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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Forty-five, and counting!


I was born, I am told, late in the evening of Thursday, the 17th October, 1963. By that count I have lived 45 years on this earth today. No matter what I look like, and what I feel like, or others think about me, it is a statistical fact that I am now firmly in “middle age” (even if I live to be 90-plus, which God forbid). Nice time to look back and jot down a few thoughts for the occasion.

In some ways it is not really very unpleasant. I had an on-the-whole unhappy childhood and early youth, so unlike many people (countless children are told to write and cram essays about how childhood is the best period of one’s life), I do not suffer much from nostalgia. Over the last three decades I have almost continuously been enjoying the present to the full, despite all the ups and downs. Besides, having grown up to be precocious, fancy-free, adventurous and widely-read, I have known from very early days how people are supposed to feel in their prime and as the shadow of old age begins to loom – the good feelings as well as the bad ones – so I cannot say I feel very surprised or sad or let-down: not even over the fact that the last 25 years (since youth began) seem to have flashed by in the twinkling of an eye. I am thankful that I am still reasonably fit and in full possession of my mental faculties; I don’t look bloated, sagging, haggard or decrepit like so many of my contemporaries, I do not suffer from poverty, and I have far more time than most to call my own and use as I (rather than my boss or that beast called ‘society’) like. I consider myself very fortunate to have a patient, intelligent, understanding, non-greedy and non-ugly wife with whom I share a lot of interests, and to see a beautiful and clever daughter growing up apace before my eyes, loving me as few daughters love their fathers, and developing so many interests (such as books and movies and music and self-control and caution with money and an inclination for charity) that I badly wanted to share with her.

I know I am slowing down, and I tire more easily, and have grown much more ease-loving than I used to be, but I allow myself some consideration: I have gone through privations enough, and slogged it out enough (far more than most of my contemporaries: their parents were fanning them and helping them drink green coconut water as they went through the ‘ordeal’ of the Joint Entrance examination with me, while I was earning my living teaching a horde of pupils almost my own age and writing freelance for sundry newspapers!), and now I am old enough. I regret some bad habits which I have not been able to get rid of – and which will probably kill me eventually – and the fact that the legion of beloved old boys and girls has not become as large as I wanted, and stayed as closely in touch as I wanted, and that so many people whom I have never harmed would be delighted to hear of anything bad that has happened to me, and that some whom I have always cared deeply for have decided to rub me out of their lives, but let that be: we are not given all things that we desire. The important thing is to be aware of how much I have got, and to make the best of it, and be thankful.

As things stand, I can even feel a cautious twinge of optimism. Perhaps I am going to stick around for a while still, and if I do, old age might be the best time of my life, after all, who knows? ‘Grow old along with me’, wrote Robert Browning to his wife, ‘the best is yet to be’. Keats called my age ‘the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’. Many of the men I most admire did their greatest works in old age. Susan Sarandon said she felt ‘girlish’ on her 50th birthday, and a recent survey, published in The Telegraph of October 15 (see bottom of page 2) says that men are at their most romantic in the eyes of women at 53! I also admire the naughty but loveable character called Uncle Oswald created by Roald Dahl, and he will remain an inspiration. Having got rid of a full-time driver, I am beginning to rediscover how much I enjoyed driving, and some day I might try my hand at writing poems in French again, and even flying a biplane, maybe: aeroplanes were one of my first loves. Very soon, I might go hiking in the mountains with my daughter and a few friends of hers in tow. And drink some of the best champagne: I haven’t had enough yet. In sum, I am determined not to grow too sombre and withdrawn to miss the very many pleasures that life might still have in store for me. If there are some readers who like me, they might wish me luck!

28 comments:

Tanmoy said...

Dear Suvroda,

May all your wishes come true. Next time I see you, I shall ensure the wine. NZ is famous for its wine.

Regards

Tanmoy

PS: I would love a picture of three of you in the post.

Kanishka said...

Sir, I wish you a very happy forty-five, and all the very best for your endeavours. :) Though I don't know how much say luck would have in this, but I guess you are actually living your life when you are chasing your interests!

ANANYA MUKHERJEE said...

