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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Teaching!

In connection with discussing (I much prefer that word to ‘teaching’ in this context) Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn in class this evening, the conversation veered to concepts of beauty, its meaning for different people, the degrees of intensity with which different people admire and appreciate and remember things of beauty, how beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, how very many different things can seem beautiful to different people (equations, natural scenery, the human body, music, paintings) not only according as how people have different personalities and tastes, but also depending on how much attention they are willing to give, and how much patient reflection, and how in a distracted age where haste and hurry are not only obligatory but ‘in’ and ‘cool’, all kinds of appreciation of beauty might be in danger of vanishing, the ‘Love aajkal’ way, to be replaced by merely sensual and momentary titillation…
As is my wont, I tried to weave in as many diverse kinds of material as possible, examples, anecdotes, jokes, quotes, appeals to pupils’ own experiences, tips on what they could find out with a bit of googling (like a famous scientist agreeing that ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’…). I was rewarded with some laughs, and some attentive listening, and some shining, focused eyes: but I could give my right hand, even after so many years of this work, to know what really goes on behind those eyes, how many of them enjoy, understand, think, remember, allow themselves to be subtly changed by what they have been led to think and feel and find out. How much has so many thousands of hours of talking mattered to people, beyond getting them some marks in examinations and me some money to live upon?
How hard it is to explain something without becoming dull, or crass, or highbrow, or just plain vague. And how sad that despite all one’s efforts, one can find out so little about how much one has succeeded!

8 comments:

vaishnavi said...

Dear Sir,

My grandfather is said to have been very passionate about teaching. This is the first time though I am encountering such passion for the profession. When I was a bit younger, Barbra Streisand's role in A mirror has two faces, as a professor of literature caught my fancy. All those packed halls, stimulating lectures about all the things that I love. That of course is a movie Sir, but this, reading this post makes me wish I had appreciated my own teacher more than I did. I had and still have a lot of affection for them and constantly keep in touch but perhaps, I failed to really appreciate the essence of their work. Thank you Sir, I needed to read this :-)

Regards,
Vaishnavi

Tanmoy said...

Dear Suvroda

Your words do matter to me.

I may not be the best student you would ever have but personally speaking I realised your importance only when I could not continue the pause in our interaction. I felt something of utmost significance was missing in my life.

The pause was unbearable. It was a long pause too.

After leaving Durgapur, I did my college, university and worked for a few years. I met so many other teachers, met new people and senior professionals.

Despite not meeting any classmates from school or going to Durgapur, I missed you the most. I remembered the words spoken by you, the fun we had in school, the books you referred to me and the talks we had.

Even if you consider it insignificant that is the impact you have had on my life.

In some ways, I look forward to learn from you always. Learning much beyond language.

I am blessed!

I pray for all the good things in your life.

Regards

Tanmoy

Shilpi said...

Hmm...bright and focused eyes are better than dazed and distracted. Very difficult to know though - I have to agree. Same goes for whether any of your talking matters. And unless your students actually tell you or let you know -I don't see how you can know for sure. Earlier I was wont to yell -"Of course it matters. Of course you matter." A part of me still feels the same way but it would be comforting to know how exactly you've made a difference. It does matter - the knowing that you've made a difference; that you as a teacher have made a difference to others. The knowing matters. I'm sure there are thousands out there who know/sense/feel that your classes (and you) have made a difference in their lives, and I wonder sometimes what they would do if asked to write one paragraph on how those discussions with you have made a difference, and how knowing you may have made a difference to them.

I'd give my right arm and more to sit in on some of your classes and to hear exactly what you say and your students say(among other things).

So much for now. Take care. Love,
Shilpi

Anwesha said...

Dear Sir,

Shilpi di rightly said in her cooment on this post that she will give her right hand to attent some of your classes. I can assure you there are more...

You taught the poem The Cloud by Shelley, one of the greatest Romantics the world has ever seen. The first time I read the poem by myself I thought that here goes another man madly in love with some cloud. When you taught that poem in the class, it was like waking up from the reverie! A poem can stand for so many things, so many emotions, they can make ordinary humdrum phenomenas so very lively. I would not have come to know about all these things if it had not been for you! I can still remember some of the phrases of a poem written in Brojobuli language that you had read to us in the class! I can go on citing examples of your ways to revive our sagging interest towards poems (thanks to the way we are taught from the grass root level!)...

All that I can do right now is to thank you profusely for making poems so very interesting to me...

Anwesha.

Asima said...

Dear Sir,
its been almost two decades now since I sat in your class as you encouraged us to think and reflect on the intricacies of the human mind while teaching Julius Caesar. A lot of things that I have learnt in those few months have stayed on with me and helped me immensely and I am not just talking about getting good grades. Somehow even today on a gloomy day if I remember 'The sun was shining on the sea.....' or 'Macavity - the mystery cat' I can see myself smiling ( these lines might sound alien to your present generation of students). Thank you for those wonderful classes which I enjoyed so much. They really did matter!
Wish you a very Happy Teachers Day!
Regards,
Asima

Kumarjit Sarkar said...

Dear Suvro sir,
Things have changed with time! Its the time when films like 'Love aajkal' are hits & 'Satyam shivam sundaram' would be a super flop, had it ever been released( no producer is foolish enough to put their money on such stuff)!
Ya, thats true. World goes the 'love aajkal' way. Right from the time when a child is born, he sees his father going out for some job every morning & right from the time he grows a bit older he has his minds set too to go to one, some day( it may not be his own wish, but may be inculcated into by his parents)!
He will thus fight hard to have a seat in a professional college(which is not at all a child's play these days for a general quota candidate) from where he needs to pass out at the earliest and thus fetch a job. And by the way, dont question at all about the job market of today!
Then that child(ofcourse by now he has become an 'adult') has to marry and bring up his children, which is more often than not unsuccessful these days(I am talking about marriage here)and even if it becomes successful, that fellow has to continue the same phenomenon for his own children!
This is in short about 'LIFE SCHEDULE' 'aajkal'!
Whats the result- people tend to become hypertensive, obese and if not so severe get distracted midway, lost somewhere!
So definitely today, sir, the appreciation for 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' will only be if it fetches marks for them. But as for you I must only say that please be concerned about those shining & focused eyes, as they are very rarely found!

Neel said...

Poets should not comment on beauty. It is an aphrodisiac for them that leaves a sense of helplessness at the end. For beauty encompasses the worlds where words have lost their meanings. So in a frenzy of words, the poet notes in desperation as he tries to grasp a thing so fragile, yet so infinite that he leaves the realms of literature and enters into truth, basic cold truth that neither can be described or ignored. And there the beauty finds its raison d'être, its sanctuary.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

and yet consider this, Neel... if poets mustn't comment on beauty, who else would?