To start off, hearty thanks to all those who sent me cards by post and electronically, and sms to say ‘Happy Teachers’ Day’. Too many to thank individually, so forgive me. I want you all to look up my blog anyway.
I have been reflecting over this blogging experience, and wondering how long I should keep at it. I am a teacher, and a thinking man, and that is what I shall remain till the end of my days. Writing publicly, that’s something else again. As I have said before, I started writing blogs on request at age 43 to extend my classroom over the net worldwide, and make the best possible use of that classroom – to share, classic Bengali adda fashion (not the roadside thek variety-), my thoughts on all kinds of subjects with as wide a range of people as possible, and engage the best of them in lively discussions which could perchance entertain while mutually enriching minds. It’s about the only thing that I do free of charge for people outside my immediate family, except for occasionally donating blood. I have been writing for more than six years at a stretch – those who were graduating from high school then are finishing university now; those then in college are working and married! – and have written more than 300 posts on this blog itself, besides nearly 200 on the other one. By any yardstick that’s a rich harvest for anyone who is interested in reading. The page views counter has crossed the 130,000 mark, I get almost 3000 visits a month on average (nearly 40,000 in just the last year), there are 270-odd ‘members’ of this blog, and most posts here are commented upon upto a dozen times at least: some have attracted more than 50 comments. A good enough record for most blog writers; indeed, many would be envious (there are countless blogs which don’t get a thousand visits and thirty comments in a whole year, yet sheer vanity and idleness keep the writers hammering away! Also, a lot of people, especially juveniles, give up what started as a lark after the first year or so). Still, there are reasons why I am not as happy as I could be. Let me list them for myself:
· There are obviously hundreds of readers who refuse to become members that I may know – why?
· There are also hundreds of readers who will simply never comment, even to ask a question or say thanks.
· I have lately had to shut out scum who comment only to say ‘I hate you’ in various ways, and can obviously neither read nor understand what I write, so no sensible comment can be expected from them: why on earth do they visit at all?
· Too many old posts are too quickly and permanently forgotten, whereas serious readers should be looking them up frequently and commenting again and again, seeing new significance in them in the light of their own growing experience of life. As I have said before, little here dates – seeing that I don’t write about the launch of smart phones.
· I do write on virtually every subject under the sun except smut and shopping and cricket and partying: are those the only things most people are interested in, then?
· Every year, at the time of leaving, scores of pupils promise that they are going to keep in touch, and agree that the blogs would be the best option, since I cannot keep individually in touch with so many via email and phone, but most of them simply fade away with time!
· The kind of excuses that people come up with for not following my blogs regularly are exasperating, to put it mildly: while the youngsters say “Mommy doesn’t allow me to use the net”, working people say they either don’t have a good connection at home or they are ‘too tired’ at the end of a long day…come on, if you were truly interested, such excuses would never even crop up in your mind! And yet so many of them, when they call or visit, insist that I believe they often think about me, and find it sad that I have forgotten them. People can’t accept that they make themselves forgettable!
· There are those who take many months to reply to emails of mine, but when they write, they expect me to reply attentively, affectionately and adequately within a day or two. Of course, they themselves are too busy, all of them, and I am the only man they know who has all the time in the world. Many of these people, I happen to know, also loudly lament on many forums that people are falling out of touch!
No point in lengthening that list, though I could.
I also sometimes think of my erstwhile colleagues at St. Xavier’s Durgapur. Believe it or not, some of them once upon a time said publicly that they liked and admired and even respected me for various reasons. Ever since I quit, however, they have somehow found it ‘inconvenient’ to look me up, yet they have gone around assuring one another and everybody they know that I am an unsocial person! Also, they would say they have simply been ‘too busy’ working, shopping, doing chores, attending parties, saving, travelling, raising children, getting medical attention… the sort of things I do all the time, too, the only difference between me and them lying in the fact that I do not make a big deal out of these mundane things, nor think that one is human if one cannot simultaneously live a rich life of the mind. Most of them never had minds anyway, but of a few I had had some hope once upon a time. One, I hear, is growing old and infirm; hasn’t he still realized that I happen to be one of the very few human beings who ever really liked and to some extent respected him, and does he relish the thought that he would die without ever seeing me again? Does he reflect sometimes, in lonely moments, on what has happened to the memory of Fathers Gilson and Wautier and Wavreil? Do the illusions of the world still hold him back so strongly? And he’s just one of the many people whose shadows come back sometimes…
Of course, that school was only a part of my life. There have been lots of other experiences of the sort that people who directly became schoolteachers after graduating from college and never did anything else all their lives cannot possibly imagine – other places and people, other encounters, other realizations (can people without any experience of life outside the classroom ever become real teachers? I have never stopped wondering. Instructors, sure, but teachers?). Ghosts sometimes come out of the past, and some even say “I am so sorry I wasted so many precious years staying away because I didn’t understand you”. With a few of them relations are patched up; with most, alas, it is too late. It’s happened even to members of my own native family. People should think hard before deciding to fall out of touch… there is an email i.d. given on this blog for those who would like to communicate privately. Use it, today! I recently wrote to someone who had called himself my friend for many years, just to make sure it isn’t true that I don’t give people second chances; his reply assures me that he doesn’t want anything of the kind. I tried the same a couple of years ago with a sister whom I had raised like my own child – there are still people around who are living testimony to this claim – saying ‘I still love you as much as ever’, and she didn’t even bother to reply. If you are their type, okay, but let it never be said that any relationship was spoilt for want of trying on my part. That would be the only regret I don’t want to die with. Otherwise, after all, people just come and go, and so will I…
On Monday, in the course of the same day, even while taking the normal round of classes, I counselled people three separate times: a mother and son who had just lost the man of the house, two young girls who had quarrelled badly and were now feeling terrible about it yet didn’t know how to make up, and an elderly gentleman who was very worried about what his son was doing. All of them basically needed words of comfort and reassurance, tidings of good cheer. So easy to say, but it is evident that most people don’t find it anywhere, certainly not from doctors, lawyers, engineers and most teachers, else they wouldn’t have come to me. One very important purpose of writing my blogs was to share the same sort of comfort, cheer, reassurance and spirit of exhilarating freedom with a lot of people, and considering that my blogs are visited so frequently, it is evident that many people do find some use for them. So why won’t they let me know? Is there a chance that they have reason to be ashamed or scared?
One piece of news before I sign off for now: after 24 continuous years, I have stopped taking in plus-two level (classes 11 and 12) pupils this year, as I stopped teaching college goers many years ago. Those who have good memories of those classes may want to know why. In any case, as a result, starting November, at least for a couple of months, I am going to have Sundays off – after having worked seven days a week at a stretch for nearly two decades. I wonder how much I’ll enjoy it, though…