Sir,
Thank you for such a wonderful post .First I wish you peace and good health for your birthday and the years ahead.
As I went on reading I remembered Horace’s "Pluck The Day" where he writes

"Don't seek, my friend, we cannot say
what end's in store for you, for me:
don't trust in vague astrology,
Better to shoulder what will be,
whether you soon will die, or stay
to watch the shore exhaust the sea.
So drink some wine while your hours flee,
put small trust in posterity,
and prune your hopes; but pluck the day."

Middle age comes with new joy,new inspiration and new delight.Churchill embarked on painting in his middle age and so did Tagore. Pablo Casals was still practicising on his cello at ninety-five trying to improve on it. Of the plodding and sordid middle aged crowds I have seen around me I have found you as a welcoming exception.Even my father who has retired last year has taken up a new business very enthusiastically. Throughout the day I find him very busy trying to persuade the poor tribals living behind our house to send their little ones to study in my father’s new school .He, along with some of his friends has started this job which really makes me proud. He is also taking Spanish guitar lessons now.
A question keeps recurring to me “What good lies in the useless and the empty years of the rest?” The old Anacreon had wanted to view the unseen short pleasures, “ Of little time the best to make, And manage wisely the last stake.” I have always seen people mourning the loss of beauty and struggling for that much hiped thirty days skin repairing formula.Why are these stupidities? Why cannot a person be jubilant enough in celebrating what he has aquired in terms of knowledge and experience? Why is he so much anxious to turn the clock backwards? Is it repentation over the things undone and a life lived unfruitfully or is it a blatant competition with the youth? Does not one understand that this fight ends up when death knocks and there is no time left the moment after.
The middle age contains all the experiences, the smell of a daisy,the cry of a newborn,the taste of a fine wine,the warmth of love and with it comes the accomplishment of tranquility,vigor,reflection,solitude,and serenity.
Sir may your optimism supply the momentum to your wishes and may your irrepressible urges neutralize all others’ doubts.I wish whole heartedly that you might leave all your worries,anxieties and troubles behind to embark on a handsome new journey to rediscover your self-enlightenment.You have evolved through years as a ‘hero in the strife’ and so let luck be with you.
“Let us ,then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate ;
Still achieving , still persuing
Learn to labor and to wait.”

Navin said...

Wish you all the best on your birthday. May all your wishes come true, and may you have many more memorable events in your life than you may hope for.

aranibanerjee said...

Happy Birthday, Sir. And, what lovely English! One ought to read it over and over again; so few of us can speak with such economy or honesty when given an occasion to speak about oneself.We bloat or understate, never being truthful. How often have we written on our Birthdays and how cliched and hackneyed they have been!

All the very best wishes to you for many more years of such glorious English prose.

Aki said...

Lately I had an occasion to ponder upon a similar kind of issue, you have beautifully explained a chain of thoughts that were playing my mind for quite some time.

My best wishes to you, for being what you are and deep admiration for aunty for such a wonderful sense of choice, that has paid off very well, I suppose.

Manoshij Banerjee

Subhanjan said...

In the past seven years of my life I had the opportunity to know a person closely who, in many respects, is so different from the countless individuals in the population. He epitomises individualism and existentialism more than any other human I have know through out my life. No wonder, at forty five, he is happier than countless youths who are growing old in their thirties. But I know he is unhappy too. Actually he has a mind and a heart that are so different that they pain him a lot at times. At times I have felt that he suffers from different turbulences frequently devastating his heart. This mind - this heart - these are dangerous things. They can ruin you. They can build you. His mind and heart had made his life better than several others. But they have also made him sensitive to things that he can not help compromising with and thereby inflicts pain. In this regard I would love to share a poem with him. The poem is one of my favourites. It is all about a heart and mind that is very different and tries to explore the meaning of existence. The poem is called "Bodh" by Jibanananda Das. It is a real pity that I can not post it in Bengali - in which it sounds absolutely magnificent. But the English translation is not bad either.

SENSATION
(Bodh)

Jibanananda Das

Into the half light and shadow I go. Within my head
Not a dream, but some sensation is at work.
Not a dream, not peace, not love,
Inside my heart a sensation is born.
I cannot escape it
For it places its hand in mine,
And all else pales to insignificance-futile so it seems.
All thought, an eternity of prayer,
Seems empty.
Empty.

