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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Missing you, my heart

I have recently got a taste of things to come, and frankly speaking, I don’t like it much.

There’s a difference between being alone and feeling lonely. Alone is being just by yourself; lonely is when you long for company and can’t get it. One often wants to be alone; indeed, there are times in everyone’s life when one yells at other people ‘Just leave me alone, will you?’ I have needed a lot of alone-ness in my life, always: when I am reading, writing, thinking, watching  movies; even, sometimes, when I only wanted to sleep. My family has always been good enough to me in that regard – they have respected and granted my need for private mental space. If anything, I have had too much of alone-ness, which means loneliness; not wanting to be alone but having no choice. One can be very lonely in  a crowd, mind you; indeed, one philosopher has aptly described the denizens of all modern metro cities as ‘the lonely crowd’…

Most people always need company; some prefer to have much more of solitude. I guess it makes me kind of weird that I have always had an  equally strong desire for both. So on the one hand I have long avoided socializing, and on the other, I love teaching primarily because it gives me the chance of getting warm and close with so many people, new people year after year, and forging ties with some that last a long time. In the process of reaching out I have tried to be as intense as genuine; certainly far more than any other teacher that I know. It has scared some, exasperated others, made some suspicious and wary, while others have laughed, or simply ignored me as a crank. No matter. While there have been nasty surprises and bitter experiences and heartbreaks galore, the rewards have been deep, many, and diverse (indeed, if I told all, most people of my age would think it’s a fairy tale!): I wouldn’t change it one jot. And I am still hungry for more.

The job of a news reporter on the beat is always irregular and hectic, without a time-bound routine, and requires running around to all sorts of places most of the time. I got a taste of it and gave it up early in my career: I decided I liked to spend much more of my time at home, and at my own will, than that kind of life permitted. I am glad I could make up my mind early. Those who have bad wives and in-laws at home are glad if they can stay away most of the time, but I know too many men who live far away from home simply for the sake of having to make a living, and hate it. I am gladder still that the next job, at which I spent fourteen years, was that of teaching at a school, and that too, barely ten minutes driving from home. It was hard work, teaching school in the daytime and giving tuition at home in the evenings every day, but it gave me a lot of time at home, that was the important thing. And once I got married, things became even nicer, so I wanted to be at home most of the time: in fact, soon after learning that my wife was in the family way I stopped going to other people’s houses to take classes, and that’s been 17 years now. Once my daughter was born, I was only too happy to devote most of my time to the hearth, and God knows how richly I have been compensated. What made my life very unusual was that when I gave up that last salaried job eleven years ago, my daughter was barely past five, and ever since then I have been a complete home-body. Which means that, given my intense instinctive desire for and efforts to make a joyous family life, my wife and daughter have seen and got more of me than most wives and daughters do. I have enjoyed every minute of it – eleven years have flashed by like a dream – and I trust and pray that they have, too.

There have been bad patches every now and then – which family doesn’t have some? – but there has also been fun galore, chatting, reading, discussing books, watching movies together, playing games, making things with our own hands, going travelling all over the country again and again, planning things to do, swimming, shopping (yes, shopping too!), dining out, handling trouble… we were so close-knit a unit that we didn’t really need anybody else to stay occupied and happy, not even relatives, in all these years. The best proof of which is that even my wife and daughter have needed to socialize far less than most people do. And in between there have been so many connections built up with old boys and girls, face to face and over the phone and via internet, that my life has always been full. Which is why it is nothing less than weird that I keep aching for company. Shakespeare said of one particular and very exceptional woman that ‘she makes hungry where most she satisfies’. I can say that about all humankind – and that, despite all the worthless and disgusting and disappointing people I have known.

There can be no more telling fact about how much of a home-body I have become than that in all these eleven years there has been one solitary occasion when I went somewhere out of town without wife and daughter. And this despite their urging me again and again to go visit people I love and care for who live far away – not just in this country but abroad if I so wish. I just never felt a strong urge to do that: nothing else stops me, really, I know. My door is always open to anybody who wants to see me, as thousands of people have found out, but I rarely visit anyone, nor go to clubs, parties and festivals, unless my wife and daughter drag me along, which rarely happens… and all this time, I have been content.

