideally ignore such people completely.

Time would tell where those kind of people reach in years to come.

I am not at all modest when I say I am proud to be your student. I realize that every moment of my busy day. I realize it because I have imbibed certain values / thoughts from you.

If I become too practical, then I would say, Suvroda perhaps you can't directly solve the complicated business structuring issues that my clients come with daily while I am in office, you don't even have control to stop me from most of the bad habits that i indulge in and similarly many other things. Having said that, trust me it is you who has taught me to realize where to draw the line and that too nearly 16 years back when you were probably a lot younger. These learnings have remained and shall remain forever even though I still make silly English mistakes. :)

We have not even met for so long yet to me you have bagged the ultimate award known as life.

At least I am there to respect you, love you, argue with you, irritate with you and fight with you.

I sincerely wish that all these younger people who generously shower respect / affection on your blog remain the way they are now because they would soon face a world where temptations and hypocrisy shall act as cobwebs on their eyes. Even if they say today, we will be there, it is going to be a tough challenge for them to retain the love for the most beautiful things in life: like yourself.

None can prepare them from the onslaught!

I am sure some of them would pass the test. As far as others are concerned we shall bid them farewell - they don't deserve you.

Best regards

Ranajoy said...

I think you are going through something that is brewed by expectations in general.....A teacher is pretty much a "Sanyasi in Samsara"....akin to what a "Grihastha" is as per Ramakrishna.They give and give. It is not for the one or two or tens of ignoramus to cause disdain to or malign a teacher's efforts.....By doing so, they are only spitting up in the air....I can only pity them.....
The other day when some one was giving me fundae on character, I kept silent. He went to have a lapdance in a strip tease joint in USA.... he did lots of other stuff. And he has his wife and newly born daughter (all of 3 months) in India, in the heat of Delhi. I did not at all talk of the topic. The same guy also advocated the greatness of video games over true games. I remained silent. At 44, you feel more lonely(I feel at 40) with fewer people of similar wavelengths. You need to cope up with that and yet give with smile , what you are giving.......It is for your pupil to make a choice. It is their life after all, their choice too.

And one more thing, dont try to force a persona that you are not. You cannot enjoy wearing a mask for long. If giving pupils a place in heart is a DNA attribute of yours, so be it.....but NEVER expect the same in return. You will be happier that way.....Hope I could help you, even though in a very minute way.

(I have learned it from my father who has a 45 years of teaching experience.)

Rajdeep said...

Forget about what some brats say. You should know that: "A teacher affects eternity he can never tell, where his influence stops."
Henry B. Adams. Take care. You have shaped enough lives already. Takes some achievement to do that.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

First, it's passing strange that while there have been more than two hundred visits to this blog since I put up the last post, only four people have commented so far.

Second, while I am grateful for all the four comments above, it seems to me that only Shilpi has really got what I was trying to express: as she wrote in a recent email, "you still don't sound the least bit angry with this student. You just sound and feel blindingly hurt". Blindingly is just right. A blind man cannot see. But that's not a fault to be held against him, is it?

Shuvojit said...

Dear Suvro-Sir,
I realized from this post that, come what may, you still cant leave hope.
You would accept that humans are faulty. Yet expect them to make a constant attempt to be perfect. Maybe that makes you so special.

Starting with your unhappiness of insufficient comments on this post....
Of all the 200+ people who have read this blog, a significant number must have been wondering what to say.
I have noticed & convinced my-self over time that when people are hurt/sad/unhappy then 99.9% of his/her friends would be struck-dumb. We have learn t & honed the skill of sharing the happiness of other's. We would once a while, help those who are better than acquaintance. But come a serious situation where we should/can/ought to lend a caring shoulder or put in some simple thoughtful words, we draw a complete blank.
If i have been able to take off a bit of your unhappiness of not having sufficient number of people posting a comment may i point out i too belong to that crowd.
I must accept that i would rather read/follow a good post ponder over it & conveniently stuff it in the back of my mind than try & post a few lines of my own. & no i would not put up the lame excuse of "not enough time".

& about the content of the post....
the best way i feel is to give yourself & the person some time. don't bottle it up & like all religious(!!???!) books forgive if you can. People do make mistakes & perhaps after pouting (attempted PJ) for a long enough time to hone in that one is angry one should perhaps start interacting with the cause again (assuming that you have stopped doing so).
You can also look at the whole incident in a different light too.
Your expectations have been considerably lowered. hence next time some-thing good happens you can be as happy as Neville was when he got a "Exceeds Expectation" in Defense Against the Dark Arts

Subhra Das said...

