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Saturday, July 22, 2017

My God!

Do you notice something truly extraordinary about this photograph taken in my classroom? I did when I walked in. I was so amazed I did a double take, then didn't lose any time to click the scene.

Not one but several 15-year olds were reading big fat books - story books, and that too, believe it or not, not stuff like Chetan Bhagat but the likes of Khaled Hosseini and other authors of a similar level. They were reading books like that on their own, of their own choice, as they waited for the class to begin.

If anyone knows Durgapur and its 'educated' populace, adults wholly included, they would know it is almost as rare a scene as seeing a whole cohort of Olympic gold medallists or Nobel Prize winners walking down one of our streets.

I was charmed, thrilled, delighted. And if I can believe that I have contributed even in a very small way to the making of their tastes, I shall consider myself blessed. It is at rare moments such as this that I can still hope that India has a future, civilisationally speaking. God grant these children long and happy, fruitful lives, and may they keep reading till their dying day.


Aveek Mukherjee said...

'A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one', said George R. R. Martin. Living in a 'village' like Durgapur, reading books after completing your chores is a rare sight. And if you do, well, you might hear whispers: 'পাগল নাকি?'. I always come across such situations, which makes me roll in the aisles. A passenger in a 8B bus asked which book I was reading. 'Harry Potter', I said. The man looked terrified, and asked if Harry Potter was added in the 2018 ICSE syllabus and that his daughter's school hadn't informed yet! In class 8, I was scolded by an English teacher for writing a review of 'The Kite Runner', remarking that the book has nothing 'which is worth reading'. A girl, wrote a review of a Durjoy Dutta's book and she was marked 15 out of 16. I felt like stabbing that teacher, but later realised that perhaps, I read better books than that teacher (or the whole faculty). 'Read what should be read!', a teacher sneered when I was reading in a free period. You can't read Hemingway, Maugham, MacLean, Kipling and Hosseini, as they wrote 'বড়দের বই'. The only 'good' authors are Chetan Bhagat or Ravinder Singh, whose global success makes me gawk which I can't swallow. As Franz Kafka said, 'A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul'.

Suvro Chatterjee said...


You are the loner in the foreground of the photo, as I am sure you have noticed.

Regarding the quotes, they are my feelings exactly.

As for your tastes, let me make a dire prediction: if you do not give up this habit soon, and if you continue to live in India, you are going to become a perpetual loner; even, probably, in your current and future family.

And yet, God bless.


Saikat Chakraborty said...

Dear Sir,

This photograph warms my heart and I wish I had the means to turn the clock and be present there again. Our small town is blessed to have you although they might never realize it. If they had, we would also have seen a swimming pool rather than a Kali temple. Nevertheless, thank you for everything that you have done and still continue to do.

I was also searching for the 'Window on the World' in this picture...I miss that fat folder a lot.

With regards,