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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Just musing...

I had written a post titled To those about to become ex-students a while ago, and expected a lot of old boys (I don't count girls) to write in and tell me, as well as the youngsters, what sort of memories they have of my classes, and give the current pupils some tips about how they could best benefit from them. I guess I was mistaken: not many old boys have either the time or the inclination. Funny how many of them gush over the phone or by email and even face to face about what varied and wonderful experiences they had! Is it all make-believe, then, designed to please me with a false sense of satisfaction?

15 comments:

Suvro Sarkar said...

Dear Sir, I had actually written about some of my experiences in your class a while back...but had not found a good opportunity to share them as yet. And I thought the aforementioned post was targeted at those about to become ex-students and not those who already are. I had not, of course, noticed the post script that you added later! So I'll definitely post a comment on your earlier post now.

Regards
Suvro.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Two very heartwarming comments have come in on the earlier post the same day as I wrote this one. I do hope more will pour in...

Aayushee Konar said...

Sir,
Till now i was one of those who hadn't added themselves as the followers of your blog.I couldn't resist myself from commenting tonight because you wrote"I don't count girls".This is not fair Sir.We love you as much as the boys do and if you don't believe me ,please wait till we leave.

With regards
Aayushee

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Aayushee, many thanks. I have nothing against you personally, sweetheart. But you are barely 15 years old, and I have been teaching for 29 years, and when I say girls don't care to keep in touch after their classes are over, I speak from very bitter experience with thousands of them: some old enough to be your mother. And I am sorry to have to say this, but you cannot imagine how many girls have told me over the years 'Sir, we are different, you'll see, we won't forget you', and have forgotten me completely afterwards. As I have said before, knowing girls as I do, if I want someone to wait for me at Delhi airport, or to take me to hospital, I won't even dream of asking any girl, though many of them are adult and educated and earning their own livelihood. If the boys can't come, they will tell me straightaway; the girls will promise, never come, and cook up a dozen sweet excuses afterwards. That's life, and I have learnt to accept it... my wife agrees with me wholly on this, by the way. She is a woman herself, and she always tells me never to believe a word that girls say, because they don't believe it themselves! Do you think she's a fool, or my one genuine well-wisher?

Suvro Chatterjee said...

... not to do anybody injustice, there are one or two (grown-up) girls whom I can love and trust heart and soul, and it is also true that some boys have broken my heart. But from the totality of my long experience, I shall still say I expect good things only from the boys. If some girl really proves to be different after she has grown up, I shall be both delighted and grateful, but that won't change my general opinion!

Aakash said...

A piece of chalk

One never knew if trifles could inspire epics, but if one believed G.K. Chesterton and Sir, they could. Which brings me to the piece that introduced me to Chesterton, ‘A Piece of Chalk’. Sir had read it out to us in class. It had amazed me then, and even now.

I was amazed then that a man could write so interestingly and beautifully about a chalk. Now I wonder at the epical nature of the task. In one short piece the man sketches the history of English literature, and, sitting on a precipice of a mountain of chalk, wonders what thoughts a missing piece of chalk could inspire. And I can’t stop myself from quoting the final words, ‘And I stood there in a trance of pleasure, realizing that this Southern England is not only a grand peninsula, and a tradition and a civilisation; it is something even more admirable. It is a piece of chalk.’

Of all the things I treasure about school, this was a class to remember.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Thank you, Aakash. It is always the little things that matter, and it is the power to recognise and remember the significance of little things that makes one man superior to his fellow-men!

I am glad that this needling has provoked a few old boys to write in here and the earlier blogpost. I shall be truly glad for more.

sanjukta said...

Dear Sir,
I have already told you what I felt about your classes. Sir, please don’t get me wrong, but it will need a lot of courage to repeat that once again. I fear, I do not actually have that.
Sir you have told us all we needed to know. Now, it is on us to decide what we make of your gift. I wish you could continue your classes for a little longer.
Sir, I have a request- please give us one more chance to prove that some girls can be better than your expectation. It is you who taught me that ‘every like is not the same’.
My last words will remain the same,” Thank you, Sir.”
With respect from,
Sanjukta Saha.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Oh, come on, Sanjukta, you are intelligent enough to know that the remark 'I don't count girls' was not meant for the likes of you. I trust that I have explained myself sufficiently in the earlier comments directed at Aayushee...
Sir

devdas said...

Bonjour! Suvro-da,
on our last day in Xavier's in '92 you wrote for me:
"Life offers myriad treasures, may you live up to the full...."
Its difficult to drink "life to the less" as we read in our panorama book of poems, which we often mugged up to pass exams....
But surely life has been exciting so far searching for Higgs Boson the last piece of the Standard Model as Large Hadron Collider gears up to deliver the highest energy beam on beam collisions for the understanding the secrets of BIG BANG, mankind has seen so far.
http://press.web.cern.ch/press/PressReleases/Releases2009/PR18.09E.html

ciao
debasish das
(from CERN, geneva)

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Good to see how excited you and your colleagues are, Debashis.

