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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

As the days pass

I have been lately engaged in preparing examination notes for my daughter, and it has led me to read up and reflect upon a lot of modern poetry, including some I encountered for the first time. So I have written on Heaney’s Punishment, and Lawrence’s Snake, Musée and Unknown Citizen and Shield of Achilles by Auden, and Church going by Larkin. It has been good exercise for the brain cells, and besides, it amused me to think that though I have stopped teaching plus-two level students, the plus-two curriculum hasn’t let go of me. Someday others will come running to get their hands on these notes… I know for a fact how many have found them useful even in college.

It’s been fifteen months that I have been living by myself now – for most of the time, that is – my wife and daughter being in Kolkata. Learning anew to live the bachelor life at this age (and that too, devoid of the kind of ‘compensations’ that a metro city could provide) has been hard, but I think I am getting into my stride now. It’s not fun, and it’s risky, but then things could be a lot worse, like having to live cheek by jowl with impossible relatives who make you feel murderous… and I’d much rather live alone than have to consort with ‘friends’ who care only about what they can get out of me. It’s been my great misfortune that I have known far too many of that kind. 2013 was a particularly bad year – or an intense learning experience if you want – and I’d much rather stay unsocial for the rest of my life than bear with ‘friends’. I have been missing my grandfather, and Sudhirda, and I miss my daughter all the time, and it has occurred to me that I have met very few other people in my life, despite an enormous number of acquaintances, who have given me reason to miss them.

Which brings me to the issue of charity. I have written about it at least twice before in years past (see this and this). My own life is replete with ironies, one of them being that I have fended for myself since an unusually early age, and I have never begged anyone for charity yet, at least of the monetary kind, and at the same time I have been sought out for help nearly all my life, until this very morning. I cannot tell you how many and how very different people turn up at my door with what an incredible variety of sob stories, assured that they will not go away empty handed. I know I am different, because I have checked: they never go to anybody else at least on my own street! I sometimes get exasperated, and yell at them, but I have to work very hard to persuade any one of them that I don’t want him or her to come begging at my door any more. It doesn’t even make me feel good any longer – I’ve been giving for far too long, and know that there will hardly ever be any reciprocation, even by way of a word of gratitude, so heaven knows why I keep doing it. Some are born suckers, is my best guess. Or maybe somewhere deep down I do believe in compensation in the hereafter. But another kind of charity I have needed, and occasionally even asked for – the kind of charity that involves giving someone part of one’s time and attention and empathy – and this I have learnt: whatever the reason may be, I am not the sort who can get that kind of charity from anybody. People only come to take; they either can’t or don’t want to give any. I have sometimes thought that it is the curse of being strong: people give only to those whom they find to be weak.

So it must be my daughter alone, I think. The kind of person she has grown up into, she actually does love me with the kind of love I have always wanted; and she should be enough. I have already seen more charity in her, at least for me, than I have seen in anybody else now living. In another ten years or so, I might even be asking her for money (it feels odd even as I write this: I have been giving money to people for thirty-odd years now; how will it feel to take money for a change?!).  But this much I have decided: I am never going to ask anyone else again. Someone told me some time ago ‘I am not Pupu’. That will stay with me forever. And at my situation in life, I am not seriously interested in anyone who is less than Pupu in his or her attitude towards me…


Subhanjan Sengupta said...

It is my misfortune that I read this post of yours so late. And I am ashamed to say that I could not find time to read such an important post, which only proves how inefficient I am even in the ordinary jobs that I do. There are so many things that you want to tell us through this post, that it makes me feel as if I should leave everything here and go back to my near and dear ones back at home; to those, like you, who matter to me. But I have to pay for my mistakes in the past. I can't just leave.
I seriously ponder why there is not a single comment to this post. It's 16th today. I wish to see some responses. I must admit that as far as this post is concerned, I am not able to express myself. You spoke of a great lot of things related to life, love, existence, mortality and immortality.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Thank you for reading closely as you have, Subhanjan, and for commenting thoughtfully as well. It seems that right now you are one of the few who are doing that.

I have stopped fretting about that for quite some time now. I understand that, though my readers are many,

1) Many cannot make sense of what I write,
2) Many (as they have told me) are too afraid to write,
3)Many people cannot think of anything to say,
4) Of those who do, many cannot work up the energy and concentration needed,
5)A lot of things I write make a lot of people secretly confused and guilty, and unlike you, they don't want to come out in the open with it.

There are other reasons too. But no matter: one good comment from a mindful reader compensates for a great deal.

Best wishes.


DevDas said...

I have this song which speaks a lot about the emotions you have tried to express Suvro-da and many more between the line.....a strange melancholy is around the times and places when I am scribbling in your blog at mid-night!
I only say in lines with the singer....
"daya koro"...and that is all we mortals can say....

bhalo thakben

DevDas said...

Look here--we shall die! Bear this in mind always, and then the spirit within will wake up. Only then will meanness vanish from you, practicality in work will come, you will get new vigour in mind and body, and those who come in contact with you will also feel that they have really got something uplifting from you.

---- Vivekananda

I felt that these lines surmise all you have felt Suvro-da. Correct me if I am wrong. -- debasish.

Saikat Chakraborty said...

Dear Sir,

You have become like the ‘Sun’. Everyone expects you to start the day, give light and warmth to all and sundry; but very few stop to think how lonely the sun is, how tiring it must be to rise and shine every day. Seldom people ponder how gloomily the sun sets at dusk, all alone, because they know that at next daybreak, the sun will be there for them again with all its radiance. ‘The fault is not in our stars (or in the Sun for that matter), but in ourselves…’ that you do not get the sort of charity that you so rightly deserve.

In spite of all the bitterness, I know you will continue to do for others, ‘for the good of your own soul’ as you wrote in the post ‘People, people…’. However, I do wish that in the days to come, you have more of love and company and less of pain and loneliness.

With regards,

Subhasis said...

Dear Suvro Sir,
I stumbled across this blog post of yours completely by accident.
And I must say, another succinctly written and nicely edited post.
I do not know your daughter personally ,or ever had the chance to see the relationship function in real life.But, there seems to be a great deal of respect,affection and genuine empathy between the two of you.
However,you must have taught students in classes numbering well into the thousands( I dont even dare to dream how big of a number that would be,although that is a genuinely interesting statistical question).Some of these students must undoubtedly love you.But maybe they are limited in their way of showing affection ,or indeed not taken the time to know you fully to understand which way of showing affection suits you best.
And though they may indeed not love you as much as your daughter(I am bordering on calling it an unfair competition),maybe they do care in some small ways.
This alone is better than most of us can hope for.
On the issue of charity,most people do not have a bone of charity in them,so it is unwise to expect differently.However, that probably does not mean that they would harm,given the opportunity.
Maybe that is generally how the universe functions.
One must give,without even any hope of receiving.
That must be true charity.
Seen in this context, no mortal being can be charitable......So that is another question for another day.