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Saturday, July 02, 2011

A Telephone Conversation

(with a doff of the hat to Wole Soyinka)

An old girl rang me up from distant Bangalore last night, essentially because she wanted to hear my voice, and because she wanted a shoulder to weep over about a lot of unsettling things that have been happening lately – accidental death of loved ones, loneliness, inability to focus on essential work at hand, loss of self confidence and lack of direction, etc. etc. I said what I usually say on such occasions (which are not infrequent), and, to cut a long story short, she sounded much more cheerful towards the end of the nearly half-hour conversation, and acknowledged as much, adding, ‘Sir, you have no idea how much you have done for so many of us, and how much you still mean to us. Thank you!’ Goes without saying, it made my day.

And in turn it made me think of so many who gushed that way in class and then have dropped out of my life completely. Other boys and girls even tell me that some of them regret not having kept in touch, and wish they could renew the connection, but are ‘too scared’ to try, remembering that I had made scathing remarks in class about how many will gush and forget, and they fear they will be in for some tongue-lashing if they do call, or email, or turn up at my door now, after a long hiatus.

I shall never stop wondering about what really draws people to a person, and what repels, and what makes us forget some people completely after their immediate ‘utility’ is exhausted.

And, of course, I grow more cynical every year, more convinced than ever that it’s not just about me and my ex-pupils: human beings in general care little about one another, even so-called loved ones, much beyond their immediate utility. I have heard so many things, you see. I have heard a father pointing to his wife and daughter and saying ‘I am just their ATM!’ and I have seen grown children referring to their aged fathers as burdens and old fools, and I have heard about the man impatiently asking the insurance agent ‘Who cares what my family will get when I am dead? Just tell me how much I will get if I am still alive when this policy matures.’ I have seen 'friends' falling out merely because one scored a few more marks than the other in some silly examination. And I have seen so many young married couples breaking up before my eyes, apparently because they simply couldn't bear each other any more.

I was recently going through some essays on the subject of love written as homework by some high-school girls, and I couldn’t help smiling sadly as I read through the absurd teenage romantic fluff. If only they knew a little more about hormones, and making a living, and going through the daily grind day after day, year after year…how I wish our children could grow up, not cynical, certainly, but a little more clear-eyed! I believe, you see, that even three generations ago their ancestors at this age were not quite so dumb, and therefore not quite so vulnerable to reality when it bites.


Ria Pariksha said...

You say our ancestors were not so dumb but my grandparents themselves said that they had been romantic as teenagers. I believe that teenagers(no matter of which generation) are always absurdly romantic.(By romantic I do not mean bunking tuitions and chatting in the Ram Sita Mandir as you said in class).

Parijat Roy said...

You really have been a source of constant support for me for the past four years(though I regret for not having kept contact in the last two years).Your views of the world and of the things that happen in the surroundings are very different and most of your views act as eye-openers. You asked me a few days ago why i am going for a b.tech. though i am interested in civil services. I had no answer that day, and don't have one till now. But i have decided one thing; I will do my b.tech. with full sincerity and doing an m.tech. and becoming a good and worthy engineer will be my sole aim.
Thank you sir for showing me the way ahead so easily.Thank you..

Vaishnavi said...

Dear Sir,

L.M Montgomery says in the Anne series that people of the Race of Joseph....or in other words kindred spirits always find themselves no matter how great the distance or how long the time. Over the years I have sort of developed a theory for myself, I have seen acquaintances drop away, or people who claimed to be friends drop away and I used to end up frustrated because I would try but it would never be enough to keep that particular relationship in balance. My theory is that between any two people who are really sincere to each other, keeping in touch or wishing each other well will happen effortlessly. I guess it's the sincerity that goes the distance.


Suvro Chatterjee said...

Well, I don't really know, Vaishnavi. I often wonder (as I have frequently written in this blog itself) whether people (these days) really care for anybody very deeply at all. You might, for instance, look up the blogposts titled Don't be a teacher with a heart and A girl who admired her teacher...

Or maybe teachers just don't matter in the great scheme of things.

Aishwarya said...

As we go through life, we meet a lot of people..of various sorts to say the least. Some leave a lasting impression, some others are just that 'people'..inconsequential beings with who you have shared a laugh or two. Some more of those pleasant short stories, that more often than not make a good read.

The longer ones however, are the one, that bring with them an uproar of varied emotions. Very much like the books you keep reading and re-reading...and each time still you discover a nuance you had missed the last time around. Some vanish, and re-establish connections after years, only when social boundaries are far less consequential or controlled for that matter.

Personally, like i have mentioned, several times, and at several places, you have had great influence over the person who i have become, what i've embraced in life and what i have not. And I'm pretty proud of the person who has been churned out. I hope you will be too. I don't much remember if i gushed as much in class, but i never made any qualms over accepting how awed i was.
And still am.

I still remember that once when you had handed me 'To Sir, With Love' :)