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Friday, February 22, 2013

Look back, look around, connect

I wish to remind my readers that I keep writing on my blogs with the express hope of creating an ever-expanding worldwide network of like-minded people who want to share thoughts, ideas, experiences, realizations, fancies, joys and woes as they all soldier through life, and keenly feel the lack of good people to talk with around them. Remember the cartoon which shows a man’s funeral service being attended by two people though he had in excess of 1700 ‘friends’ on Facebook: that defines the world we live in much more truthfully than most of us like to admit even to ourselves.

Now – and this bears repetition – that does not mean just regularly visiting and reading my blogs, not even commenting often and thoughtfully on my posts. It does not even only mean writing your own blogs now and then. It also means (especially if your are a blogger yourself-) writing fairly regularly: at least once a month. And above all it means visiting the blogs of others like yourself, who too write sensible stuff on a lot of subjects, and who too could do with more visitors and more comments. That means you should often read up some of the blogs I have linked on my blog roll (even Arani’s and Shubho’s and Rajarshi’s and Saptarshi’s, though they write so rarely), and tell them, in a friendly and helpful way, that you have liked what you read. We hug our own loneliness too dearly, and blame the world for being cold and unconcerned, but we forget too often and too easily that we are not setting better examples: it is not guaranteed that you will make good friends if you take the trouble to reach out and shake hands, but it certainly increases the probability!

Also, those who have made initial forays into my blogs and liked what they have read, them I’d strongly urge to look up older posts (the labels along the right hand side bar would help greatly). Shilpi is one reader who has literally read and digested everything, but I know a few others have been making the effort lately, and they have told me they are glad that they decided to do so. This is something I’d exhort two particular categories to try: those who are right now  attending my classes (I consciously try to make these blogs extensions of both my classroom and  my personality), and those, who, looking back over the years, feel a new urge to find out more about this particular Sir. They will discover that they probably don’t know another contemporary man who has tried so hard and so long to know himself and help others know him for what he really is, warts and all – and contrary to what someone hurt me badly by telling me a while ago, there is probably no better way of getting to know me really well if they are interested than reading up (both) my blogs thoroughly. It is, I repeat, a matter of being interested – as a lot of people not wholly unemployed have assured me, it’s not a question of being busy at all. Someone who is interested will always find time. All I shall add is that you might grow more interested as you go along.

And finally for now, it fills me with a never-ending sad wonder to think of so many old boys and girls who once came so close and have now fallen completely out of my life, often with utter suddenness and without so much as a by your leave. They include a considerable number of people who were enthusiastic readers and comment writers on my blogs even a few years ago. Today itself a few very young girls were asking me why I have become increasingly cynical, and why I assume that they too would go the same way by and by. I could only smile wryly. I have been working since I was little older than they, and now I am approaching fifty, and I have a very long memory, and so I simply cannot help it. The question that is constantly uppermost in my mind these days is ‘Who will cry when you die?’ along with ‘How genuine will those tears be, how long will they last?’


Vaishnavi said...

Dear Sir,

Thanks for the nudge actually, I always mean to visit your blog roll more often than I really do. Now I shall make a point of it. I am getting into the habit of browsing through your blog whenever I find myself at leisure Sir and I am loving what I read! I hope I shall one day be a reader who has read everything as well!


madhuchhanda ray choudhury said...

Dear Mr. Chatterjee,
I am not your student. But I hope you won't mind my commenting on this post. It's true that 'facebook' and 'twitter' have added more 'virtual' friends rather than 'actual' ones to our lives. But it has also created different layers of friends.I, for one, have found quite a few like-minded people on facebook. Since they are scattered all over the world, I actually have to thank this social networking site for facilitating our communication. Also, you ended by wondering how many people would shed tears at your funeral. I wonder if it really matters, unless there is 'life after death'.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Dear Madhuchhanda,

Thanks for letting us know that you enjoy using Facebook. Tastes differ. Besides, it's a fad only about nine years old, and most Indians got in only since about 2008: we shall see how many are still there in, say, 2025.

