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Sunday, April 09, 2017

Going on fifty four

This year things have been a little weird at admission time – not that I wasn’t anticipating it. Last year there was a wild rush to enlist names, so much so that I had to close the book after just a month and a half and shoo people away for the rest of the year (can you imagine how tiresome that can be?). Now this year a great many of them did not turn up, apparently under the impression that since their wards’ names were on my list, they could come whenever they pleased, or not at all. The kids didn’t help by failing in droves in school! (the need for universal education is all very well, and we all know how many children are dying to get an education, but can you help but despair when you see kids failing in large numbers at the level of class seven, eight and nine? Given the fact, too, that the curriculum has been getting steadily lighter, exam papers becoming ever easier, and marking increasingly lenient over the last three decades. I mean, I have always thought, and Pupu is now old enough to concur, that it takes a genius…what numbers of geniuses we are producing every year, really. And what does it say about our schooling? Should teachers whose pupils fail in such large numbers keep their jobs?)

I, of course, need to make a living like most people, and know perfectly well that those who decide they don’t need my services after all don’t as a rule even do me the courtesy of letting me know that they don’t, so I cannot wait after the allotted days are past: I take in other candidates, whose parents are waiting impatiently for a chance. There have always been more than enough such to keep me in gravy all these years.

So anyway, my admissions are almost closed, and now the parents of those who omitted to come on the appointed days for one reason or another (I hear everything from someone’s father being suddenly hospitalized to some people going away on a vacation to simply ‘We forgot’) have started making appearances, and many of them are aghast to hear that they very nearly missed the bus (those who turn up a few weeks later still will actually have to go away disappointed). ‘But, but…’ they invariably stammer, ‘we enrolled their names so long ago!’ as if that excuses and explains everything, and puts me under an obligation to take their children in, no matter what. I laugh sometimes, sometimes turn them away as kindly as possible, sometimes I lose my temper (remember, I have been at it for 37 years now: I started when many of these parents were too young to be my pupils), but mostly I just grimace tiredly and look away. What would you have done in my place?

And the craze for prior enrollment seems to be growing by the year. This year the rush is even heavier than the last time. I am for a change warning the parents that the mere act of enrolment does not offer any kind of guarantee that their kids will be admitted unless they come on the appointed dates. Let us see whether that makes a difference for the better.

I shall have to go through this yearly ordeal six more times, at the very least. The only thought that sustains me is that much less is left to be done than I have done already – there have been crowds at my gate since 1992, and I have done this fifteen times since giving up my last job, so what is six more? In my sixty first year, that is early 2024, I am going to make drastic changes. Maybe cut down very sharply on the intake, or, as some current- and old boys are suggesting, make all admissions online, or hire a secretary and cut out public dealings completely, except by appointment and for a largeish fee. For someone who has always disliked people in the mass, I have had to deal with more than my fair share, and for too long. Just six more times…

The days are long, but the years are short. However, I won’t, I hope, lament like Tagore in my old age that dinguli more shonar khanchaye roilo na, I couldn’t hold my days back (even) in a golden cage, because, like Ulysses, I have enjoyed myself greatly, but suffered badly too, and I won’t like to go back and relive days gone by. Better to look forward, still, ‘when that which drew from out the boundless deep turns again home’. As more and more loved ones pass along, and the world seems less and less interesting, Prospice and Debjaan entice me ever more strongly. All that matters is that I stay fit and active and in harness till I die. And that is not a small thing to ask.

By the way, I should like my readers to visit the other blog more often. There is a permanent link to it on the top right corner of this one. I'm sure they will find it entertaining.


Sayan Roy said...

As I was reading the above post, I was basking in the fond memories of those days- when I used to rush back home just after school got over for that day, to get a quick shower and have a few morsels for lunch, so as to quickly reach your house and get the 'coveted' seat nearest to you for your classes. I have always maintained the fact that you took us in during such a period of our lives when the restless abundance of feelings and adolescent ambitions needed a proper conduit to flourish in a productive, or rather, in a more objective manner.

The part that many of us might forget to appreciate is that, you have been doing this uphill task for decades now, with matchless consistency. I say the above words emphatically, because I am convinced that you belong to an "endangered species" for those who are now flocking to your house; people with shorter attention spans and the almost-omnipresent access to "Wikipedia" being their treasure trove of "authentic" knowledge.

For your reflections on being "in harness till I die", I would like you to go through the link given below, the idea of which has some resonance with the thought of a good life that ends well too.


Sayan Roy.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

So pleased to know that you have such strong and happy memories, Sayan. They are obviously what keep bringing you back.

And thank you for the article. It not only made for wonderful reading, but made me proud that I have old boys who read and reflect over such things, and let me know about them. How different from those who gush over lipstick and mobile apps!

I'd like to put one thing on record, though: unlike the author of the essay, I would not like Death to catch me by surprise (not that what I want matters!). I would most prefer to die the way the ideal brahmin has always sought to die - calmly, consciously, looking Death in the eye, and anticipating 'quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.'

But maybe not for a few more years yet :)