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Thursday, November 01, 2012

Festival time meetings

Well, sometimes there’s cause for cheer, too. A lot of old boys come to look me up at pujo-time; this year was no exception. Among them, two gave me particular reason to feel buoyed up: one, an engineer freshly graduated from one of the IITs who has just lost his father and got into a demanding but decent job far away from home; the other, going up to the final year in medical college, and glad to share a bit of his new-found knowledge with old Sir. Since my opinion of the average doctor and engineer (those who have been graduating after 1990, in particular-) is well known, I am glad to say I find these boys to be refreshingly different from the herd.

I watch these young folks as they grow up from kids into adults, and I have always found the slow yet dramatic transformation startling, both when they grow up into nasties and when they become adults I can be proud of. To start with, both these boys have always known, of course, that Sir has nothing against studying science and going in for medicine or engineering – it is the false socio-psychological baggage (a mix of petty greed, vanity, pretension, opportunism, vulgar language and lack of respect for both learning and hard work) that usually goes with it that turns me off – so they have never had a problem communicating with me, whether by phone or over the net or face to face. What I found good about these two (and indeed always appreciate it whenever I find it) was that they could speak so freely yet without arrogance or irreverence, that they  had so much to talk about, that they had their feet firmly planted on the ground (in the sense of knowing perfectly well about the pros and cons of their chosen careers and also how silly it is to put on airs), that they could laugh at their own follies and shortcomings, that they were going through life so self-possessed, caring little for what others said about them, as any mature man should. They were not the typically avaricious, mall-hopping pub-crawling girl -leering sort, they read books, they are entirely agreed that a man cannot be judged by his car or a woman by her looks, they have genuine hobbies to pursue – cooking with one, karate and painting with the other – they talked of taking responsibility at home and the workplace, they showed a glad eagerness to help me out with little problems I happened to mention. The one regaled me with stories about office politics and what he is learning by consorting with illiterate but highly skilled workers, the other told me how much harm contemporary ‘educated’ parents are doing to their children, medically speaking, by bringing them up like hothouse plants. On the whole it was evident that they enjoyed spending a couple of hours with me as much as I did hosting them; and I shall be glad to see and hear from them again and again.

It goes without saying that I wish them all the best in life, and I am glad that some like them are growing into new adults, although it makes me feel very bad to think how much more numerous the scum is, and how the lives of good people such as these are sure to be troubled by them. Still, it’s a blessed thought that the country goes on producing a few of the better types too, despite all the damage that average parents and teachers and friends try to do to their psyches all through the formative years. And hearing them fondly recollect so many things I said to them in class years ago, I feel comforted to think that all that work has not gone wholly in vain…


kiran karar said...


"Alas! how swift the moments fly!
How flash the year along....."--John Quincy

It was on 9th April,2011 when I had joined your class and officially my last class was on 29th October 2012.Since then one and a half years have passed and today I write this letter to express my feelings.

I used to see scores of people flock to you every year and I used to think what is so special about this person?

I had got my answer within few minutes of your first class.You were the only teacher I had seen who could memorize and identify each pupil by their names on the very first day itself. The next thing that made me thought provoking was the list of proverbs mentioned by you. If I can ever be 'successful' it will surely of of the first proverb("Tomorrow never comes").I also understood that I cannot shine unless I work hard("Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration")and unless I wish to("You can bring a horse to a river but you cannot make it drink").

Time passed by and slowly I saw that tuition classes also can be interesting cause you were the first teacher to make studies a fun with all those group discussions,debates,scrabbles, movies and even by harsh but thought provoking words about average engineers,parents,corrupt devotees and boys being "interested" in science.

These comments had really found me certain sources to make life more funny.Your classes also highlighted that parents are not always correct but they pretend to be so.

Apart from these I also saw the other side of you when one fine day you got angry on me for laughing unnecessarily.

You are probably the best orator I have ever seen and also the only person to possess knowledge about most of the subjects and the only one to differentiate religion from superstition.

These words were of no flattery but were ones which I do really feel.

I end this letter by quoting Tagore--"Shesh nahi je, sesh kotha ke bolbe?"-----(KIRAN KARAR)

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Thank you for the heartwarming message, Kiran. Good to hear that you liked my classes; what more can a teacher want?

You are right: 'shesh nai je...' I hope we shall continue to keep in touch, as these dadas have done, and that the relationship may become warmer and deeper as the years roll by.

Your kind of comment is also the reason why some people burn up with jealousy whenever they think or talk about me: they know that no matter what they claim to be, they will never get a minute fraction of this kind of respect and admiration from anyone, ever, in their entire lives!

Shilpi said...