The substance of this post was there in the second and third paragraphs: about that, you obviously had nothing to say.

As for your last line, I would have answered if it was a genuine question, but unless I am much mistaken, it was meant only for rhetorical effect, so I don't think a reply is called for. In any case, others might feel differently from you.

Debarshi_Saha said...

Respected Sir,

Warm regards.Sir,this blog is exactly what all thoughtful,sensitive and kind persons always wanted-the place where one could learn about many widespread issues of interest,connect with like-minded persons and enjoy sharing their thoughts.One could be one's real self in the virtual cyberspace-something which most users of Facebook never were(by the company's own admission);They had multiple accounts,multiple personalities and spent a whole lot of time 'farming' on Farmville!Well,this blog doesn't provide free sops for 'farming' and the like-for one who might wish to learn from Sir,feel one's troubles are not always unique and can be shared,and most importantly,feel joy in companionship and conversation-This blog is for them.Sir is a person one might definitely wish to be acquainted with-for once one knows him in all sincerity,he's a person who listens to what one might want to convey-and to inspire that person to try and overcome his/her personal demons.All great teachers have tried to do the same,and Sir does too each single day.His blog is one such fantastic effort.

Who cares?I care.So many of his students whose lives he has touched should care(some do indeed care,and how grandly!).His friends and acquaintances care,for they know him to be a person to be counted upon.His family cares-and by the term 'family',I mean both his personal and extended family circle.All the individuals,whom he has helped in countless little(and big) ways over the years care.That's a whole lot of people indeed!Why do they care?I provide the answer below.

“You're beautiful, but you're empty...One couldn't die for you. Of course, an ordinary passerby would think my rose looked just like you. But my rose, all on her own, is more important than all of you together, since she's the one I've watered. Since she's the one I put under glass, since she's the one I sheltered behind the screen. Since she's the one for whom I killed the caterpillars (except the two or three butterflies). Since she's the one I listened to when she complained, or when she boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing at all. Since she's my rose.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery(The Little Prince) said this about his rose,his most treasured possession.The prince cared,because he knew it was love that made the world go around.Likewise,individuals care for Sir.

“There is a primal reassurance in being touched, in knowing that someone else, someone close to you, wants to be touching you. There is a bone-deep security that goes with the brush of a human hand, a silent, reflex-level affirmation that someone is near, that someone cares.”

Jim Butcher(White Night) knew this to be true-Since Sir's touched so many lives in his uniquely charismatic way,his students care.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a
listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all
of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

Leo Buscaglia knew what he was talking about-for Sir's turned lives around,and all the individuals do care and will care.I trust that knowing this gives me peace.

As the greatest martial artist of all time,Bruce Lee noted:"“The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering.” Since Sir lives his life as a work of art,each day and every moment-the presence or absence of an 'afterlife' does not deter him.His life is his greatest lesson and I am thankful & grateful for it.

With best wishes,

Abhirup said...

To Madhuchhanda Ray Chowdhury:

Try and watch the film 'The Social Network', and pay particular attention to the last scene, whose focus is none other than Mark Zuckerberg himself. If that scene doesn't tell you how little friendships on Facebook matter, well, I guess you just love to live in denial, or have fallen spectacularly for Facebook's promotional machinery.

As for the last line of your comment, you probably don't even realize how insensitive and crassly materialistic it is, so, like Sir, I too shall spare myself the troubles of speaking to a wall.

With regards,
Abhirup Mascharak.

Tanmoy said...

Dear Suvroda

I have realised over time that these days’ people put little effort in keeping in touch and appreciate each others’ presence in their lives. I think Facebook gives a false sense that everyone is well-connected but in reality they are not. I live through this everyday so far away from the family. I never really had any big fights with the cousins I grew up with or with the friends I thought were close to me – but I hardly receive any email or calls from them. I try my best to reach out but they have become too busy to reply or enquire about us down under.

