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Thursday, January 10, 2013

People, people...

Since I am enlisted with the local Voluntary Blood Donors’ Association, people often call me up in medical emergencies. It so happened that a woman phoned me on Monday night (Jan. 7th), sobbing that her 84-year old father was struggling for his life in hospital, and needed blood urgently, and since his group matched mine, would I please come post haste? I drove over on Tuesday morning, only to find that this woman was someone who lived on my own street, and her daughter had attended my tuition nearly a decade ago. Blood donation over, she and her mother were all over me, of course, telling me what a good man I was and how grateful they were, and how keen a student the daughter used to be and how much she loved and admired me, blah blah blah… whereas the fact of the matter is, the girl could at best be called mediocre, she has never once met me or called me since the last day of class, and her mother and grandmother never so much as acknowledged me with a courteous nod on the street in all these years until Monday last, when they were in dire need of the sort of help that only a few softies like me are kind enough to fulfill in this great big town full of rich, educated, healthy people, all very proud of their ‘status’ deriving from fancy cars in the garage and sons/sons-in-law in Umrica, civilized qualities of character be damned.

And on Wednesday morning, while visiting somebody in his third floor flat (I was literally dragged in, and they were too nice and insistent to refuse without being rude), I met a man in the lift, both of whose daughters used to be pupils of mine in years gone by. Not only that, I have lost count of how many times they and their parents visited us out of class hours to tell me  about all kinds of woes, seek solutions to all kinds of problems, and generally weep over my shoulder. The man studiously looked away, not giving the slightest sign that he knew me from Adam.

Immediate need over, that’s the way most people behave with me, the same people who come in droves to admit their kids every year. I hope many of my readers can recognize themselves and their parents in these lines. I know their grouch is that I publicly refer to their type as chhotolok, riff-raff. Given a lifetime of such experience, can I really be censured for having developed a very jaundiced view of mankind? Tell me honestly, what would you have done  in my place? … and to those who might ask ‘Why do you do charity, then?’ my answer is quite clear: For the good of my own soul. As a rule, I couldn’t care less about the people whom I do good to. I do not hate mankind, but I most certainly despise a very large part of it.

P.S., Jan. 12: Swami Vivekananda would have been 150 today. Country-wide celebrations, of course. I choose to maintain a confused and rather shamed silence. All I can do.

9 comments:

Sayan Datta said...

Very poignant post Sir. People of this sort give themselves away all too easily, however clever they might think they are. It's so easy to see past their lies...I don't see how they don't see this! It is people of this sort who take pleasure, even pride in haggling with the shopkeeper or the rickshaw-puller so as to be able to save a rupee or two...I have such examples in my extended family itself. You know, one cousin of mine suffered from a life threatening disease about fifteen years ago and he had to be flown to Bombay one night for immediate treatment. During the course of the treatment the doctor advised a drug which was only available in America at that time, and one needed dollars to acquire it. So my cousin's father requested his brother for the money (with the promise to pay it back as soon as possible, of course), who (- the brother) was at that time posted in the US with a very high-salaried job. He curtly refused. The next we heard of him, he was holidaying in Disneyland with his kids. Even now he drives his kids all the way from Durgapur to Kolkata just for a meal at the most high-priced restaurant in town!

Sayan Datta said...

Oh, and one more thing, Sir. I was thinking about the odds of getting a call late at night about someone urgently requiring blood and that someone ending up to be the grandfather of someone you taught-not enormous I think, considering the number of years you have put into your work and the number of people you have taught over the span of three decades...pretty soon you will have taught at least one person from every household in Durgapur...that would be some achievement I daresay...

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Bad math, Sayan. I have yet taught only a few thousand, and there are several hundred thousand people living in this town. I am only a teacher, you see - not a cricketer or a fashion model. There is an enormous number of people in this town who haven't even heard of me. Whether that matters or not, of course, is another thing altogether...

ananya mukherjee said...

Dear Sir
I have always despised the term chhotolok because of the way it is used by the so called bhodrolok of our society.I have often seen people feeling nauseated or using the word chhotolok after seeing poor vagrants in the streets either scrounging for food or begging out of well off people without pondering over the fact that it is because of the social callousness that these vagrants are condemned to live in such miserable condition.I think this post clearly tells us what sort of people should be called chhotolok.Also to be noted that being selfish(such as doing acts of charity for the good of your own soul)can sometimes be of great help to the society.
sincerely
Ananya

Subhanjan Sengupta said...

Dear Sir,

I have heard the same kind of thing about almost all those professions which are directly related to welfare of the people. Many patients forget the doctor who had cured them, many students forget those teachers who gave so much time and valuable advise to them, many clients forget the advocates or lawyers who had helped them. I believe that most human beings, by nature, are self-centered and ungrateful. When I ponder on this issue, I am reminded of one of my favourite quotes: Those who mind, do not matter. Those who matter, do not mind.

Regards,
Subhanjan

Vaishnavi said...

Dear Sir,

I am sorry you had this experience. I can only hope that those of us who pain you this way realise the error of our ways.

Regards,
Vaishnavi

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Well, it is of course with a faint hope of that sort that I keep writing, Vaishnavi. But one thing I shall say: the old are too set in their ways. They won't change, they will simply die. All hope rests with the young, who still have time.

Percipient Shameek .... said...

Dear Sir ,

It is indeed sad that you had to experience this. And what you said in your last comment is again very true - 'the old ' would simply not change..

Regards ,
Shameek .

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Odd that those who find a lot of things to 'criticize' about my writing stay absolutely quiet when they read a post like this one!