Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mrig-trishna hai yeh duniya zamana humne jaana..

This guy's been in my class for five years now and he used to be in my anatomy discussion group in first year. I think he's from Rajasthan. He once told me he'd studied in a Hindi medium school in Alwar (geography textbooks say the district has mica reserves and a tiger sanctuary) and I havent really talked with him much more than that. He's a very quiet unassuming sort of a guy, with thick glasses and a soft voice, hardly forthcoming about personal information let alone heartfelt emotion. He's on my facebook friend list and it was his birthday today so I showed up on his profile to wish him a happy birthday. I saw a note he'd written on the occasion of his 22nd birthday, a note he'd dedicated to his parents. In it he writes in very simple words that he left his home to study elsewhere when he was just 15 and he's only been back for a few months every year since then and on his 22nd birthday, he wanted to thank his parents for their unwavering support and for all their waiting for him to come back home.

He writes so simply but it reads like he really, really feels the distance that has separated him from them for so many years. I was wondering at how I wud never even have guessed these vast reserves of emotion underneath the placid surface of his stoic face.

It reminded me of Mohit's post about the online self and how the people we know may be very different from the people as they appear online. Which led me to the question of how well we can ever know anyone else, even our closest compatriots, our dearest family.

Even if we were to know about every single thought that ever went through their heads, we'd still be far away from knowing their true selves. I wonder how close we come to even understanding our own selves. Martin Scorsese said in an interview that once riding on the subway in New York, he realised that he will never know all these other people around him, and he began to wonder if he'll ever learn about anyone at all, becoz the way people appear to us is often an amalgamation of our somewhat-skewed perception and their own representation, which may not be very close to the truth. In that sense, we are all isolated, alone, islands in the sea.

Bhagwan sir passed away yesterday morning and I read his obituary in the paper today. He'd taught us English in the 8th, 9th and 10th standards and we all loved him.

He was one of those people who firmly believed that children cud never be wrong about anything. It was always grownups who got things wrong. Children deserved to be encouraged and appreciated and admired. And he did all of that for each one of us.

He proclaimed my tentative attempts at poetry to be among the greatest things he'd ever read. I really believed he was telling the truth back then, and I still do now.

The last time I saw him was on Teachers' Day in 2007 and he told me he was very proud that I wud be a doctor some day and I'd promised to tell him when I received my degree. I never made the time to go back to school after that and in my mind, I think I believed he'd always be there so I cud choose to go as and when I wanted.

Now, the fact that I'll never speak to him again is sinking in and I wish I'd had a chance to speak with him one last time. He died suddenly of cardiorespiratory arrest and he'd never been sick. It's almost surreal, this loss of a benevolent, beloved presence in my life. A void, an empty space. Tomorrow morning, we shall all attend the prayer meeting at his house. I'm sure there'll be hundreds of people there, his students from over thirty years of teaching, and I hope that talking about him will comfort this feeling of unease and sadness that I am trying to wrestle away.

The worst part is that I always believed that he'd always be there. That's what I think about my parents, too.

We dont wonder about the mortality of those who're older than us, who look after us, who protect and nurture us. We think they're powerful immortals who can fix everything. It is only when our worlds begin to expand and their power starts to recede that they turn into ordinary, extremely fragile human beings, regular people who refuse to deal with the looming prospect of an oncoming death, deluding themselves into living all our short lives entirely in the ever-vanishing present.

And that makes them infinitely precious.

We may never completely know anyone, including our own self. But I am certain that we can completely love them. And that is still a great gift.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Make none, break none

In what must be a radical departure from my New Year traditions, I have decided to celebrate the new year only after exams end next week. So what if it's more than a little out of sync with, oh, the rest of the world. I think the new year shud begin on a happy note (hence, the new year wish, of course). And happy notes are certainly the exact antithesis of cruel never-ending, overstaying-their-welcome-by-a-month exams.

Now that routine exam frustration is out of the way, my second radical departure is that I make no new year resolutions this year. Since the go-for-a-morning-walk resolution lasted for all of ten days in 2010, not to mention the dozen resolutions in years past that didn't really thrive beyond January, I've decided to forgo them altogether.

Of course, this piece of good ole Calvin wisdom certainly helped.

And for all you regular folks starting your new year today, I wish you all a happy new year. :)