So what about the line I started with? Yes, I’m coming to that. My life is at a turning point once again, I think. And that is because my daughter is going away.

A few people already know; to a lot of people it is bound to come as a surprise. That is why I put that line in a paragraph of its own, and put such a long preamble before it.

She’s grown up now, of course, and it would have soon been time for the fledgling to leave the nest for good and make her own way through the world. I had been struggling to reconcile myself to the thought for quite some time: after all, intellectually speaking, I have only scorn and derision for parents who refuse to let their children grow up. I know just how grown up I was at 16! And besides, I live in an obscure one-horse town anyway: there have never been any prospects here, so all but the stupidest and laziest of my students leave, never to come back, because there is neither a chance of a good education here nor decent jobs. This is neither Delhi nor New York that I could have sensibly asked her to stay back all her life. Only, she’s decided to speed things up a bit. She’ll go to college in 2015, so I thought I still have some time, but now she’s planning to go off to Calcutta already, and that means, of course, that the missus is going to be there much of the time too, and it’s going to happen within a couple of weeks, and though this has been the talk for several months now, I find myself all unprepared. “I suppose in the end the whole of life becomes an act of letting go...” says the eponymous narrator in The Life of Pi played by Irrfan Khan, and I understand. Eventually, as I have observed in my Meditations, you have to let go of your own life itself. But training for it is hard, especially when you love: Vidyasagar makes the sage Kanva weep when his foster daughter Shakuntala is about to leave for her husband’s place, ‘bujhilaam sneho oti bishom bostu’ (love – in the sense of strong affectionate attachment – is an awful thing indeed). As I was telling someone I also love with all my heart, the French say to part is to die a little.

Oh, of course, Calcutta is just a few hours away, the two of them keep assuring me, and they’ll keep coming over, and then there’s always the phone and email and sms and video chat, and I have my work cut out every day of the week, so why should I be lonely? Does anybody understand why? And does anybody have words of consolation or advice for me, things not in the nature of useless platitudes? 


Rajdeep said...

It must be sad and difficult for you. As you said, you can stay in touch in several ways that was not possible a decade or so ago. Probably it is best to continue your old routine, including your long walks. Please take care.

Rajdeep said...

I know you will miss Boudi's cooking too.

Sudeep Datta said...

Dear Sir,
I know the first few days will be extremely difficult and hard to cope up with.I have experienced the very same and it took some time to get adjusted to the fact that you won't be seeing your own family on a normal basis.Nevertheless things will get pretty normal sooner than later and I am sure your daughter will enjoy her new life.
Yours faithfully,

Subhanjan Sengupta said...

The post was emotional for me. I am 29. But still, even at this age, I had called up my Dad & Mom previous week and said from the core of my heart (with unavoidable lacrimation) how much I miss them and my sister. May be I can understand a little bit of how you are feeling about your child going away to face a new life in a new place, leaving behind cherishable memories. Would like to share this quote: Certain is it that there is no kind of affection so purely angelic as of a father to a daughter. In love to our wives there is desire; to our sons, ambition; but to our daughters there is something which there are no words to express. (Joseph Addison)

Vaishnavi said...

Dear Sir,

I went to bed hugging my brother's photograph every night for a year after he first left home. Pupu, being your kid, it must be much more difficult for you. I have always liked to modify that famous line of Shakespeare's Sir to say that "Journeys end when loved ones meet". God understands these things I Suppose Sir, for the meeting part is wonderful, always :-) My very best to Pupu :-) :-)

Vaishnavi :-)

ananya mukherjee said...

