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Monday, July 30, 2012

Troubled communication

A female ex-student, now in her late-20s, had this exchange with me via email very recently. She, as you will read (still, though maybe not much longer-) claims to have some respect for me. After having read very closely, do tell me what marks you will give me if I were being judged as her teacher: how much of my values (leave alone my knowledge) have I been able to transfer to her? I have no objection to being given poor marks, mind you: if the teacher has failed, it’s largely his fault, after all… the only thing is that comments should come solely from those who have known me well, and for a long time, and like to think things out in depth before shooting their mouths.

Dear Sir,
This mail is in response to your blogpost ‘What happened in Guwahati?’ dated 18th July 2012. With all due respect Sir, and to say the least, I was surprised to read a post of the sort on your blog of all places. The comments on the post are even more startling. I am not a bra-burning feminist trying to rip apart every male in sight, but I also find it difficult to come to terms with a school to thought that blames the wallet owner than the pickpocket, on grounds that the victim should be more careful of his belongings!

A certain Sunandini Mukherjee writes, ‘Most girls love to draw people’s attention towards them, put on clothes and attitude which are not really decent for that purpose but then feel ‘insulted’ on being greeted by lewd comments by loafers on the road.’ Really? I wonder; is that really why I dress the way I do? And do I lose the right to be offended by people, who have no semblance of etiquette, thanks of the length of my skirt? Is dignity defined by the droop of my d├ęcolletage or the rise of my hemline? I have not judged women who step out of their homes in salwar kameez and oiled hair, then what has given them the right to judge me? Sir, I have taken your classes very seriously, and a lot of things you told us have stayed with me till date. I shall also take the liberty to say it has shaped me in many ways. You spoke about the real meaning of independence one day – ‘Do as your heart pleases, as long as your actions do not bother, adversely affect or hurt another.’ So then, what is wrong if a 20-year old girl or for that matter a young man, decides to go out drinking with his/her friends late in the night? Should an ideal society not flourish on the tenet of Live and Let Live?

While the media angle is a different topic altogether (I completely agree with you Sir that TRP reporting has become today’s norm, and it is shameful. Personally I have written a letter to Mrs. Ambika Soni in a hope to be one more voice against sensational journalism.) I also wonder if it is such an eyesore to see youngsters behave like, well, youngsters. Which teen does not falter, have lapse in judgment, and make friends only to realize later in life that they were probably not worth their while? Why is there such an expectation from scholars, intellectuals and litterateurs that 20 somethings should behave, think and operate like them? I know most great men started young, and that is inspirational. But let’s face it, not everyone is meant for great things. The world is made up of all kinds of people and the world better make place for the average man. It’s no sin, according to me.

P.S.: This is just my point of view and I felt a strong need to share it with you. Hope you make space for it, Sir. I didn’t send it in as a comment, because I was not sure if you would like it.

Thank you, X. We might talk about this again, if I am around, in say twenty years’ time, preferably when you have a teenage daughter growing up at home … I shall take the liberty of observing for now, however, that you do NOT read my posts with a tenth of the attention that I demand from my readers. And that is hurtful at best, and offensive at worst.

I am sorry if I have offended you in any way. That was not the intent.

Good to see that, at least, X.

In response to your angry question, here’s  a poser. I too, like you, say nothing about women who step out of their houses in salwar kameez and a lot of oil in their hair. So they shouldn’t say anything about how I dress either, right, especially in my own house? So would it have been perfectly all right if I took my classes all these years in my underwear? Or do different standards apply to men and women here (and one standard for teachers and another for all other men?): women have a ‘right’ to be free in how they dress, whereas men don’t? And am I a very foolish conservative if I say that I can quite understand why 99% of parents wouldn’t have wanted to send their kids to my classes?