This was a very good and quiet post to read, Suvro da. I'm glad that more than a few of your students are sensible as human beings and also intelligent enough to admire and respect you and remember you.

I've been having the growing suspicion that to love, like and/or admire you one has to have a certain proportion of one's working brain intact and also have a certain degree of self-respect.

As for the nincompoops who scream and seek to malign you - they could spend their time instead to see that they are jealous and feel so bitter about what you say and who you are because they lead such empty and shallow lives. Of course they are probably too feeble minded to figure that out, and so can merely yap away like little whining imbeciles. I'm guessing too that your writing makes them feel uncomfortable, and they'd much rather live like pea-brained idiots. But I'm also sure that they so badly want you to notice them for something/anything that they can't help yelping like monkeys with their 'comments' hoping to get your attention somehow so that they can tell themselves, "Suvro Sir has at last said something about me".

I am still sure that if you could get to teach the kids early enough - more of them would be of the sort that could make the world a little less of a mind numbing place.

I'm glad that there are some old and new students who cheer you up some given the way the world is..., and can also drop in for a right royal adda with you. I'll wait for that.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Oh, don't bother to waste your time thinking about those nincompoops as you call them, Shilpi. It's actually a very small number: the same two or three uncouth and stupid people writing the same kind of mindless invective from behind all sorts of pseudonyms. As long as the parents keep making a beeline to my house year after year by the hundreds, and so many ex-students keep so warmly in touch, even taking the trouble to look me up in person whenever they are in town, and as long as I have my family and books and movies and an appreciative audience to write for and my savings steadily growing from year to year and my health intact, who cares about riff-raff like that? Let yapping dogs bark...

Subhanjan said...

Dear Sir,

During my days of post-graduation in management studies, the term 'standardisation' used to frequently come up in classes. The first time I came across that term, I had asked my professor what exactly does the word 'standard' mean. Lots of issues came up in relation to this term; issues like six sigma production, inventory control, lean production systems, so on and so forth. But in that class, perhaps, I was the only one for whom 'standard' had a far deeper meaning than these managerial issues that are given so much importance. And I owe that realisation totally to those countless hours that you had devoted to teach me good things. I honestly believe that if there were many more true teachers like you in educational institutions, we would have had a better work culture in organisations today.

I would also like to talk about one more priceless thing that I had learnt from you. When my students or colleagues talk a lot about usefulness of social media or android applications, I say them, "All those are fine developments and can be used productively. But what is the exact use that everyone is making of these? One of my favourite teachers used to remind me of what Socrates said: We have wonderful things to communicate with, but nothing to communicate."

I have learnt a lot from you Sir. I just wish I am able to implement even 1% of it in the years to come.

Thank You Sir. You were one of those for whom respect came out very naturally from my heart on Bijoya Doshomi.

Sayantika Kundu said...

Dear Sir,

You have served as an inspiration to many and people who genuinely love and respect you can never talk anything bad about you, for sure.
And, for those who do so (simply because most other people do), I would just like to remind them that- (as Mark Twain says,)'Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect'.

With regard,

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Well, thanks, Sayantika, if only because you are a rare female who writes back in this vein. I myself have no comforting illusions about what I do, though. Most people forget immediately; a few remember, then guiltily give up trying to follow my ideals because they have found it's too hard, and a few decide that bad-mouthing me would be the best revenge for ever having tried to awaken their minds and consciences when all they were aiming for was a job and a brain-dead life. I really don't care: one who is driven by really strong and lasting convictions does what he feels himself compelled to do, regardless of how the world responds.

Nishant said...

Dear Sir,

This post reminded me of when I visited you almost a year ago. It seems like just a few days have gone by though (time really flies!).

I think I visited you more than once and on each instance I sat for a few hours discussing about my life and plans, your perspectives on politics, travelling, food, people (both of us had met) and many other things. Each time you received a phone call or a visit from someone (student or ex-student) nearby, you asked them very politely to excuse you since an older dada was visiting you after a long time. I have to admit, I felt honoured and happy inwardly, to receive such treatment.

I think a lot of your ex-students get caught up in their lives and jobs and other things. Or maybe they never gave too much thought to a lot of things you taught in class, the stories you read, the discussions we had and so there wasn't too much of an impression made on their minds. Then there are those who seem to take the 'trouble' of going through your blog just so they can vilify you. Too bad for them. Those who keep in touch with you through email and visit you whenever they can get to sit and chat with you about everything under the sun and I am glad I belong to this small group.

Among many other things, thank you for the books and movies you lent me, for reading 'Hiroshima' to us in class, for teaching us The Merchant of Venice (and lending me the tape by BBC of the play) and for making history so interesting.