Your comment that over 200 people have read this post yet only 4 have commented, comes in good time. I am visiting your blog after a long time and this post actually took me by surprise because after reading your blog I was moving onto mine to post something quite similar in context to this post.
Its strange how life has become in the last few years. We are aping the west and making life more complex for ourselves. It was just yesterday that I was looking back into my childhood and I was really happy that my childhood was without the intrusion of needless video games, internet and the likes of this generation. I am so glad that my childhood was spent in the lap of nature where I have done everything what a child would do, from climbing trees, to eating raw mangoes, falling sick after relishing the road side chaat and going back there after recovering, etc. The kids of these days do not have all that. I live in a colony with over 300 flats, still I dont see any kids playing in the evenings though officially it is summer holidays. But I wont blame the children here, I will blame their parents.
They have lost the sense of their being, they have forgotten that they live in a society and not as individuals who own the whole world. And sadly with this they have also lost respect for other people. Teachers are mere caricatures for them, people to crack jokes on.
My mother had been a teacher in a school which was of the integrated type for the special(mentally handicapped) as well as the normal children, if asked she will always answer that it is far better teaching the special children because even if their mental faculties havent fully developed they still have the values of the bygone era in them.
Sadly this is the truth and I see it everywhere. I often yearn for a company which is worth the effort Im giving to be in that company. Alas, nothing of this kind is found. The ones who realise the value of experience will know that it is not an 'old man's delirium' but true wisdom which is speaking. In this context I will never forget a saying which my Father has taught me, 'we think our father's fools so wise we grow, our wiser sons will think us so'. It is a world where I have learnt to give without expecting any results. As Krsna had said in the Bhagwad Gita, 'karm kiye ja, phal ki prateksha mat kar'.
I would request you not to change your attitude towards your future students as you never know there might be someone who is truly worthy of your affections. Such instances will be very rare but arent diamonds also rare.
I would be glad of futher correspondence on subhra.15@gmail.com

Anshu Singh said...


I honestly do not know what to say.

Hope you are not hurt to the extent of your future actions getting affected by this incident.

Anshu Singh

Navin said...

Hope you do find students in future, that are successfull in reversing your current state of mind regarding your students.

Nishant said...

Good Evening Sir,
I find myself speechless at having come to know about this incident. Whoever it is that has let you so miserably down is of course at fault and not you and being one of your ex-students, i would humbly request not to turn a cold heart towards us, your students(ex-students), because it is only you who give us a lift whenever we are low and honestly speaking Sir it was you whose words constantly resonated in my ears whenever i felt lonely in my new life after i left Durgapur and has helped me to stick to where i have gone and not run back. And at the end I'd wish to apologize on behalf of whoever wronged you.
Nishant Choudhary

pritam said...

Dear Sir,

I was trying to put myself in your shoes and imagine such an incident happening to me - I think I would have wept - I believe it is perfectly alright to feel hurt and to weep.

However sir, I am also sure you cannot have 'learnt your lesson' too well. You teach with your heart - you would hardly be the teacher I know if you try to do otherwise. I am also sure that your ex-students(at least some of them) can never stop mattering to you.

With respect and love,

mayuri said...

Dear Sir,
You wrote that "...mistake of thinking that teachers really matter.Parents yes, spouses yes, children yes, maybe bosses and colleagues and neighbours even, but teachers, NEVER."
To this I will only add that a teacher matters just as much as parents, spouses, children and the others.
If one has learnt to truly respect his parents, love his wife, care for his child and share genuine concern for his boss and neighbours, I believe, he will know the importance of a teacher. Otherwise, just like parents can be put away in old age homes, spouses can be divorced and children left to the ayahs, teachers can just as easily be betrayed and forgotten.

Niraj said...

Gud afternoon Sir!!.. I read your blog "Dont be a teacher with heart ". I found it very touching and in a certain sense true as well. But at the same time I would like to add that only because of teachers like you(teachers with a heart) I still remember your way at looking at things in life which I really admire till date. According to me changing yourself only because of an incident (though i can understand the intensity of that incident from that blog) is giving too much attention to the person who caused it who anyways doesnt deserve it!!!