I notice also that you very carefully stepped aside the challenge that I threw at you: that I would like to talk to you again about this when you are raising a teenage daughter… and don’t give me nonsense now about how mothers have to be careful about their daughters in this society full of bad men, please. If you insist on your rights you must carry the responsibilities that come with it (like it or not), and you mustn’t suddenly change tunes when you have your own daughter to bring up…

All evil springs from people insisting upon rights while denying the concomitant responsibilities. I have an unchallengeable right to stay naked only in my own house, and only when I am completely alone. At all other times, my right must be restricted by how others feel.  Even if I am in no danger of getting raped. Otherwise I am telling all others, including my maidservant and my wife and my daughter ‘You are not human; your opinions don’t count’.

Having typed that much, I already have this sinking feeling that I have wasted my time: you will not do me the courtesy of taking time out to think, really think  about what I said. Anyway, I won’t try again.

No Sir, you did not waste your time. I understand that not everyone will share or agree with my point of view. I respect your opinion, but that said, I am not sure your respect mine Sir. You have already made up your mind that any counter-discussion from my side will be ‘nonsense’. What I intended to do with my mail was to merely have a healthy exchange of views (I believe such a thing can happen even if opinions clash) But I fear Sir that this attempt of mine has only offended you. I apologize for putting my disagreement forth.

Just one question for the reader: was this girl ever actually interested in a ‘healthy exchange of views’? (for those who might be curious, I was merely using what is called the ‘Socratic method.’ Took the first step  would be more accurate, because I couldn’t go any further.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Two awesome women

'Captain' (actually Colonel) Dr. Lakshmi Sehgal, head of the Rani Jhansi regiment of the Azad Hind Fauz, passed away yesterday. She was 97.

Today is also the birthday of Amelia Earhart. She would have been 115 if she had been alive.

Two more women whose memories I regard with profound respect and awe. Pity I haven't met the likes of them among women born within the last fifty years... not in flesh and blood, anyway.

P.S., July 25: There's a new post on the whimsy blog today. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Repeat request, and a new blog

Is there a problem with visiting my other blog, people? Just click here

I would like many more people to visit it, read, become members, and comment more frequently. With the aim of forcing the pace, I am going to post more often there instead of here for some time.

My old boy Sayan and his wife Rashmi, two very nice and thoughtful people, teachers and readers by choice (which automatically puts them in the top 0.1% of the population, culturally speaking) have recently started their own blog. I should like all my genuine readers to visit them, become members, and write sensible and encouraging comments every now and then (by which I mean a little more often than once in fourteen months...).


P.S., July 18: I have just written something about the news of a girl being molested on a Guwahati road. On the other blog .

Friday, July 13, 2012

Status update

Now that the previous post has been visited more than a thousand times, I hope a lot of girls and women will know the right way to deal with me in future (the best thing might be not dealing with me at all!)

Since I have nearly 300 posts on this blog now, I do wish a lot of visitors, both new and old, would frequently look up older posts and comment on them: little on my blog gets dated, as I have said before.

I am feeling rather sorry for my other blog, which for some strange reason seems far less well attended than this one, in terms of number of members, visits and comments. In an effort to remedy that, I shall for some time concentrate on writing more there than here. Look it up more often, folks.

I also long for more dialogue of the right sort. So, one more time: no one who is not uncouth by nature need be overawed or hesitant about commenting. Comments are welcome at a very basic level, because they tell me that people are not casual visitors but read seriously what I write. And to write a comment you need not be a know-all; even a word of appreciation or a little relevant nugget of information or a query or suggestion for a future post can qualify as a comment…  

Two requests to my long-time readers: a) get me some more readers – surely you meet some people of the sort who’d like to read this kind of stuff? and b) lead me, if you can, to blogs written by ageing teachers. I’d love to read them, and compare notes.

