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Monday, October 14, 2013

Constraints and contradictions (the Bijoya rant)

We listened to the Mahalaya broadcast on the radio to herald Devipaksh, bought Pujo specials of our favourite periodicals, sang and danced in school on Mahapanchami before school let out for the biggest festival in Bengal. As I write this, it is Mahanavmi, and while you are reading this Devi Durga ceremoniously departs, making every Bengali a tad solemn, if not outright sad, for the next few days.
Meanwhile, my usual wave of depression before and during any festival has escalated into a worrisome to and fro between crushing sadness and utter numbness. Pujo comes once a year, and we are constrained by time to complete all the pandal-hopping, adda and eating while it lasts: and therefore, come what may, be there whatever issue that demands reserved and solemn attention, I force myself to forget it all and enjoy -- hence the depression. This year it is much, much worse because it is not just about mundane problems and home and school or even philosophical luxuries of thought like the social hypocrisy surrounding festivals or the commercialization of religion. This year, every fibre of my being reminds me from time to time of the grey, gloomy feeling that is loss; of the denial and desperation that precedes its acceptance; and the anger and indignation that resists any attempt by powers more rational to make a suitable replacement. Yes, we have a new Maths teacher at Aakash, who taught here last year and has been called back from where he was transferred. The first class with him involved a lot of unpleasant friction: whether that was because of the nature of the situation, I can't say. We are getting used to him, as we must and as youngsters like us very easily do, though I cringe every time he decides to criticize RJ Sir's methods: I hate talk like that (especially since RJ Sir was better!) even when it involves a simple change in faculty, let alone one where someone died. Died, dammit. For Heaven's sake, show some respect.
But in spite of everything, time passes, the moon takes its position as predicted, and like clockwork, Pujo is here. It is here too soon when I am not ready, but I must swallow the guilt that I feel when, amidst all the fun, some pinprick of a trigger lets the repressed memories into the forefront of my consciousness: something like a story of someone's death in the Pujo special, or running into an Aakash faculty member at a pandal. I can feel myself leading life at a very uncomfortable equilibrium between joy and gloom, which makes me feel incomplete as a whole. But that is no matter, for every human life is full of contradictions: each a unique interplay of light and shadows created on the screen when the rays of one's life-force are reflected, refracted, dispersed, scattered beyond recognition by the obstacles, the limitations, the constraints thrown in by the pesky little devil that is fate. So when Pujo comes, Pujo must be enjoyed. When a new teacher comes, he must be respected. When tests come, even if on Mahanavmi when you are unprepared, they must be answered. Screw the depression, screw the guilt, screw the unrealistically ideal dreams.
Between this Pujo and the next let us hope, and pray to Maa Durga if we are so inclined, that all the bad things that happened between last Pujo and this one are not repeated, (especially the pain and suffering!) and that we have the strength of will to accept the past, survive the present and face the future. As for all the good and happy things that happened: births, successes in exams, weddings, reunions with loved ones long lost; and love and forgiveness and compassion given and received -- for all these things I have just one thing to say: আসছে বছর আবার হবে ! Hope with me, friends, dream with me, that it'll all happen again in the year that comes... and that in some small way, we will make it happen.
আসছে বছর আবার হবে... হবেই হবে!
===================================

সকলকে জানাই শুভ বিজয়ার প্রীতি ও শুভেচ্ছা। বড়রা প্রনাম নেবেন। বন্ধু আর ছোটদের জন্যে রইল এই special message:

মায়ের অনেক কাজ, প'রে ডাকের সাজ 
কতদিন থাকবেন বল?
যেতেই হবে যে ফিরে! বিজয়ার sad সুরে 
সকলের চোখ ভরা জল।

পরের বছর ফের আনন্দ হবে ঢের 
মা যখন আসবেন ফিরে;
হবে mindless fun, সারারাত নাচ-গান 
দুর্গা -র family-কে ঘিরে।

শিউলির গন্ধেতে আবার উঠব মেতে
আবার উঠবে বেজে ঢাক।
ততদিন ভাল করে পড়া-খেলা দুই-ই করে
একটি বছর কেটে যাক!

