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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Taking stock, post the 100,000 milestone

Well, first of all, the visit count has officially crossed the 100,000 mark now (actually it did so a couple of months ago), and these days I routinely get more than 2000 visits a month, so now I can consider myself a serious blogger. Thanks to all who made it possible (even my detractors, because after all their visits too were counted!), and more so to all from whom congratulations have been pouring in.

Next, about the last post. It has now been visited almost 1000 times. So I guess a lot of people have now come to know what I feel about the whole subject, and the word will get around, especially to those whom I most want to know. Thanks again, to all who wrote encouraging and congratulatory comments. Consider, though, that 1000 visits have drawn only about 25 comments: and people get so angry when I publicly remark that most people who chatter all the time actually never have anything substantial to say on any substantive issue! Very interestingly, there has been not one foolish and rude and irrelevant comment yet, though I have been checking the trash bin daily.

A few acknowledgments are due. As several have pointed out with sympathetic understanding, it took a great deal of guts to make the decision (best proved by the fact that many of my frustrated ex-colleagues have fumed before their pupils that they too were of a mind to leave, but not one has done so in all these years!), and, what is more, it takes as much to carry on, year after year. Belonging to the Bengali middle class as I (alas!) do, I realize only too well the desperation to just somehow get a job – any job, however ill-paid and demeaning – as the one and only purpose of ‘education’, and how utterly unthinkable most salaried Bengalis find it even to consider quitting something easy and comfortable and secure: nothing has changed since the days when Bankimchandra and Vidyasagar, Tagore, Vivekananda and P. C. Roy poured scorn over this disgusting, spineless tribe; only their greed and vanity and prickly egos have swelled manifold. I reserve my sharpest invectives for people who, protected by company health insurance and life insurance and provident fund and gratuity schemes and leave travel allowances and cheap loans for buying houses and cars and schooling for their young, often having nearly 100 days of holidays a year, envy us self-employed people for making the money we do, and even grumble that we do not pay ‘enough’ taxes! And my greatest respect is reserved for those who stand on their own feet and make their own living, whether they are humble dhaaba owners or top flight surgeons and lawyers and tutors with private practices, and, it goes without saying, writers and musicians and those who try to make a living by making good movies…

At the same time – and I do hope my favourite readers will understand and admit it to themselves – there is also the reverse of the coin to be always kept in mind: there is the constant danger of being swept off one’s feet by the lure of easy money, especially when so many people are so keen to shove it into your hands, just so long as you say yes and take their child in. I have seen so many doctors and teachers first make a name for themselves and then turn into mere money-making machines, completely unconcerned about the deterioraring quality of their services… my greatest pride is when a current pupil meets with someone who studied with me ten or fifteen years ago, and compares notes, and they both discover that I still give unstintedly of myself in class as I did so many years ago, and because I can’t do it with too many at a time, so many people go away disappointed, even offended, utterly incapable of understanding why I said no. Believe me it’s hard, having to make myself disagreeable by refusing money, especially since I am not really rich in the sense of not having to work at all. And so I still fantasize about winning a lottery, and pray that God may sustain me in active mode a little longer. Nishant, that is the only sense in which I expect ‘results’ from my actions! Does that make sense?

Sreejith, that was a touching recollection. Makes me proud in retrospect, thinking that amidst that kind of stress I could bear up so well, calmly and with dignity, for that is the quality of character that I most admire, and find least often around me. Debarshi, frankly, I didn’t notice the coincidence about the date, but it’s intriguing, yes. Dipanwita and Arani, thanks for the kind words, but I mourn for the school, imagining the kind of people who will be celebrating its golden jubilee next year. Sayan and Rashmi, I hope you will always keep in mind that a true teacher must uphold high ideals, and practise what he preaches. It is that, rather than lack of capital or technology or organization or anything of that sort which is holding India back from realizing her full potential, and this has to be preached by millions of teachers at the grassroots, not the likes of APJ Abdul Kalam pontificating from the luxurious and exalted confines of Rashtrapati Bhavan!

Anand, my deepest regards to your aged relative: she had it exactly right. Don’t lose faith in yourself, and don’t forget God. Only, we ‘smarter’ young people think we have better ideas to live by, and some of us must take it upon ourselves to prove that the old way was the right way after all.

Sayantika, I wish you well. At least you have tried, and found out for yourself how hard it is to do something instead of merely talking about it  And Arnab, ‘ferocity’ is  a rather odd word to apply to a teacher. Did you mean that word, or something close but not quite the same?

7 comments:

aranibanerjee said...

Sir,

Shubho Nabobarsho, once again. The spring has matured into summer and a hundred thousand greetings to you.
The internet dishes out so much every day and hardly anything that is new is also original and thought-inspiring. it is a huge recycle bin and much of it is recycled trash.
I hardly visit the net and have some sort of a phobia towards going online. It is lethargy and mental sloth that prevents me from visiting you more regularly. Also, I crave to hear your voice. I am proud that I escaped being in school without you-one of the few lucky things in my life.
It has been long since we last met. I cooked a sublime prawn curry the other day and thought that though my English may not have amused you much, this would definitely have bowled you over.
I remember calling you right afteor my ICSE results were out and telling you my marks. You congratulated me and said, 'Jaak taholey tokey literate bola choley'. I was nine short of a hundred! Years down the line, I read your blog and the sheer velocity of your vocabulary overwhelms me. The ability to be so nimble and precise with language, to avoid clutter, verbosity, periphrasis, error and to simultaneously thoughtful and substantial is the rarest of skill.
It is not sychophancy on my part when I say this. I am in the business of teaching English and I know that most of our scholars can't use the perfect tense correctly! Circumlocution and wooliness is another hell altogether.
The English language lives in very few places in our country. Educomp, Liqvid and NIIT have transformed it into something between moronic quizzes and graphic design. The English language, in the spirit of Mill, Orwell, Russell and Churchill, lives in your blog. Viva!

