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Thursday, November 27, 2014

No more skunks, please!

It’s been four years since I wrote something expressly by way of bidding farewell to my outgoing batches (Bye bye time again). If you look it up, you will find a link to an even older post in the same vein (To those about to become ex-students), which I think you should read first, if you intend to read at all. This year there were some boys (and a very tiny handful of girls) who have been reading this blog in a sustained way for quite some time, so maybe they – and a few much older old boys – might not be entirely uninterested if I added something to these last two posts.

Some of the boys hung back for quite some time after the rest of the horde had left. One of them, imagining he was revealing a great secret, whispered into my ear, ‘Do you know, Sir, many of these people who were eagerly clicking photographs of you speak ill of you in the coarsest way behind your back?’ I disappointed him, I think, with a smile: ‘Of course I do, and how does their very existence matter after they have paid their fees in full? It’s a democratic country, after all, and the essence of democracy is that the worst of absurdity and filth passing under the name of opinions must be tolerated and ignored, isn’t it?’

Some of those boys, as always, had tears in their eyes. And it was they whom I hurt most, quite deliberately, by shooing them off, saying after 33 years and 5,000-plus students, I must be excused for not being affected by their ephemeral sentimentality. Most of them would forget me completely within a couple of years; some would remember, and wish in a vague, lazy sort of way that they could get back in touch again but never muster the courage or energy to do so; only a very tiny number would surprise me pleasantly by staying closely and warmly in touch for years and decades together. Tanmoy and Rajdeep and Nishant and Aakash and Subhadip and Harman would know what I am talking about. And all those who would forget and drop out of my life for good, may they know that they are certainly not the ones whom I would despise and condemn: they are just no better and no worse than the commonest human beings. If God has made them that way, the fault is God’s, not theirs. And besides, I have always had a certain grudging respect for people who stand permanently by their opinions even if they are silly or uncouth: those who have disliked me from the start and expressed their feelings without inhibition in their own circles are at least integral personalities…Jayastu Senapati was certainly not the worst human being in his batch. There was a skunk compared to whom he was a saint, only it took me a decade to find out!

All my contempt and disgust is reserved for those skunks.  In earlier posts I have adequately hinted at what sort of people I call skunks. This is my plea to every single pupil in my outgoing batch: don’t get close to me and then reveal yourself to be a skunk. The stench is truly unbearable, and I have had more than enough of it to suffice for a lifetime, thank you very much. A skunk cannot help being a skunk: so let it be, just so long as s/he doesn’t come too close to me.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


An idiot who pretended to have read To My Daughter once asked ‘Why isn’t there a chapter on love?’ But the whole book is about love! I do now realize that my interlocutor was simply not sufficiently endowed to figure that out. Be that as it may, I have been asked for too long by too many people to write down my ideas of love. So here’s a (most certainly incomplete -)  attempt.

It might be a good thing to start off by listing what love is not. It is not the kind of loyalty that stems from mere biological connection and/or financial dependence: no son or daughter is competent to declare that s/he loves their parents before turning forty, and before the parents are retired and infirm (and even there should be a caveat: they might honestly think they love their parents, but all they are actually doing is executing socially-expected filial duty, with an eye on the inheritance). Yes, go ahead, call me a cynic. I like to think I am a man of the world, who stopped being dewy-eyed when he was fifteen.

It is not mere carnal desire – as with teenagers in hot pants – though I laugh in the face of any man or woman who thinks everybody can be ‘just friends’, and good, true friends at that. That’s one average sized sentence, but I have found hardly ten people in all my life who understand it, and agree on the basis of understanding. Something to do with deficient or unbalanced hormones, and a sadly common condition, I incline to think.

It is not trying to possess another person, and yet if both parties make ‘freedom’ their fundamental priority, let them spare me the lie that they also love. No more pathetic rubbish has ever been spoken. They may sleep together and make babies and have joint bank accounts and accompany each other to parties or malls, work as colleagues and even depend on each other in emergencies, but they have never cared to know what love is. And indeed, hundreds of millions manage to get through life without knowing, or feeling the need to know.

It is not preventing children from ever growing up in the name of caring for them, it is not imposing one’s dreams on them. By that token, very few parents, at least in this country, have ever loved.

It is not pretending that I am a better person than I can be in the hope that the other person will be duped, and give me the attention and affection and care that I crave, for a while at least: then I’ll simply move on in search of fresh prey.

So what is love, then?

Well, to mention just a few essential things, love is first and foremost something that just does not obey the dictates of convention: one does not fall in love only after checking that daddy and mummy approve, and that one’s love belongs to the right age-, income-, caste-, religious-, community- or national bracket, or the right ‘crowd’. That sort of thing is simply too pat and too easy not to arouse the strongest suspicion. I know of far too many who will sagely agree, yet never dream of rocking the boat in their own lives. They always find their ‘loves’ from among the ‘right’ groups by nothing but sheer happy coincidence!

Next, love is a question of being happy doing things for the loved one, even if it ‘inconveniences’ one, even rather badly sometimes.

Love is sharing. And I don’t mean silly things like towels and toothbrushes and email passwords.

Love is belonging. If one loves someone truly, one does not hanker for hordes of ‘friends’, nor for going out all the time.

Love is admiring each other for a lot of things. It may be for something as humble as how well she can cook or console people in distress, as much as for how learned or clever or influential s/he is. And the fastest, least painful way of falling out of love is acknowledging to oneself, after trying very hard to find out, that there is simply nothing to admire about him or her.

Love is being a comfort, and doing all one can not to be a tormentor instead.

Love is wanting to improve oneself in the other’s eyes, and trying to improve the other at the same time. Opinions vary very greatly on this, but I know exactly where I stand, and that I am right, whether the ‘other’ is my daughter or my pupil or my wife. As Shakespeare writes, when Brutus says ‘I do not like your faults’, and Cassius retorts that ‘A friendly eye could never see such faults’, Brutus tells him of a crucial difference, ‘A flatterer’s would not, though they appear as huge as high Olympus’. I shall always be a teacher, and proud to be. That has lost me a lot of friends, and I shall probably die sad and lonely, but I shall be remembered with respect,  gratitude and perchance even longing by a great many long after I am gone, and that is all I care for. For I have loved.

There are other things. Lots. But I don’t like repeating myself, and there’s To My Daughter waiting to be read. Only, I hope you read it better than the idiot I mentioned at the start. I tried to teach so many of you to read, and it hurts to see that you couldn’t learn…