Dear Sir,
"Pupu are Pupur maa amake chhere chole jebe bolche"you have been saying this if my memory serves me right, since May 2012 and it never fails to amaze me that the year zipped by so fast!I still miss your classes on Sir.To be very honest the first two Sundays after 25th November(our last class)were very lonely but then things began to improve and now even going to your house to meet you sometimes seems so very special!Similarly your meeting with Pupu and kakimoni will be more special now that they have decided to go to Kolkata and you will cherish with much more longing and happiness the days you spent together.Moreover very soon I too shall be leaving the haven of my parents'home and you can very well understand that my father's plight is no better than yours.
Well, I have found a pragmatic solution to your problem(please don't laugh):
Go to Kolkata every Saturday and return on Monday because Kolkata is only a few hours from Durgapur(in fact now I find myself telling this to my father almost everyday!).In this way it will also be easier for some of your old boys to meet you.
I really liked Subhanjan da's comment and I feel relieved that I will never become a father.HA HA HA! Take care Sir.

Saikat Chakraborty said...

Dear Sir,

To tell the truth, the full implications of this post haven’t really sunk in. May be in the future when I will be a father myself and face similar situations, I can truly empathize with your feelings. As of now, I am can’t say for sure that anything I write will not be in the nature of useless platitudes. Will it be of any use to say that ‘Sir, please read some more books and write more and keep yourself busy.’ when you are already a voracious reader and write profusely? I can only pray to God to lessen your pains and hope that these times too shall pass and you will adjust yourself soon to this new life.

With regards,

Dipanwita Shome said...

I stayed alone for six years in Delhi. They were the most overwhelming years of my life. I am extremely hearth-bound. I missed home and all those who make it home every minute. In fact not just the people, I missed the things that make it my home too. You are sensitive enough to know what exactly I mean by the word ‘missed’. I yearned for these every moment. I used to call home an impossible number of times. Every laugh that I laughed in those six years was wrenched out of an aching heart. I don’t care if this sounds melodramatic, because this is my truth.

Sir, I have still not outlived those six years and I never will. There is an idiom in Bangla which describes how the memory of those six years burn in my heart: like the fire in the heart of Raavan’s mother. It is almost as if a part of you dies and then resurrects itself to burn within you at all times. Sir, I know how acutely sensitive you are. Consequently, I can tell you that this fire will burn all your life: even after Pupu leaves Kolkata after her plus two, and Boudi comes back to Durgapur. It will keep burning.

It will keep burning within the man who has the sensitivity to enjoy and feel HAPPY about the matters of the hearth, the man who is happy with a life that has not needed much socialising, the man who has enjoyed each day of his long marriage, who has rejoiced in the independence of his wife and his daughter, an independence that may have, at times, excluded him momentarily in the first place from these very lives. Sir, it is that self-same sensitivity that burns like a maddening fire within you that has also enabled you to feel life and its joys so keenly. I sometimes don’t know whether to thank God for this sensitivity that he has given me or to cry for the pain it affords me. But, then even the fire within me laughs out loud, and with it, I do too. You must do so too, Sir.

sayantika said...

Dear Sir,
My parents have often narrated how bad they had felt when they left me at the hostel in Delhi three years ago and boarded the Rajdhani back to Durgapur. My father says that although the pain of parting hurts, someday I am going to be all alone and the sooner I am ready for that day, the better. This post of yours reminds me of those six years I had been away from home. I felt terribly homesick all these years, especially when I was alone. Besides, since I had been to Kolkata only twice before joining college, the roads and routes confused me to no end and I was always afraid that I would lose my way. Baba had given me both a pocket map and a large one and still I lost my way many times only to find it back by asking people around. It made me more confident of myself and now, I do not have any fear of losing my way at all at any place. Sometimes, I felt my father worried too much because whenever he called, he asked me where I was and when I would reach my place of stay. But when I see my cousin being forbidden to travelling to Kolkata and back home alone, I feel my parents had given me much more freedom. After reading her posts, I feel Pupu is much more sensible now than what I was when I joined college, and she is going to have a good time ahead. My best wishes to her.
But I had never imagined how my parents must have felt before reading your post. I guess my mother being more outgoing could spend time socialising, but my father must have felt very lonely. But Sir, I do not think going to Kolkata every weekend will be possible for you. For two years, I have come home every Sunday only to leave on Monday morning and it is quite tiring. I guess you will have to look forward to Pupu's holidays and vacations. But it isn't going to be the same, because there is always a deadline. I am too inexperienced to advise you. But it isn't that Pupu is snapping all ties, in fact, she will be all the more eager to share everything with you and you too would be happy to see her having a good time. I used to talk for about an hour with my father on phone telling him everything that happened in college, every class and tutorial, every lunch that I ate with friends and he used to tell me to disconnect the call because the phone was heated up!
Thanks and with regards,

Suvro Chatterjee said...

