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Tuesday, July 21, 2015


I wrote in the last post that I expect to meet unusual girls about once in a decade. If asked whether I have met any at all, I shall say ‘Of course! Why else do you think I keep an expectant corner in my heart for all my children?’

Ruby was my pupil twenty years ago. She belonged to the batch which was invited to my wedding. A quiet, humble girl with no affectations or pretensions to being ‘cool’ despite going to Carmel School, she said little in class. Her parents became somewhat more than nodding acquaintances too. She kept in touch, through college, and marriage, and the coming of her children, and her artistic ventures and teaching experiences; she has always kept in touch, while every other member of that large group has fallen off completely. She never went in for trendy clothes or mouthing abuse or gushing and tittering over boys or posting selfies on Facebook as most girls do. With me, there has never been any fuss, any nyakami, any over-the-top protestations of undying love and devotion and that kind of rot, only a phone call once every few months when I know she expects to talk to a very attentive Sir for half an hour, and a visit once in a year or two when she is in this part of the country (she’s lived in Mumbai for a long time now). She is a very ordinary person in some ways, yet she has won an extraordinary place in my heart for two virtues that I so rarely find – integrity and constancy. She has never had to change her mind about what she feels about me, and she has till the time of writing maintained without a break, in her calm, slow, self-possessed way, that she doesn’t want to break off the connection. To someone like me, who has seen so incredibly many of the other sort, she is a rare gem indeed.

Now her poor husband is seriously ill, and has recently undergone surgery. Ruby has had a very hard time tackling everything on her own, including her two very lively little boys. It goes without saying that she has my most earnest blessings and prayers, and I am sure she has earned a lot of sunshine in her life hereafter.

I hope the little girl who recently wrote a passionate essay about Sir will read this and understand – a bit – what I meant when I told her ‘Rewrite this essay when you are thirty, if you still remember Sir.’ I know she wrote that essay ‘from her heart’, as it is customarily said; my point is that right now she doesn’t even know her heart, and chances are she never will, at thirty or at sixty. I am in a position to know what that means. But if she does, and if she turns out to be another Ruby, I shall have reason to be grateful and content, in this world and the next.


Satyabrata Sinha said...

That's really awesome Sir.

Satyabrata Sinha(Ruby's brother)

Shilpi said...

Thank you for sharing this post with your readers, Suvro da. For one thing, I had forgotten that a girl like Ruby actually lives in the concrete world. For another thing, it somehow goes to prove that the rare girl – even if she may be ordinary in some ways – can be sure of her genuine feelings in that she does not want to break the connection with you or keep wavering or sending out mixed messages to you whether as a teenager or as an adult. Thirdly, I will say that given how you describe Ruby and the fact that Ruby has won an extraordinary place in your heart – she cannot be seen as ordinary by me. I remember her name among a list of names, from back in 2003, of old and young pupils who had won a place in your heart. I had made the gross error a couple of years ago in imagining that 'busy' girls who have some interest in lots of things, read books and so on could also be sure in how they feel about you and stay in close touch with you as you want them to, even if they stay far away or near. Sometimes I think that that is all you want from your children. As for the heart business – I’ve grown wary about general people ‘writing from the heart’ or talking about ‘heartfelt feelings’ in regard to you. I know you’ve said this and I’d never understood even a few years ago why people and girls especially would write things about you or to you and then waver and flicker or flee one fine day or keep sending mixed messages and through the years. This post of yours on Ruby also tells me that it’s not just ‘non-normal’ people (I mean that in the sense you used it once – as in ‘off-kilter’ or ‘slightly unhinged’) who are sure of keeping in touch with you – I was beginning to think that that is probably what makes for the difference. This post actually reads like a quiet and mellow tribute, Suvro da. With your blessings and prayers, I’m sure Ruby will do well in spite of the hardships.
Take care - Shilpi