A female ex-student, now in her late-20s, had this exchange with me via email very recently. She, as you will read (still, though maybe not much longer-) claims to have some respect for me. After having read very closely, do tell me what marks you will give me if I were being judged as her teacher: how much of my values (leave alone my knowledge) have I been able to transfer to her? I have no objection to being given poor marks, mind you: if the teacher has failed, it’s largely his fault, after all… the only thing is that comments should come solely from those who have known me well, and for a long time, and like to think things out in depth before shooting their mouths.
This mail is in response to your blogpost ‘What happened in Guwahati?’ dated 18th July 2012. With all due respect Sir, and to say the least, I was surprised to read a post of the sort on your blog of all places. The comments on the post are even more startling. I am not a bra-burning feminist trying to rip apart every male in sight, but I also find it difficult to come to terms with a school to thought that blames the wallet owner than the pickpocket, on grounds that the victim should be more careful of his belongings!
A certain Sunandini Mukherjee writes, ‘Most girls love to draw people’s attention towards them, put on clothes and attitude which are not really decent for that purpose but then feel ‘insulted’ on being greeted by lewd comments by loafers on the road.’ Really? I wonder; is that really why I dress the way I do? And do I lose the right to be offended by people, who have no semblance of etiquette, thanks of the length of my skirt? Is dignity defined by the droop of my décolletage or the rise of my hemline? I have not judged women who step out of their homes in salwar kameez and oiled hair, then what has given them the right to judge me? Sir, I have taken your classes very seriously, and a lot of things you told us have stayed with me till date. I shall also take the liberty to say it has shaped me in many ways. You spoke about the real meaning of independence one day – ‘Do as your heart pleases, as long as your actions do not bother, adversely affect or hurt another.’ So then, what is wrong if a 20-year old girl or for that matter a young man, decides to go out drinking with his/her friends late in the night? Should an ideal society not flourish on the tenet of Live and Let Live?
While the media angle is a different topic altogether (I completely agree with you Sir that TRP reporting has become today’s norm, and it is shameful. Personally I have written a letter to Mrs. Ambika Soni in a hope to be one more voice against sensational journalism.) I also wonder if it is such an eyesore to see youngsters behave like, well, youngsters. Which teen does not falter, have lapse in judgment, and make friends only to realize later in life that they were probably not worth their while? Why is there such an expectation from scholars, intellectuals and litterateurs that 20 somethings should behave, think and operate like them? I know most great men started young, and that is inspirational. But let’s face it, not everyone is meant for great things. The world is made up of all kinds of people and the world better make place for the average man. It’s no sin, according to me.
P.S.: This is just my point of view and I felt a strong need to share it with you. Hope you make space for it, Sir. I didn’t send it in as a comment, because I was not sure if you would like it.
Thank you, X. We might talk about this again, if I am around, in say twenty years’ time, preferably when you have a teenage daughter growing up at home … I shall take the liberty of observing for now, however, that you do NOT read my posts with a tenth of the attention that I demand from my readers. And that is hurtful at best, and offensive at worst.
I am sorry if I have offended you in any way. That was not the intent.
Good to see that, at least, X.
In response to your angry question, here’s a poser. I too, like you, say nothing about women who step out of their houses in salwar kameez and a lot of oil in their hair. So they shouldn’t say anything about how I dress either, right, especially in my own house? So would it have been perfectly all right if I took my classes all these years in my underwear? Or do different standards apply to men and women here (and one standard for teachers and another for all other men?): women have a ‘right’ to be free in how they dress, whereas men don’t? And am I a very foolish conservative if I say that I can quite understand why 99% of parents wouldn’t have wanted to send their kids to my classes?
I notice also that you very carefully stepped aside the challenge that I threw at you: that I would like to talk to you again about this when you are raising a teenage daughter… and don’t give me nonsense now about how mothers have to be careful about their daughters in this society full of bad men, please. If you insist on your rights you must carry the responsibilities that come with it (like it or not), and you mustn’t suddenly change tunes when you have your own daughter to bring up…
All evil springs from people insisting upon rights while denying the concomitant responsibilities. I have an unchallengeable right to stay naked only in my own house, and only when I am completely alone. At all other times, my right must be restricted by how others feel. Even if I am in no danger of getting raped. Otherwise I am telling all others, including my maidservant and my wife and my daughter ‘You are not human; your opinions don’t count’.
Having typed that much, I already have this sinking feeling that I have wasted my time: you will not do me the courtesy of taking time out to think, really think about what I said. Anyway, I won’t try again.
No Sir, you did not waste your time. I understand that not everyone will share or agree with my point of view. I respect your opinion, but that said, I am not sure your respect mine Sir. You have already made up your mind that any counter-discussion from my side will be ‘nonsense’. What I intended to do with my mail was to merely have a healthy exchange of views (I believe such a thing can happen even if opinions clash) But I fear Sir that this attempt of mine has only offended you. I apologize for putting my disagreement forth.
Just one question for the reader: was this girl ever actually interested in a ‘healthy exchange of views’? (for those who might be curious, I was merely using what is called the ‘Socratic method.’ Took the first step would be more accurate, because I couldn’t go any further.)