Arani

Abhishek Das said...

Dear Sir,
As you said earlier, you have written a lot for the past few years and I should keep on exploring the blog to find more interesting stuff. First of all let me thank you for writing such wonderful posts and let me appreciate the introspection and philosophizing of all those who pour in their thoughtful comments in your blog. I wish I could enjoy the company of even a fraction of such wonderful people at my present workplace.
I remember when my father came to enrol my name for your tuition classes; you had remarked that I would learn much more than just English language. And I remember how often you told us about the qualities that a civilized person must have. After ten years I still remember them and wonder how true your words were and how lethargic we are to change for the better. In this context I just remembered a trivial incident during my college days. (I studied in the electrical engineering department.) During my B. Tech days, I noticed that in our lecture galleries, even after the classes were over, the lights and fans remained switched on for the entire day. What a sheer waste of energy!!! So out of my own interest I made it a habit to switch off all the lights and fans after the last class was over. Some of my friends taunted it as a publicity stunt, some said that this strange urge would soon die out; others even slandered me saying that it was a cheap effort to appease the professors. And these engineers are tagged as ‘Dedicated to the service of the nation.’
I appreciate how well you have held on to your principles and maintained your moral standards to the highest degree. I wish you all the best for your future and hope you continue to inspire us with your thoughtful blogs.
With warm regards,
Abhishek Das

Nishant Kamath said...

Dear Sir,

The ancient saying you mentioned in the last post did make sense to me in theory. But I haven't seen too many people being able to apply it in real life. Seems quite difficult. But now I do see how you do it. I hope you teach (as a job now and later maybe as a hobby) for many more years.

Sincerely
Nishant.

Aki said...

Pardon my limited vocabulary. What I meant was 'fierce and uncompromising'. Ferocity kind of felt like the right word to go with.

Regards,
Arnab

Shilpi said...

That was a nice moment of the counter crossing over, and I was waiting for that and for your post, and then now I'm wondering what to write as a comment.

I have noticed that the blog counter is showing more visitors and within 24 hours there are over 100 visits on some days...which also does make me wonder why people don't comment more often. But what you write is disturbing quite often, and really does require a lot of mental courage and honesty (among other things) to take in and digest, and then 'light pierces the darkness'...and one waits to see what will be while changing inside and on the out. That said, I don't know why people don't comment on the 1000s and millions of different things you write about. Sometimes this does make me grump but maybe it's as you keep telling me, 'thinking and writing are not the same, Shilpi!'

I hope you write for many more years here and elsewhere, and you winning the lottery would have been nice because you wouldn't have to teach those who don't want to be taught and maybe you could get some of them very young if that would work (I really think that the kids would be different if you could get them when they were toddlers!) - and you wouldn't have to deal with the kind of people you do, and could get a break too.

I rather liked the memory that your ex-student narrated - about the last lesson you taught the young boys in that old school. It was very vivid and made me feel very silent inside as I watched across the years and through space. I'm also very, very glad that those cretins who have nothing worthwhile to say did not say anything for your previous post....

That's all for now, I guess.

Ūrṇā said...

Dear Sir,

Bugging you again (but maybe I don't bug you as much as I ought to)! While writing a comment for your previous post an hour or so ago, I couldn't help but notice the counter that registers the number of visits and what I saw made me both elated and awestruck - 100,607 visits! Congratulations, Sir, it's a well-deserved achievement, I must say! One of the nicest things about your blog is that you allow for views that do not necessarily agree with your own, even those, as I have noticed, which do not cater to the same level of tolerance as you might show people and expect the same from them. Once again, Sir, congratulations and best wishes for more such wonderful and relevant reads to follow.

Love and best wishes,

Urna

Suvro Chatterjee said...

You are welcome to 'bug' me as much as you like, Urna: I long for comment writers like you, who have something like brains to think with! My earnest thanks for this comment of yours, as well as the one on the previous post. It is affectionate gratitude from old boys and girls that makes my job most worthwhile, and as I have said often before, I cannot stop wondering why the boys are far more avid comment writers than the girls! Anyway, thanks for noticing that I am much more tolerant than most of my detractors. As Helen Keller famously said, The biggest pity is not that some people don't have eyes, but that most people have eyes and cannot use them! Evidently you are one of the few who can. All I ask from critics is politeness and strong reason and facts to back up their points of view... and most, having neither, cannot imagine that criticism can mean anything besides abuse. This is a disease that has become particularly widespread these days, what with 'technical' education superseding all use of mind and serious grounding in the niceties of language. Most people, including 'educated' ones, can neither think nor write, so all they can do is either stay quiet or hurl silly abuse...