However, this kind of long-drawn out media hype makes me nervous, lest the real thing, when it happens, should turn out to be a bit of a damp squib. It happened with the Human Genome Project nearly a decade ago. And three decades before that, after having sort of accidentally brought about the synthesis of some amino acids in a jar of 'primordial soup' through random discharges of electricity, some scientists had gone to the press saying they were going to manufacture mammals in labs. soon. And many people agree with me that after having seen the Taj Mahal photographed to death, seeing the real thing is rather a let-down...!

devdas said...

Bonjour! Suvro-da,
I have a typo in my last post, it should be "lees" and the poem still inspires me and thanks to lord for his kindness.
The machine ran well last winter and we have the paper out which you can see:
http://arxiv.org/abs/0911.5430
(more than a 1000 authors all over the world expanded over all continents and countries)
We have made significant contribution in electronics, magnet and computing from INDIA and we have a proud show here at Geneva. I was working on one such Indo-USA collaboration very recent past and you can see me here in the offical archive photo of BNL labs USA:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/brookhavenlab/3174162634/sizes/l/in/set-72157613690851651/
So we are expecting BEAM Now!!! at 7000 GeV head on collisions in search of Standard Model,
ciao
debasish das
(from CERN, Geneva)

Subhasis Graham Mukherjee said...

ha ha! well said Suvro.

Maybe we should concentrate on winning our smaller battles - the big, huge, humongous cause and canvas is sometimes presented and glorified to divert attention from the failures in the smaller battles.

We would like to enjoy deep friend eggplant or a nice eggplant 'bharta' and get the eggplant at reasonable affordable rates - whether it's a genetically modified and engineered marvel or not, be damned.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Count me in as one of your school of thought, Subhasis. I've lived, seen, talked and read enough to have started to believe that the big-ticket shows don't matter, except for the people who get paid to be part of them. A Persian mathematician/poet wrote a thousand years ago

Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and saint
and heard great argument
about it and about
But always I came out
through the same door as in I went!


I doubt if discovering the so-called 'God particle' by means of the Large Hadron Collider is going to change much in the larger scheme of things. Our educated people would be much better engaged in trying to use all their vast and vaunted intelligence to figure out ways to end poverty and war and mass ignorance and superstition and discriminations of the worst sort, and create a little sanity and beauty around themselves with the work of their own hands...

Nishant said...

I had thought of writing some of my memories as soon as I had read this post. But I procrastinated and then in my laze forgot about it. I had the benefit of attending Sir’s classes not only in school, but also at his house (though he had told me that there isn’t any difference between what he teaches in school and in tuition classes, and that I would be denying someone else a seat). But attending his classes was always a pleasure. I’m sure I’ll never forget some parts of the Merchant of Venice that he almost acted out in class (‘almost’ because he did Antonio’s, Shylock’s, Bassanio’s and Portia’s parts all even if they were in the same scene). The wonderful BBC tape of the same play we heard in his house (can’t forget Shylock’s famous monologue delivered by Dustin Hoffman): I liked it so much that I borrowed it from Sir and made a copy for myself. He didn’t even think twice before lending it out to me; and believe me those cassettes are jewels. We had ‘free periods’ in tuitions as well which we spent quite constructively: listening to British English on tapes, trying to understand the lyrics of Jim Reeves’ ‘Put your sweet lips’ (well, those were early times and most of us still had difficulty with the British and American accents), solving Jumble from old issues of Telegraph and Word Power from those of Reader’s Digest.

There were some things whose relevance I realized later. For instance while in college my friend and I were discussing poems we had learnt in school. I remembered a poem about Hiroshima (I think it’s called ‘Hiroshima’ as well): a small poem but with an effect just as big. I got back to Sir for the poem and my friend too found it really good. A few weeks ago while I was at the Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey I saw the plaques of several literary greats that had either been buried there or commemorated. Under W.H. Auden’s plaque was the line ‘In the prison of his days / Teach the free man how to praise.’ A line from a poem Sir had taught us in great details in school and it was such a wonderful feeling to understand exactly what it meant.

The words that Sir used to give us every week to make sentences with: those were a small subset of the wordlist that we later cram while preparing for the GRE. And of course the books I came to know about and borrowed from Sir’s personal library: ranging from ‘Exodus’ and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ to ‘The Mind of God’ and ‘Ghost in the Machine’.

These are some of the several instances that I can remember now. I again have the benefit of living a stone’s throw from Sir’s place and hence can visit him any time I like. To all the current students, recently become ex-students or old ex-students: if you have been attentive in class, you’ll get a sense of Déjà vu on several occasions and hopefully you’ll acknowledge or better still, get back to Sir.

Sincerely
Nishant.