There is a girl who used to be a pupil of mine more than a decade ago (I call them girls and boys, though technically all of them are grown men and women now, and some even like to affect that they are very worldly wise and growing old, but it is impossible for me to forget that when they first came to my classes in their mid-teens, very silly and very ignorant about the world, I had been a teacher for twenty odd years already…). She now lives far away: I haven’t seen her face to face for ages. I was always uncommonly fond of her – maybe I credited her with far more sensitivity and affectionateness than she would herself claim – and I have been in touch with her almost continuously since she left.
I have listened for years and years to her whimsical outbursts, tales of trouble and woe, complications in her love life, academic grouches, career-related uncertainties, family imbroglios, mundane problems with daily living… and I have tried all through to lend an attentive and sympathetic ear, and offer what little advice and help I could. Lots of girls will know what that means, even those with whom I have been corresponding for only two or three years, Rashmi and Vaishnavi and Dipanwita and Sayantika, to name just a few: I wouldn’t even bother to mention the hundreds of old boys who’d say an impassioned ‘Of course!’. Of late, I had been growing irritable and even querulous with her, because I had a feeling I was wasting my time on someone who simply did not want to listen to what I was saying, who was too different a person to vibe with me, who was getting me angry all too often with needlessly callous offhand remarks (lately her uniform excuse has been she can write only from the office, where she is constantly busy and harassed), and who yet kept knocking, if only via email and google chat, for reasons she wouldn’t even care to explain. Very recently I exploded when she wrote ‘I don’t really know you except through your blogs’.
What does it mean to know somebody? I am almost sure that she is not sophisticated enough to think of making innuendos with Biblical undertones. Then again, it is easy for someone to say ‘I don’t even know myself very well’, and for someone like me, married for seventeen years, to say ‘My wife doesn’t really know me’. These things are fine for occasional idle philosophical speculations, I suppose. But the world doesn’t – couldn’t – function from day to day on the basis of such woolliness, right? Surely, for the sake of all practical purposes any person with whom I have spent hundreds of hours talking/chatting, besides taking classes for two years (given the deeply involved way I teach), should be someone who knows enough about me to carry on dealing with me knowingly (and liking what she knows, if she bothers to keep in touch for years and years)? Besides – and this is directed at all those who claim to have been reading my blogs thoughtfully and consistently for years – is it possible for someone like that to claim ‘I don’t really know you’? Is it possible, on the other hand, that it was meant as a deliberate insult – whether the girl in question admits it even to herself or not? She insists that she can’t understand what I am saying, what has made me so angry. How many will concur with her?
Let me be totally fair to the girl. She has said sorry, almost towards the end of the last chat she wrote ‘… not sure how to take back words, but if I could I would’. Only thing why that cuts no ice with me any more is that she has said that kind of sorry a hundred times before, so it’s become kind of stale. Keeps reminding me of the fool of an employer who, when I exploded in anger, got scared and said ‘If you are so angry then I am sorry’! Only because I was angry and that frightened him, note, not at all because he had admitted to himself that he had done something wrong and was feeling ashamed about it.
So if I now decide, very regretfully (and that’s God’s truth), that I want to forget this girl, to shake her off, to write her out of my life because it’s become a thankless exercise to keep knowing her, how many will say that I am being impatient and intolerant and cruel, that I don’t understand girls and their very special problems and needs? Feel free to comment: no matter how unflattering, I promise to publish everything that comes in except for anonymous messages and pure abuse. If you do write sympathetically (towards me), no expletives please, no wanton female bashing. My overriding feelings are shock, disappointment and sorrow, not rancour. Many girls and women have been kind and good to me, even if they have eventually forgotten and dropped out of my life: I don’t want anybody to forget that, least of all myself.
And since I am waiting eagerly for comments on this one, no further blogposts till I feel that I have got enough. So those of you who are thinking of commenting, don’t hesitate but get going.