Who can go on like the simple folk?
Who can pause in this half light and darkness
Like the simple people? Who can speak
Like them, anymore? Who can know
For certain anymore?-Who seeks to understand
The carnal savors anymore?-Who knows the joys
of life again, like everyman?
And sows seeds like everyman anymore?
Where is that relish? And who, hungry for harvest,
Has smeared himself with the scent of earth,
Has anointed himself with the scent of water,
Has gazed toward light with rapt attention,
Has gained a peasant heart,
Who would any longer remain awake upon his earth?
Not a dream-not peace-but some sensation is at work
Within my head.

When I walk along the beach, or cross from shore to shore
I try to ignore it.
I seize it as I would a dead man's skull
And wish to smash it on the ground. Yet it spins like a living head
All around my head,
All about my eyes,
All about my chest.
I move, it too comes along with me.
I stop-
It too comes to a halt.

As I take my place among other beings
Am I becoming estranged and alone
Because of my mannerisms?
Is there just an optical illusion?
Are there only obstacles in my path?

Those who were born to this world
As children,
Those who spent their time
Giving birth to children,
or those who must give birth to children
Today, or those who come to the sown fields of this world,
For to give birth-to give birth-
Is not my heart
Like theirs, their heart and head? Is not their mind
Like my mind?
Then why am I so alone?
Yet I am all alone.
Did I not raise my hand to see it hold a peasant's plough?
Have I not drawn water in a pail?
Have I not often gone with sickle to the fields?
How many wharfs and rivers have I been to
Like those who fish?
Algae from a pond, the smell of fish
Engulfed my body.
-All these tastes,
-All these I've had. My life has flowed
Like unchecked winds.
My mind slept as I lay beneath the stars
one day.
All these desires
I knew once-unchecked-unbounded.
Then I left them all behind.
I have looked upon woman with love.
I have looked upon woman with apathy.
I have looked upon woman with hate.

She has loved me,
And come near.
She has paid no heed to me.
She has despised me and gone away when I called her time and again,
Loving her.
Yet it was actually practiced one day-this love.
I paid no attention to her words of contempt,
No attention to the wrath of her hate,
And went my own way. I have forgotten
That star-the sinister influence of which
Blocked my path of love over and over again.
Still, this love-this dust and mud.

Within my head
Not a dream, not love, but some sensation is at work.
I leave all gods behind
And come close to my heart-
I speak to this heart.
Why does it mumble to itself alone like churning waters?
Is it never weary? Does it never have a moment's peace?
Will it never ever sleep? Will it not enjoy just
Resting calmly? or not know the joy
of gazing at the face of man?
of gazing at the face of woman?
of gazing at children's faces?

This sensation-only this desire
What does it gain, immense-profound?
Does it not wish to leave the beaten paths
And seek the starry span of the sky? Has it vowed
To look upon that man's face?
To look upon that woman's face?
To look upon those children's faces?
Those sickly shadows under eyes,
The ears that cannot hear,
The hunchback-a goiter that arose upon the flesh,
A spoiled cucumber-chancred pumpkin,
All that is within man's heart
-All that.

Arnab said...

Dear Sir,
A very happy forty-five.
Best of luck!

Sayan Datta said...