Suvro Chatterjee said...

I am truly bemused, eight months down the line, that this person has not found it worth his while even to apologize for the utterly undeserved hurt he gave! How little we matter to one another in this world, really, and how disgustingly we pretend otherwise for as long as it suits our convenience.

He used to call me a 'father figure'. I can safely predict that every one of his dearly beloved relations will go the same way by and by. That's not a curse, it's called the law of karma.

Enough said.

Shilpi said...

I'll add some lines here. (My previous comment disappeared). Maybe you're right Suvro da - maybe we do matter very little to one another in this world and maybe we do pretend - but then again - I can't help but ask: why on earth would people pretend to care or love or respect and admire? What good would that do? What meaning would that have? And I can only pray that maybe there might be some instances where love and respect are just what they are without any pretensions.
I understand too what you mean when you say that nobody should ever matter too much and more so why you say that. Yet I believe still, and quite stubbornly too, that sometimes - some rare times, no matter what - it makes sense. There's no point in saying anything else. One cannot but hurt and another cannot but hope and pray.
Take care.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

That time of the year is coming when there will be a mad rush for admission to my tuitions once again, as there has been for so many years now. Neither the parents nor the about-to-be-admitted pupils have the slightest idea how I think of them these days, even as I enrol them, hand out the instruction sheets, and collect the fees.

Yes, a few gems will turn up from amidst the muck, I'm sure. Only, I shall never inwardly warm up to them the way I used to once upon a time, knowing what is sure to follow in the years to come. And I shall keep telling myself that they are just customers, after all. A shopkeeper does not ache over his customers' memories, nor am I, in the final analysis, anything more than a shopkeeper...

Shilpi said...

You, a shopkeeper? And in the final analysis? Never! You can call yourself 'old' and all those other things you call yourself - but you can't possibly call yourself a shopkeeper now - even though you already have!

On the other hand, I also wonder about your original post and I still can't make any sense of it....I hope though - and I earnestly hope - that in this instance you're not right. I can't believe people would demonstrate love and respect - and that all of it is a pretence. Being civil I can understand. Not being rude - although difficult to practice I can understand. Even being truthfully semi-complimentary - I get. But why would people feign love and liking and respect?

I have always assumed that when some people mattered enough - misunderstandings didn't matter so much as to demolish a relationship. But maybe this bit is simply a figment of my imagination, and something I keep hoping is true.

And on a related note (or maybe not): I don't see how you can possibly maintain your sanity without detaching yourself from people, and going by your life, especially from the ones who claim to love and like and respect you.
More some other day.
Take care.
Love and luck,

Debarshi said...

Respected Sir,

Warm regards.Sir,I cannot claim to state that I know the true reason behind your grief;but,the pain that underlies this post is clearly present and is felt by me.But,Sir...I will say this...There are,maybe,a few people,Sir...alike you in some respects..who care for you and love you.Unrequited love and affection have been recurrent themes in my life too...Sir,you are my pillar of strength...and as you so aptly posted..that the Law of Karma spares nobody..Maybe this incident happened for your welfare..He was posing as a well-wisher;now,he stands exposed..It has been his biggest loss..Though,maybe,he won't consider it so...unless the memory haunts him,which,it surely will.

With lots and lots of love and respect,


Suvro Chatterjee said...

It has been three years and more, Debarshi, so the wound has healed somewhat: it's no longer anything more than a wretched memory. Besides, it was wholly my mistake anyway - I have habitually (until recently) given too much attention and affection to young people who have proved by and by that they neither wanted nor deserved it. This particular person was just a more accomplished actor than most: he kept up the pretence successfully for nearly two decades, imagine! So I am sure that the memory certainly doesn't 'haunt' him. It is either quite forgotten, or retained just to gloat over the thought of how he made an ass of a teacher for such a long time... for me, it was just a hard lesson that should have been learnt ages ago.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

I should like to have more comments on this particular post. And then I am going to write a follow up - it's been more than four years now - to reveal who it was that hurt me like that, and what kind of relationship he chose to break.

Vaishnavi said...

Dear Sir,

I did not even know of your blog or you at the time of your writing this post, yet two years later, you took me in, figuratively, to talk to me, answer my silliest questions, forgive my grave errors and give as much as you have said here that you will not again. All I can say is, thank you from the bottom of my heart!


Sriranjani said...
This comment has been removed by the author.