While I am surprised that so few people have written in (I did think a lot more people cared), I am most grateful to those who tried to write words of comfort. In the process, they reminisced about their own experiences, which I deeply relish.

Ananya, as Sayantika has pointed out, and you ought to have known, I have seven-day weeks, so going over every now and then to Cal won't be a practical thing, right? And what about people whom you miss night and day, even an hour after you have last seen them or talked to them? Thank you for acknowledging that there is something rare and special about the love of a father or father-figure, and about the pain it involves. We hear far too much about mothers...

One observation: no one except he who chooses to live with the thought of dying very close always can really appreciate the fragility and brevity and evanescence of life, so no one like that can truly love, for s/he is always deluding the self with the thought that 'there's all the time in the world.' One of the commonest things that people feel when a loved one passes away is 'I wish I had talked more with him'...

and another: a lot of people have been teaching me in their own way that I should try harder to live my own life for my own pleasures, because all those I love will grow up, go far away, and get busy living their own lives, with little time to spare for me even if they would like to. Now it all depends on how good a learner I am!

Tanmoy said...

Dear Suvroda

I was away and back only today, hence the late response. My sincere apologies.

I can probably understand the way you are feeling. I left Durgapur after my ICSE and since then have never lived with my parents for more than probably 6 months at once. I struggled through my phase of being on my own till the time I got married. The variety of places where I lived, the junk that I ate and certain things I ended up doing during that time does not make me remember every moment with fondness. At some point, I also thought that I had gone far away from my parents and could not connect to them any longer. However, now when I look back I can see lot of positives coming out from that long phase of my life. Most importantly I learnt to take tough decisions on my own during that phase.

Only the other day after 21 years, my father told me that he felt really sad leaving me behind even though he supported my decision to move out. Baba felt really sad and may be because he was so supportive (and realistic) he could not express his sadness then.

Suvroda, again I understand how you must be feeling. I am sure Pupu and Boudi will feel the same. I am pleased that these days we have Skype etc, which were not available earlier. I have no suggestion to offer how you can feel a bit better as nothing can replace Pupu's or Boudi's company.

Having said all the above, I am sure you will find out new hobbies to keep you occupied which will at least provide you with more stories to tell them when you talk to them.

I wish all of you well and take care.


Unknown said...

Dear Suvro da,

There are times when one feels invincible, ready to take on the world and change it for better or worse. And then in one fell swoop, all that seemed assured, all that was always there, all those goodbyes we had saved for later sneak up on us--making us feel all too human again.

Standing at crossroads not too dissimilar to yours, I recognize a fellow traveller.

With warm regards,


Abhishek Anand said...

Dear Sir,

Anyone who has read point 12 of your post 'What sort of person I am?' will now very well that this is tough for you. After all, someone who has been so close to your heart is going to Kolkata.

I would like to echo Mr. Saikat's opinion that you can be asked little to keep reading when you already do that. I too can only pray and wish you all the best. I earnestly hope that you acquaint yourself to this change and find pleasure in the hours you spend talking to your daughter. Anyways, goodbye means 'have a good time until we meet again'.

With regards
Yours faithfully,
Abhishek Anand

Navin said...

Dear Sir,

This is one big moment of her life. Now the world will come to know of what a good job you have done with your child. Everytime, anyone meets her, they also are in a way enquiring about her parents and the sort of training she has had a child.

So I guess your influence does leave this small one horse town to a much wider canvas.

All the best to her for the most exciting times of her lives. May you live her life as well, through her:)



Debarshi_Saha said...