Wish you a very happy birthday, Sir. Let me take this opportunity just to say that I have known you to be a very kind, forgiving, sensitive, humble, fun loving and wise human being. Most of all I have known you to be a gentleman- of one of that rare and dying breed (characterized by someone like (say) Satyajit Ray or Bertrand Russell). Though there are many, as you have yourself said in earlier posts who have found you to be a hypocrite, I have always found you to adhere to your word even in the smallest of things and far from blowing your trumpet, you have on numerous occasions deliberately played down your own accomplishments (which I know are many). Though you don't like to suffer fools gladly, you have always shown a great deal of patience in dealing with them (I hope good sense will ultimately prevail and they will be able to see how much lucky they were to have been able to come in touch with a person like you.) - something only possible for a deeply contented and supremely confident man. Whenever you have spoken, Sir, I have known every word of yours to come straight out of your heart - only possible to a man who has made his words the very backbone of a life spent defending ideals, and not just as a punch line as has become so common today (especially with the youth I would say). I often wonder how you have been able to connect so instinctively and meaningfully with the youth for so many decades without losing a shade of what is your own. Something in me answers that that indeed is love. You had once told me that - "If you have to teach Jack Latin, you must love Jack as well as Latin". And I know how deeply you have loved both. Rest assured Sir - your words, deeply etched as they are in the memory of your numerous ex and current pupils, will not be forgotten in a hurry.
I wish you live as full a life as you hope to.
I haven't been able to meet up with you for a very long time, and that is what I regret most of all.
Sayan Datta

Shilpi said...

My dear Suvro da,
Lovely, lovely photo and it's the most buoyant post that I've read in awhile now (for which I'm greatly relieved and immensely grateful!). Of course you have all my wishes, love, and prayers. Have a Joyous Birthday.
Love,
Shilpi

ishani said...

OMG!!! Hey, please do us all a favour and knock off a few years, next time you do a post like this!!! Anyways, Happy Birthday, have tons of fun!

Rajdeep said...

Dear Suvro da,

Wish you a very Happy Birthday! Take care. As usual with regards and best wishes.

Rajdeep

Kalyanjit said...

Dear Sir,
A lovely post. I feel so happy for you as you seem to be so cheerful. I would request you to put up a more buoyant post like this sometime soon. Wishing you all the best on your birthday.

supra said...

Happy Birthday, Sir.You have all my wishes,prayers and love.Have a Lovely Birthday!Take care.

Supra

Suvro Sarkar said...

Dear Sir,

Here's wishing a very Happy Birthday to you! Hope you have a great time with your family. It was good to note the optimism in the post - it seems you've been inspired by the Bucket List to draw up a mid-life list - and I hope you end up doing more than you aim for!

Take Care, Sir
Regards
Suvro

P.S. Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar just became the highest run getter in Test match cricket and now we have one more reason to remember your 45th birthday!!!

niksabhi said...

Sir,
I wish you Happy Birthday. May all your dreams and wishes come true.

With Regards
Abhishek Mishra
Visakapatnam.

su said...

Amar ek bondhu apnar Blog fwd korechilo. Onek din somoy kore poda hoy ni. Ajke podte giye dekhlam subhho-din e apnar Blog khulechi. Janmadin er shubhechcha jaanben. Ar ei jonmodin er musing podte giye mone pore gelo Erikh Maria Remarque er lekha ebong Heerendranath Mukhpadhyay-er translation Three Comrades ("Teen Bondhu") boi-tar kotha. Porechen? Amar bheeson bhalo lage. Oi Boi te Otto Koster er B'day musing ta mone korye dilo apnar ei lekha. Thanks
Supratik
(p.s: ami baro hoyechi Raniganj e - apnar protibeshi - ekhono protibachor jai).

Suvro Chatterjee said...

In the less than 40 hours since I last posted, this blog has been visited more than 200 times, and I have received 16 wonderful comments till the time of writing. I am overwhelmed with gratitude, and I can go to sleep feeling I am truly blessed.

One gift in particular has made my day, and I would urge everyone to visit the blog of one of my favourite old boys, Nishant Choudhary, at http://nishperplexed.blogspot.com. The link is also provided at the top right-hand corner of my blog.

I hope that Nishant has spoken for many old boys and girls. In any case, my heart is full tonight. Despite all its wretchedness, it seems like a good world to live in after all!

Kaushik said...

This entry was posted by me on 16th, roughly around 2300 hours. I don't know if you received it. That's why I'm posting it once again!

"A very very happy birthday, Suvro- an hour in advance! From a person in a close catching position! May God bless you and your life suffuses in full splendor of all the delicacies, wholesomeness of honest enjoyments that we all crave for…. may you continue to enrich us with your guides - the thoughts, the dreams, the words, coming from the depths of your mind, spoken with so much brevity, elan and a rare profundity, as so lyrically, feelingly, commented by Arani and quite a few of the others, here !! You have reasons to feel very happy, dear, at the end of the day!"