It is a terrible feeling I must say. Given that we are in distant land (and last one and half year have been quite challenging for us), I think we get affected by this quite a bit. It is sad to believe – that you would not receive an email asking you, how are you? What do I do, in response to such inaction from others? I call my uncles and aunts occasionally (who are more keen to keep in touch than their children) and speak to them. At least I find solace in their interest about us. However, occasionally I do feel very sad (and angry) that nobody cares how we are coping with our lives. I try and reason whether it is too much to expect from people!

In the past, I think people kept in touch with each other much more in comparison to what they do now. From facebook, I do gather there are lot more parties going on these days (people love to show-off that they are fond of alcohol), but even if we were in India I doubt whether I would have fitted in those.

As far as the blog - I have read most of your posts on this blog and have read your fellow bloggers and occasionally commented on their blogs.

As you are aware, not many people read my blog. Other than you, nobody comments. I tried reaching out by commenting on other blogs but did not succeed in inviting either readers or comments. Earlier I used to feel very sad about the lack of readers but these days I don’t. As soon as I post something I wait for your comment. I email my post to my wife, parents and an uncle and often we talk about it. Occasionally some of my posts have been read by other travel writers, author of a book I reviewed, an archaeologist once and a conservationist. This keeps me going and I keep on writing, hoping to write better. Someday, if I write well perhaps more people will read me too. However, as you had told me much earlier, the current lack of readers does not deter me to write more.

I really wish your students continue to keep in touch with you. We all are lucky to have a teacher like you and given that you still look after us, it is our turn to ensure your well-being too in whatever way we can.

Kind regards

Subhadip Dutta said...

It is sad to see that however big an effort Sir might make to keep things beautiful in this blog, there is always someone, whom neither Sir nor we have ever heard of , who suddenly appears out of the blue and plays the spoilsport. This post is not the first one where we have seen this kind of utter brainless people.

They somehow fail to realize that without knowing Sir properly, it is not possible to understand what exactly he wants to say. It is as if they love to play the spoilsport and disturb the whole mood and balanced and rational discussions that go on in this blog. And by the way, any Tom, Dick, and Harry is not welcome in this post unless their comments make some sense.

Please stay away Madhuchhanda's. You people are too much of an unnecessary bother!

Suvro Chatterjee said...

I may be wrong, but I think the latest comment writers have taken Ms. Ray Choudhury much more seriously than she herself intended to be! It was probably just the passing whim of an idle hour that prompted her to write a few lines, apropos of nothing in particular. She might choose to correct me, and declare that she was interested in a serious discussion, but I very much doubt it.

As for Facebook, the Dalai Lama has said the last word on the subject: 'We have wonderful things to communicate with, and nothing to communicate'. So let's not bring it up any more at all.

madhuchhanda ray choudhury said...

Dear Mr Chatterjee
Contrary to what you might feel, I did read your entire blogpost quite carefully. I fear that I might not have made the connection between my comment and the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs of your post, not quite explicit. To be explicit then . . . You had urged people not to "hug their loneliness" not too tightly and to reach out to others, via reading and commenting on other people's blogs. I was merely suggesting that facebook has offered me a platform for the kind of healthy discussion that you were hoping to facilitate via blogs. To make the connection more explicit - I got in touch with some people via facebook because we had a common topic. It started with 2/3 line messages and progressed to emails and then phone conversations, if and when possible. We have discussed and still discuss a wide range of topics from movies to books and literature. I am a blogger myself and my so-called "facebook" friends (I would prefer calling them just friends since facebook was just a medium of communication)have read and critiqued my blogposts - sometimes via the "comments' section and sometimes through private messages on facebook.
I realize that like a lot of other things in the digital world, facebook too can be a fad. But the friends I have made via this medium are not mere fads, at least, not for me. Opinions certainly differ and I just wanted to share mine with everyone else. Communication media do change and different people react differently to this change. So we will see what people gain out of this social networking site over the next 20/25 years.
Finally, my last comment about life after death was not a rhetorical question designed for effect. Once again, I think I suffered from being more implicit than explicit. To be specific then.. . I was wondering if counting the number of mourners really matters unless one is aiming for immortality. Besides, if there is no "life after death" then can we really know who mourned us and does it really matter?
I hope I have made my views clearer this time.
Sorry for taking up so much 'virtual' space.

madhuchhanda ray choudhury said...

