Samriddha Ghosh, going on 17, who was my pupil till the end of last year, came to see me two days ago. That in itself is an event these days, because, firstly, girl ex-students have traditionally forgotten me as soon as their classes ended, regardless of shrill protestations to the contrary, and secondly because in the last few years I have been making my dislike of them as a tribe apparent, primarily because they never have anything to say. So it is only the rare kind of girl who dares, and takes the trouble.
Samriddha made me happy. She told me she had started working part time already. Because, she said, she wants to acquire work experience and a modicum of financial independence. And as if that is not wonderful enough in the society I live in, she has started working as a teacher – a private tutor – something which I started doing exactly at her age, am still continuing, and love to boast of before people who have been by and large living off their parents until nearly thirty.
Indians, Bengalis in particular, hate work. They do it only if they have to, and as little as possible, as carelessly and shoddily as possible (that explains a very great deal about why things are in such a sorry state in this country – from the condition of roads to the tardiness in government offices to the woeful state of our public hospitals). Work, especially any kind of work that makes you either think or sweat (or, horror of horrors, both) is anathema; it is only for the chhotolok, the plebeians, who don’t ‘deserve’ any better. Here journalism very often means passing off press releases as news (I have seen this with my own eyes), and engineering means signing files or typing on computers, both preferably done in airconditioned offices. Here parents pray that their grown up kids will not have to work hard (and lament if they do), and, if they can afford it (even to the extent of getting into debt), keep their children from getting jobs as long as they can. Although things, I hear, are changing – very slowly – in the metros, everywhere else parents are shocked, hurt and offended if a teenager, and a female to boot, says s/he wants to work: it will cause the parents to lose face in society (since they cannot adequately provide for their ward), and the teenager to lose precious time which she can better devote to ‘studies’ (which has long ago been reduced to mean merely cramming textbooks and forgetting almost everything as soon as this or that examination has been ‘cracked’). Strangely enough, zooming about on bikes, watching TV or playing video games for hours daily, attending every puja and wedding in town, visiting the shopping mall several times a month, gossiping or simply spending half the day in bed, in the bathroom or at the dining table never ‘wastes time’.
And teaching, of all things? Isn’t it hard, boring, frustrating and just plain frightening (in no other profession are you so completely open to immediate criticism and ridicule for your ignorance and shortcomings – especially if you are not protected by the kind of disciplinary threats that a school environment provides)? Isn’t that one of the main reasons why even parents with college and university degrees don’t want to sit down with their children’s homework – the boredom, the taxation of the brain, the terror of being found out for the oafs they are?
So Samriddha has my blessings. She deserves them as very few females I know do. If she enjoys her work, sticks to it, and makes a name and a good living for herself in the years to come, I shall be pleased indeed.