Arka said...

Dear Sir,

Wish you again a very Happy 45th Birthday.

Are you contented with your life? Any regrets (there must be)? Do the debit and credit side of your life balance? Successes are more than failures, I hope so.

I wish you the very best for the next half of your life. Let the next half be more noteworthy, eventful, happy and relaxing.

Regards (as Tanmoy da says)

Arka Choudhury

ginger candy said...

Dear Sir,

Wish you a very happy birthday. I consider myself extremely lucky to have you as my teacher, and though you never really taught me (I was not in your class, and I didn't attend your tuitions), I consider you to be one of the greatest teachers I have ever met and seen in my whole life. May God grant you all your wishes, and may He keep you happy in spirit and healthy in body for many more years to come.

Thanks,
Joydeep

Sayantani said...

Dear Sir,

Many happy returns of the day!:)

Yes, I’d say you are one of the luckiest people of your age to be feeling so optimistic and carrying yourself with such ardent enthusiasm that’s bound to influence anyone who comes in touch with you.

Though my father’s life hasn’t shaped out in the way he had idealized and dreamt (which goes very similar to what you’ve been able to do), somehow his ways and lifestyle resemble a lot to yours (as perhaps I’ve felt and said umpteen times before)…

Wish you a life full of love, peace and contentment, Sir. Take care.

With warm regards,
Sayantani
(sayantanighosh1@rediffmail.com)

Sudipto Basu said...

Dear Sir,

A belated birthday wish, but not in the least lacking in warmth, I assure. It is so endearing and heartening to see you write about so many wishes yet not fulfilled, to see you have such zeal and enthusiasm about living fruitfully. When held in contrast with the kind of "dreams" my contemporaries at college have, there is little to do but woe for them-- for their terrible lack of happiness, the shallow dreams of just getting a job, "freaking out" and finally "settling down". You may apparently be only a provincially homebound teacher, but I daresay you have lived and experienced a far more youthful and colourful life than the chunk of my generation can even think of imagining. May God bless you, and may you have the best of health and mind to have each one of those unfulfilled dreams stripped of the prefix 'un-'.

By the way, completely agree with Arani da's comment-- such free-flowing capricious language is so hard to come by these days. Such a treat to read!

Regards,
Sudipto.
(sudibasu@rediffmail.com)

raya said...

Sir i am again sorry for being so late,first of all I would really like to wish you a belated Happy birthday.May all your dreams be materialised and all your wishes come true.
Regards
Paulami Sen.

Santanu Sinha Chaudhuri said...

It is your life, what can anyone else say? But I can say this: what I have read just now is a beautiful autobiographical sketch written by someone who can see himself clearly. A lovely piece.

I wish you a very long life counted in such wonderful pieces.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Thank you. "... someone who can see himself clearly". I wish there were more people around who could appreciate how big a compliment that is!

Suvro Chatterjee said...

How trivial and shallow people are, and how wanton and untrue their protestations of love, respect and admiration! I am visiting this post after a long time. In the four years since I wrote it, half of the people who sent warm wishes above have cut off all connection with me... my life has only underscored what I learnt in early childhood: you are alone in this world, and you can only be happy to the extent you can calmly accept that and go your own way.

Shilpi said...

Suvro da, I was reading this post of yours two days ago, and was thinking of your years while reading through the comments.

While reading your comment above, a thought that keeps rising and ebbing especially since last year comes in sharply: nobody who has cared for humans like you have and shared and reached out like you have, and consistently, and spread laughter and happiness around apart from everything else ought to try to tell you to 'forget' the people who have spoken those words of love, admiration, and respect and then cut off all connection with you. I apologise because I know I have tried telling you the same at least for a few years in the past.

It's difficult even for me to accept the fact that even human beings who get to know you lack the capacity to admire and respect and love or simply lack the brain power to value you or keep in touch either through your blogs or face-to-face. I'm reminded of a comment you wrote on my blog four years ago, among other things.

I'll still wish you a Happy Birthday for whatever it's worth, and make some wishes and prayers. Maybe this is what is called faith.

Shilpi