Respected Sir,

Warm regards. Right at the very outset, I wish to apologize for this inordinate delay on my part in writing a comment. This is a post that is marked by a father's pain, and I wished to entirely comprehend matters (to the best of my ability) before commencing to express my thoughts. Sir, you would indeed feel lonely because- Every time you now experience a flash of joy, you wouldn't find her near at hand to join your hearts together; every single meal which might contain one of her favourite dishes would make you think, "Oh! That's her favourite one.. I wonder what she's doing now, is she eating healthy? I can't partake of that dish- it seems, well, so selfish. Oh well, I'll try not to have that very one prepared again at meal-times." ; Every time you catch sight of a father and his daughter holding hands and walking down streets, you would find yourself thinking, "All these years I often could hold her hand in mine, twist her finger around mine and feel at peace, complete- I miss you so much indeed!". ; All those memories, Sir, would simultaneously act as agents of Happiness and pain. They would remind you of great moments (as they say, Dad-time!) with her, and also remind you of the moments you were now spending alone. Your mind might reason, " All birds must set off in flight, in search of one's destiny..", but your heart would cry, "Oh, why did you have to grow up? Why did you grow up so fast?". Finally, Sir, your pragmatism and poise would take control over the torrential emotions, but you would know that you couldn't risk letting down your guard. Sir, you might even catch yourself flipping furiously throughout the pages of your photo albums, and find joy in reliving all those moments. All those moments were snapshots of Time, and by freezing them on frames, all we sought was to dedicate them to Eternity. The spectre of loneliness might try to creep up upon you, Sir, in all those moments when you find yourself performing the actions alone, all those actions that had once been rituals of companionship, of 'Dad-time' bonding with your daughter. But, knowing you, I know you would defeat them with the power of your love- with the great heart with which you keep on loving Madam and Urbi every single moment.

Why would you, Sir, have to let Urbi proceed on her journey? I believe there's great truth in these lines from the movie Kung Fu Panda, (I modified them a very small bit!)

" Although the future is a little bit frightening, It's the book of her Life she's writing.

She's a diamond in the rough, a brilliant ball of clay; she shall be a work of Art, if she goes all the way...

The journey's a lonely one, so much more than we know; But, sometimes, she's got to go- and be her own hero! "

Sir, believe me when I say, your love shall always keep her safe, connected and with you- Though it might be the agent that causes pain, it would be for the sake of her future- and again, it would always keep you two together in all your moments when you would most crave company. It would send your word over the wind, and as I believe Debjaan puts it, those who love deeply and with a fire are never truly separate; divided though they may be by geographical divides, their hearts were one, and their love the bridge across forever. Sir, your Natalie (both in prose and as well as in reality) shall never be far from you- she would always be near whenever you think of her. I say this with a hoping heart, and hoping that in the very near future, you spend fabulous moments with your daughter, and Madam. I pray to God, Sir, that this happens- and you regain conviction, that even Love might involve a great deal of letting go- Life is a giver too, a giver of dreams beyond imagination.

With best wishes,

Nishant said...

Dear Sir,

Based on what I have read on the internet about personalities, you seem to be the typical introvert. "Good work, Sherlock", you'd say. "Anyone who knows me even a little probably already knows that". But it is interesting when one sees in real life what one reads in books. In a way I am glad that you are one (assuming indeed that you are one) because that makes it possible for you to have deep ties with some people. And you rarely ever waste words. That's a comfort in present times when everything is awesome and cool and epic.

About the second part, the only thing I have to say is that, like others have mentioned, Calcutta isn't too far away. So you can make a trip whenever the longing becomes too intense. I wasn't aware though that aunty would live in Calcutta as well. I also hope, that you will get used to being away from Pupu for extended periods of time.


ananya mukherjee said...

Dear Sir,
Sir you have mentioned about Kanva's foster daughter and it being obvious that Pupu isn't your adopted child, does this refer to your beloved sister whom you have brought up just like your own daughter?
Sir I know most of your female ex students have never bothered to know you and some have even simply reviled you for no valid reason.And worse still some have fallen out of your life suddenly after taking offence at mild criticisms. Well, at the same time it is also true that there are many who really care for you and you miss those special ones because they are far away. Does this post also refer to them?