Dear Abhirup
I did watch "Social Network". I found Mark Zuckerberg quite revolting as a character. But I think one must separate the character from what he created. Zuckerberg has created a social networking site and just like any other machinery (digital or otherwise), it can provide different services for different people. I have happened to make quite a few good friends via this social network. Those friends might drop away from my life at some point. But there have been other friends who have disappeared from my life too, without even an explanation about their disappearance. And those friends had not come into my life via 'facebook'. They came via educational institutions and face-to-face meetings. My point is that the medium of communication does not matter as much as the communicators themselves. And if we are lucky then we can find good, like-minded and long lasting friends in a lot of 'unconventional' places like facebook as well.

Abhirup said...

"I did watch "Social Network". I found Mark Zuckerberg quite revolting as a character."

If that's all you took away from the film, I am afraid you missed its point completely. The purpose of 'The Social Network' was not to hold up Mark Zuckerberg as some sort of new age Gabbar Singh (in fact, a lot of viewers, myself included, found him far from "revolting": the very beauty of the film lies in the fact that all the characters are drawn in intricate shades of grey rather than in black and white terms such as "revolting" and "angelic"). Rather, the film is a reflection on whether the mediums we use for communication and friendship actually serve any purpose. The last scene of the film--which I mentioned in my previous comment, and about which you had not a thing to say--shows Zuckerberg sending a friend request to an old friend, and refreshing the page every few seconds to check if she has accepted it. It's one of the most haunting depictions of loneliness seen in modern cinema: a man with 500 million "friends" on Facebook has none to share his thoughts and feelings with. And no, this fact cannot merely be explained away by your "Zuckerberg was a bastard" argument, because Zuckerberg is neither presented in an outright bad light, nor is this problem limited to him: lots of people who are honest have acknowledged that a lot of their Facebook "friends" do not ever communicate with them on a personal level, and that they even turn a deaf ear to any requests for help made via Facebook. If confronted later, these "friends" come up with excuses like "I never got your message" and "Sorry yaar, I was too busy the last few days to log into Facebook", when, in reality, they cling to the site like barnacles all day. So, let's please not make a big deal out of Facebook friendships. People there have 700, 800, 900, a thousand "friends". If that is not ridiculous, what is? You say you have made good friends on Facebook. Well, ask yourself how many of these friends you can envision being a part of your life a couple of decades hence, and how many of them shall step forward to help you if you are in some genuine trouble. I happen to have a few friends whom I can count on for anything, and no, I didn't meet them on Facebook. Nor have our relations been strengthened through 'poking' each other in Facebook, but rather through face-to-face meetings, conversations and suchlike. And THAT is how any relationship worth its name can be built. You obviously are too enamoured of your Facebook friendships to pay any close attention to what Sir or 'The Social Network' have said on the issue, so it's best, I think, that we drop the subject and re-visit it a few years hence, when, hopefully, you shall come to see Facebook as the fad it is (loads of people have already log into their accounts once in a while, and some I know have even quit. No wonder Facebook is desperately trying to update itself and make things easier and easier for the users of late. They can smell the people's waning interest more clearly than you can). Your claim that "the medium of communication does not matter as much as the communicators" is grossly simplistic. The two cannot be so surgically separated. A "communicator" whose primary means of communication is Facebook is a virtual communicator rather than a real one, and any relation he builds with another is mediated rather than direct, and hence, more tenuous than any relationship borne of actual contact. This is clear as the daylight to me, and so, I agree with Sir that the Dalai Lama's words are a perfect description of any social networking phenomenon, including Facebook.