I am reading several books simultaneously, as I often do. One of them, Kiran Nagarkar’s Cuckold, is powerful and profoundly moving – it tells of Mewar at the time of Rana Sanga and Meerabai, when Babar is about to attack India, but it is narrated from the point of view of Meera’s husband. It was written in 1997: a wonder that I missed it for all these years. I shall probably write in detail about it once I have finished. The other notable is a collection of scientific articles by Isaac Asimov called Life and Time. It is refreshing indeed to be in touch with a master spirit once again. As an old boy who has just finished a science master’s and has been reading the likes of Whitehead, Russell and Asimov avers, later writers like Hawking and Dawkins are not only pale shadows of these titans as writers but have been making much ado about nothing: very little of serious substance has been added to the corpus of science (as distinct from applied science, aka technology) in the last thirty odd years, though far more people make far more noise about it…

That’s about it for now. This was just to let readers know what I have been up to.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

No women, please, I am an MCP

I have finally decided to listen to the tiny handful of women who really care about me, and live the rest of my life by the axiom ‘If you stop bothering about girls/women, they stop bothering you’!

So from now on, this blog will be written strictly from the pov of a male chauvinist (if you are one of those who want to append the suffix –‘pig’ to that, you are welcome. I won’t miss you): a male chauvinist who cares only about the women who care about him. The rest can go and read Fifty Shades of Grey.

I am now satisfied that I have wasted too much of my time and attention on females who never intended to be either grateful or loving, or keep in touch, or give back in any way (that means everything from bringing little gifts when they visit to writing about me to waiting for me at stations or visiting me in hospitals) – either because, being female, they were incapable of such things, or simply because they disliked me from the start, and were simply buttering me up to use me for all I was worth (even in the pettiest of terms, such as getting counsel and ‘notes’ for free). It’s been more than thirty years, and more than 2000 females (my ex-students range from 16 to 50 years of age), and I am sure that it’s time to draw some final conclusions.

There will still be some girls/women who would continue to keep in touch, and they are the only ones I need to care  about. The rest should remember that I am not interested even in seeing them or hearing from them unless they are paying me by the hour, my rates.

I feel strangely relieved after having typed out the above paragraphs. It’s as if the albatross has finally dropped from my neck. But woe betide the next parent who comes to gush about how much his/her daughter ‘loves’ my classes…let them be just good pupils by my lights, pay their fees on time and forget me as soon as they leave; I shall be glad, and well rid.

I shall still, of course, feel the deepest sympathy for women who suffer seriously from all kinds of social evils, have profound respect for all women who refuse to be merely wives, mothers, dressed up dolls, gossips and shoppers and rabid feminists (does that leave out a lot of women?), and have all the time in the world for the few among them who feel both interest and respect for who I am and what I do. I am sure that if some such comment on my posts hereafter, they will neither whine, nor rationalize all their faults and shortcomings, nor call me names for being what I am – a human being, only incidentally male, looking all his life for people of both sexes whom he can be glad to call his friends.

And I shall continue to laugh publicly about girls getting angry when I tell them I no longer think of them as anything but monthly envelopes and/or irritants; when countless ‘didi-s’, some 25 years older and some only three, have taught me what a fool I have always been to imagine otherwise!

The likes of Lavona, Shilpi and Pupu…I hope you have figured that nothing I have said in this post applies to any of you (as yet!), so carry on as before. But I hope reading this post gives you a better understanding of what a rare sort you are, and how grateful I am to Providence that your sort still exists; women with brains and consciences and some idea of what civilization means.

And, in case some of you are wondering, no, this is not a sudden outburst in reaction to some recent provocation. I have been recalling my experiences with a very large number of individual ex-students (and parents), and meaning to write this post for a long time. Now we all know exactly where we stand, and can interact more sensibly hereafter if at all. There is a very large number of females whom I should never have missed, beginning with the ex-girlfriend who turned fifty yesterday.

P.S., July 07: ... and meanwhile, I have discovered this absolutely delightful blog. Also, you might be interested in looking up some of the things you find if you search via google with the keywords 'woman against feminism'. Try this blog, for instance.