Sir I don't really know what one should do when one misses some people even an hour after one has last seen them or talked to them. Sir I went to meet you this Sunday but I don't know why I sometimes feel like talking to you everyday.I think this aching is the realization of love and Dipannita di has described it very nicely.

ananya mukherjee said...

Sir I think there is something enigmatic about your post because I cannot really comprehend regarding whom this post has been written and this achievement is somewhat similar to the great poet Rabindranath Tagore. This may sound a bit exaggerated but this is what I feel. Sir sometimes I feel all your posts are intermingled with each other.You have told that ultimately the whole of life becomes an act of letting go and I find this to be one of the varied dimensions of wisdom.It appears as if you are trying to make us aware of something but I am unable to comprehend that mystery-something that lies in some corner if my mind but tends to take the shape of an absolute and impenetrable silence. Sir my comment may sound absurd but I thought I should let you know what I feel.
with regards

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Dipanwita, Ananya reminded me of how remiss I have been not to have said a heartfelt 'thank you' immediately upon receiving your comment. Allow me to make amends, and saying I am blessed to know the likes of you.

Abhishek, Navin, Nishant, Debarshi, many thanks indeed for the kind wishes. Just wish Pupu good luck, and I'll have all I want.

Ananya, now your suspicions are strongly aroused, are they? :) Well, I shouldn't be saying, should I? But it is indeed true that I am fortunate enough to have been able to love quite a few people who deserve to be loved, and be loved back them. One sense, I always say, that I consider myself a very rich man. Enough said. Your own thoughts will tell you more by and by. I hope that the connection will not be broken.

ananya mukherjee said...

Yes that's it! That's the gratitude Dipanwita di deserves Sir. And I too must confess humbly that whenever I visit your blog I get to learn something from her comments.

I didn't expect you would write something Sir. Well, I can perceive the pain when you say "I hope that the connection will not be broken".Your ungrateful female ex students don't sufficiently realize what they have missed Sir. I shall try to compensate for the pain you had to undergo.All I want to say is even if you abandon me Sir I can't afford to lose you.
And yes suspicions had to be aroused because the sentence "tui amar kachhe 30 te 3 pabi" worked it's magic.
Take care and good night.

Rashmi Datta said...

Dear Sir,

I think I can appreciate it even more now when you, at the age of 50, say that you do have a few people whom you can love and who love you back. Because, I have met too many sexagenarians saying dejectedly and unequivocally that they have got nothing from this world and that they have lived only to find that this world is completely bereft of genuine love and affection. But then again, they are ones who have always done the 'right things' at the 'right time' - listened to their elders, finished their degree, got a 'good government naukri', married, had kids, ensured that their kids get degrees of their own.... If we do not give our time, energy and effort to any relationship in the rush of simply making a living and competing with our neighbours, how can we expect to get back love and affection? When we frustratedly complain that we haven't got back enough, we forget that in most cases, we get back in proportion to what we give.

Sir, I for one understand how rare and wise a person you are when you say that you treasure love and human relationships much much more than flashy apartments and cars. You inspire me to learn that one should never mix up one's priorities. You are indeed a rich man, Sir but unlike wealthy people you don't have to fear thieves and burglars for no one can take away your riches from you.

Pupu and Boudi have all the good wishes of both Sayan and me, Sir.

With a lot of love,

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Thank you, Ananya and Rashmi. :)

Yes, as Meerabai sings in Payoji maine, 'kharacha na khutey, chor na lutey, din din baratey jawayo...'. I have only sadness and pity for the old man who has done all the 'right things' all his life, only to find now that life has shortchanged him. Even more so for the millions of young people blindly following in his footsteps towards the same despair and doom.

Pupu and Boudi have taken to the Great Big City like ducks to the water, as you will see, being close to them. It's Sir, all alone now, who could do with a little more of those good wishes!

Rashmi Datta said...

Of course you have our best wishes Sir and much love too...