Despite being publicity-shy, I put up a sign in front of my house seven or eight years ago, with ‘Suvro-sir’ on it, and an arrow pointing to my house, and my phone number below.
I was forced into doing it because I had been hearing complaints from literally scores of people every year that nobody had given them my address and phone number (so that they could contact me to admit their children to my tuition); that even some of my neighbours, when asked about me – these are people who have known me for decades, mind you – blandly said they had never heard about me. The same with some people who had been colleagues in a school for fourteen years.
Of course, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why people should behave like this. One group thinks ‘Why should I tell another person about a good tutor? Suppose his boy/girl ends up getting more marks in exams than mine?’ while another consists of those who think ‘That man is making too much money anyway, why should I help him along by sending a few more people to him?’
The same category consists of people who, while worshipping money above all other gods, habitually try to buy things on credit from their grocer and eventually don’t pay if they can help it; boast loudly about how they have saved a few miserable rupees by haggling like fisherwomen with rickshawwallahs and porters, think that the height of socializing is dolling themselves up for wedding receptions, never read a book in their lives once they have passed their last examinations, tell their kids to steal my notes if they can from some of their friends who attend my tuitions while blithely telling their neighbours they didn’t send the kids to me because they know what a bad man and poor teacher I am, spread the vilest gossip about their own ‘friends’ and relatives, eat at parties as though they are starving beggars, and come in cars wearing jewellery worth lakhs to admit their kids yet dare to ask me ‘aksho taka com hobe na Sir?’ (could I pay a hundred rupees less?). And when I occasionally get to hear about what they do to their husbands/wives/children/in-laws at home, oh Jesus!
These are also the very same people who tell one another that I provoke the kids against their parents. Guilty as accused, because one of my highest aims as a teacher is to make slightly better parents of the next generation, so that the world becomes a trifle less filthy. All I shall add as a correction is that I don't actually provoke them, I only ask them to observe, think and judge for themselves, not blindly swallowing everything that guardians say as necessarily good and true.
That is how petty, how mean, how foolish people can be (yes, foolish, too, because even after all these years they haven’t been able to make the slightest difference to my career, and they are too dumb even to figure that out and desist). I wouldn’t have minded, except for the fact that all these people regard themselves as educated, worldly-wise bhadralok, and hate me because I mock the whole tribe routinely in class, and say that they make me puke, and insist that the kids will have got no education worth the name if they grow up to be equally trivial and disgusting human beings.
A very great man said it’s a sin to lose faith in man. But the older I grow, the harder it becomes to keep the faith. The great misanthrope Jonathan Swift said about his friend Dr. Arbuthnot, who was apparently a very good man, that if he knew ten men like the doctor, he’d gladly burn all his books. I find myself increasingly inclining to the same opinion of my fellow human beings. Especially as I see that most of my kids, despite my best efforts, become clones of the worst kind of parents as they grow up.
I have been writing this with full responsibility. For the last fifteen years, I have been a parent myself, and one of the very few things that I am truly proud of is that my daughter is not growing up what they call nyaka-boka in my native language… that she already knows there is much to hate and despise about this country, and she needs to strive lifelong to keep herself from sinking in the same mire. I have also been trying to sensitize her to whatever little goodness we see around us, and to treasure it, because it is so rare.