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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Almost there...

I just found this article in The Guardian. It’s about how people feel these days when they turn fifty. Since I am one of those myself, I was interested.

There are a lot of things said there that fit me completely, so read the article, it will save me much repetition. I am ‘creaking’ much less than most people do, though. I could have creaked much less too if God had allowed me to live a more vigorous lifestyle, but I count my blessings, and try not to crib. However, I don’t like people who joke about getting old, for a number of reasons: firstly, it’s not a crime; secondly, though I have been referring to myself as ‘the old man’ in my classes for a decade now, fifty is not that old, when there are so many busy people around in their late seventies and even eighties; thirdly, one grows old only because one has lived long and worked hard and done a lot of things for a lot of people, which is something to be proud of, not ashamed about, especially if they have done good things for people outside the family; fourthly because even in this day and age one does usually acquire qualities of a non-trivial nature, such as poise, self-possession, clarity of thought and equanimity, which youth is not distinguished for; fifthly because, as I have said before, I was in a sense forever ‘old’, sixthly because only those who are mentally teenagers think they are going to stay that way forever, and therefore cannot feel any empathy. I wish them luck with the botox injections, anti-depressants, tummy tucks and late night orgies which are going to become increasingly indispensable as they try to cling on in vain to passing youth for a little longer. So many like that are already in their forties and fifties!

About this blog – which I have called an extension of my classroom – the pageviews figure bothers me. No non-celebrity in as ‘boring’ a profession as teaching gets that kind of score. And so I wonder: who are those who are listening to me, who have learnt things that matter from me, whose lives have become better in a lasting sense because of me? Too many people assure me I should count them in, but then all too soon they seem to forget, and revert to saying silly things, or contradicting themselves, or irritating me, or actually hurting me after promising not to, and I get back to wondering ‘Have I ever taught anybody anything at all, or has this whole life gone in vain? Has it just been a bit of money in the bank after all? Have I even been able to teach anybody how essential it is to give basic courtesy to people I claim to like and respect, not just expect it from them?

I have been going through parts of the incredible amount of correspondence I have had with an enormous number of people over the last decades. So many of them told me ‘You matter to me… I shall always want you to be around’, and talked so much with me so intensely for a time – which sometimes stretched for years – and then vanished completely from my life. Do people really have anything called memory? Do they ever listen to themselves? Do they ever feel bad about how they have treated someone who tried to care so much for them once upon a time? Do they have any idea of the weariness and futility that weighs me down after all these years? Is it really very difficult for those who say they love me to figure out why I feel this way

For newcomers as well as old timers, it might be well to look up the post titled 'What sort of person am I? ', the link to which is fixtured on the top of this blog. Nothing written therein has changed, nor do I have any intention of changing anything. Read especially carefully the very last paragraph. Maybe it will help some people to understand better why I am writing in this vein now. 

As Shilpi was telling me, this year almost all my blogposts have been connected by a common thread. It’s called pain. I wonder how many others have noticed it, and to how many of them it mattered, as in making a mark on their minds. It has been a tumultuous year, a year of great changes, and now it is rapidly drawing to a close. Is there a little happiness in store for me somewhere? Do I dare hope?


Rashmi Datta said...

Dear Sir,

Indeed all your posts this year are connected by a common thread called pain. I have been reading your blogs for around four and a half years now and have sensed that pain through your writings. But in the last one year, I have come to know you more closely than I ever imagined and I am now able to understand your pain a little better.

In books and movies I have read and seen about teachers who have tried to make a difference, the story generally ends on a positive note. But I have been pondering about what you have done for all of us and how little we have been able to give you back, and wondering about how different reality is from imagination and fiction.

Then again Sir, you are different from other influential teachers in terms of the level and intensity of involvement you bring into your relationship with your loved ones including your favourite old boys and girls. How you just throw open the doors of your heart and home without a trace of mistrust or reservation. And indeed maybe it is that intensity which most people find difficult to handle.

I cannot even fathom how lonely and sad you feel Sir and what makes you go on...I can only fleetingly feel it sometimes in my heart at a very low intensity. I pray to God often now Sir, to give us all the strength required, so that we can share and feel your pain and loneliness.

As for me, I am pondering over what you told me: " Love is not for the weak, Rashmi. This much I can tell you". I have failed so many times before, fear clutches my heart again. But I will keep trying - to be strong, to be able to give rather than only expect, to be able to feel enduring sympathy and affection.

Love and prayers,

Anonymous said...

Sir, I think the people who are reading your blog from the places where you know no one who can possibly know about you might be your x-students who have failed to contact you after their term was over. It is not that all the x-students who were not in touch with you for years have forgotten you or your teachings. Most probably they were unable to be in touch with you for some other reasons. I dont think anyone will intentionally try to hurt you. The students who promised to stay in touch might have failed for some other reasons. So sir please try to reduce the 'pain' that you are in about which referred to in your blog post. We all love you sir.

ananya mukherjee said...

Dear Sir,
I too agree that this year almost all your posts are marked by a sense of pain, yearning, longing and entails the suffering of the soul.It is a pity that a person who is a teacher in the true sense of the term and has always worked for the betterment of his students and has fatherly concern for them should suffer like that.It was as if I could hear your voice while going through this post Sir.I consider myself very fortunate to have got you as my teacher because you made me aware of some very important aspects of life- I learnt to think, read various literary works, tried to develop some real interests in life,make fruitful utilization of time and also realized the importance of language which is the greatest artistic creation and vehicle of thought and the destruction of which can completely and unexpectedly upset individuals and disrupt civilization ...... the list can go on and on. I have also lately observed that you can very well fathom the pain, longing, loneliness,weaknesses, subtle complexities and the difficulties that surround human beings and try to help them which indeed imparts a meaning to your life Sir.And this is precisely the reason that I keep coming back to you Sir. I remember once while conversing with me you had said,"I can sense something stifling in your neck....something that you wanted to tell me for a long time. What is it? What is the matter?" Your words mean a lot to me Sir and now I know that you always help your students in their distress.However what amazes me most is the way you make each one of us feel special and wanted.
And yes, a seminar titled Tagore in Translation was held in our college yesterday and I found that you already taught us most of the things that were being discussed there.Thank you for everything Sir. You are an inspiration and a perennial shelter for us.We need you Sir. Please take care.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

I've 'been there' for so many people, Ananya. Who's there for me?


ananya mukherjee said...

Dear Sir,
This post provoked me to ask only one question to myself,"Have I really done anything significant for my Sir even though he has always been there for all of us without uttering a word of complaint?" All these days I have been thinking about your contribution in my life and this profound influence have also made many ask questions like "Does Suvro Sir really talk to you?Does he still help you all so much even after you have stopped going to his tuitions?.........and much more. Some imbeciles after going through your blogs have even gone to the extent of asking"Did you really meet him?" to which I have only angrily replied "Did you really meet him maane? He is my teacher!" Well, the thing is I have never bothered about these things much but today this post has really made me realize something very important.I will never be able to repay your debt Sir but I will certainly be grateful if only I can be of any use to you or can help you in some way or the other. We all love you Sir.