Anyway, I won't discuss Facebook any more here, because that was NOT the topic of this blogpost, and Sir has already asked in his last comment to stop harping on it. So please, compose your next ode to it on Facebook itself.

With regards,
Abhirup Mascharak.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Well, I had hoped to lay the FB ghost to rest, but since it has been brought up once more, I shall urge my readers to read (if they haven't already-) two earlier posts of mine, 'orkut, anyone?' and 'It's Facebook now', and see whether they find themselves agreeing with what I have said. Remember, too, that MySpace and orkut and the like are already forgotten; and yes, as browsing the net on the subject will tell anybody who wants to know, the Facebook managers know how real the threat of going the same way is, so they are frantically trying to hold the users' interest a little longer. It won't work, as their IPO fiasco has already told the world (people with real money are unwilling to put it into FB's future) but let them have their fun for a few more years...

What I was trying to say in this post was that a) I find blogging a far more genuine, substantial, intimate and therefore satisfying form of communication than using so called social networking sites, and b)that I want my serious readers to comment more often on my blogs, write more on their own, and visit and comment more on other blogs on my blog roll. This argument is needlessly being pulled away in a direction that I most definitely did not want. So please desist, unless you have things to say pertaining directly to the message that I wanted to convey.

As for whether it 'matters' who and how many will bother when I die, I have started on a new series already, so do direct your comments there hereafter. Keeping in mind, of course, that if you don't know me at all and don't care to know, my passing will certainly not matter to you: I understand that much very well, thank you. Given what I have seen of mankind, for most people these days, even the death of parents, spouses and children doesn't 'matter' beyond the first few months, so my expectations are not very high anyway...

Suvro Chatterjee said...

This link just came in, and I should like to share it with all young net addicts:


also, they are setting up FB 'detoxification' clinics in the US now. That should say a lot of things to some people at least...

Shilpi said...

I won't write too much here - but now I finally know why all those young boys and girls of yours stopped writing on your community in 2008. You cleared out the dark cobwebs with what you mention about FB. The FB craze began in 2008...and now I'm sure that that's why all the young people stopped writing on your community. I feel strange pangs for that community - it was such nice fun.

The girl...she's a strange un - I don't mean this in an unkindly way. She makes me wonder (!) but I won't go into the many ways.

Thanks for the medal of honour. I can't really quite compare it to anything...I' glad you wrote your latest...while reading this one I was thinking of thoughts of dying and death and the "long trick", the time that remains in between and immortality. In fact they've been there since your essay on wisdom...those poem lines by Dylan Thomas however still ring from your post on Amitabh from the year before last.

More later...

ananya mukherjee said...

Dear Sir,
I may be wrong but I feel that this blog (as well as many other blogs of yours) shows that again and again you seem to be urging your readers to go through books mindfully and think for themselves so that they become thoughtful, sensitive and empathize with human beings and find a few like minded people with whom they can share their opinion.I believe that amidst the hustle and bustle of life, what one really suffers from is the paucity of a few good friends or a shoulder to cry on. Therefore in this sense I consider myself fortunate enough to be blessed with a teacher who truly cares and looks after his students. My Sir has made me realize the immense joy or pleasure that can be derived from just being there for each other and also that keeping oneself busy does not necessarily obstruct one from pursuing one's own interests. Sir has always lent a patient ear to all my problems, helped me in my distress, sometimes listened to me even when I have just irritably complained about the suffocating atmosphere of the college etc etc and at the same time has also scolded me severely to rectify my mistakes, but the thing is he has always been there for me.I simply cherish my teacher's presence in my life which has indeed provided me with many good memories that keep me going. Yes I do care for my old Sir and I intend to give him the first priority based on the conviction that nothing else can make me happier(obviously I do not spare a second thought to those who find this statement overtly sentimental or absurd). At least that will impart some meaning to my existence.I find your blogs the most congenial medium to know you as well as express my thoughts and I must say that the more I go through your older blogs the more I feel that I have read nothing and that there's a lot still left to read and comment upon.