এখন কথার শেষে, শারদীয়া হাসি হেসে 
বলি আমি টা-টা, goodbye!
সত্যের জয় যাতে জীবনের প্রতিপদে 
হয়, সে শুভেচ্ছা জানাই।

P.S.: 
যতই থাকুক পড়া, ভুলিস না এই ছড়া --
লিখেছি খাটিয়ে কত মাথা
মিল রেখে শব্দের, তাল রেখে ছন্দের ;
কাব্য কি চাট্টিখানি কথা?
===================================

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Growing up, and it hurts.

It's been a long time since I posted something here. Meanwhile, I've joined new coaching classes, a new school, cleared ICSE with 95.3%, got into the student council, qualified NTSE. Recently, I had a blast leading the student volunteers when my school hosted the CBSE East Zone Swimming Championships. I won prizes for my school, got a best speaker prize... got a piece in the paper about that, too. And for a long time, I've been telling myself to post something on the blog, especially since I gave the URL to a couple of new people. I was wondering what it should be about: school life? Classes at Aakash? The tougher and different life as a class XI student? There are so many shiny, new, wonderful things (and some bad ones, like the Nairobi shootout) happening all around that I've been spoilt for choice, and of course because of aforesaid routine, I've had less time to think. Basically, you could say that I'm growing up. I still have problems with grown-up things, of course, like decisions. And conflict. And choices. And, that which finally brought me to put finger to keyboard, death.
This Monday (yesterday, that is... feels like ages ago), when I returned home after school, my Mom showed me a text from my coaching class (Aakash, as I said) with some very surprising content: classes were not happening that day. That is so unusual for Aakash that I called to check, verified that classes would resume today, but I never asked why. In course of the day, there were speculations, reports of bigwigs in the building, and exchanges of text messages among Aakashians in town. But the most important text, which explained everything, was the only one I didn't notice until today morning when I switched off my alarm. My friend KB who goes to school and Aakash with me was nonchalantly telling me that Monday was off since RJ Sir, our Maths teacher at Aakash, was no more.
Instinctively, I was shocked and sad. This guy's been teaching us for the past six months, and though we found him a little (a lot!) weird, he took really good care of his job and of us. He appreciated us taking interest in the subject, and said mostly nice things about us to our parents. Now that I think of it, his dedication was more than wont: he picked out important sums from the fiendishly long Trigonometry exercises and wrote them all out, got them xeroxed, and handed them out, giving us faster and cleaner practice... and that's the last we will see of his handwriting, which I will treasure.
They say he drowned in a swimming pool... I'm crushed to think that he had to suffer. Human selfishness prompts me to worry about where we'll go from here without his teaching... but I trust Aakash to come up with someone good enough, maybe even better, come next Monday. The problem here is that Aakash is now a gloomy, sad place. Everything reminds all of us of the excruciatingly punctual Maths teacher who walked military style, told us silly jokes, and always mentioned the exact former examination any problem appeared in, grinning at our elation if we solved it without his help; the person who, incidentally, was the first teacher to teach us at Aakash when we began classes on 8th April, and set himself apart by systematically outlining the entire syllabus on that very day. We will remember him for always addressing us with 'aap', the most formal pronoun in Hindi. We will remember his habit of spinning around and asking 'anybody?' before we even finished reading the problem he wrote on the board, and of catching us unawares by snatching up somebody's book at random. We will remember him for his new Spice smartphone, which he never brought to class since the day, on the mischievous advice of our Physics teacher, we asked him (the most serious of our three teachers!), for a treat in its honour...
There isn't much to say. We being his students are much less aggrieved, I would imagine, than his family and close friends, who shall be in my thoughts: even his colleagues, the other faculty members, show worse signs of grief, and have not yet found their way to acceptance. We could see it pained our Chemistry teacher today when he asked, as poker-face as possible, how far RJ Sir had left us prepared for our test this week, what Maths classes we had for the rest of the week, etc. On our part, everyone in the class would agree that those questions slashed painfully through the thick silence that filled our classrooms today, and answering them hurt bad. The last class on Friday had been his, and we had managed to find a joke that extracted a rare smile from the very disciplined gentleman. The mixed-feelings-evoking distinction of being the last class he ever taught probably lies with our classmates from the weekend batch, who had Maths for the last class on Sunday.
I would like to conclude by thanking RJ Sir for every effort he made to teach us better, for being a very revered, very appreciated part of our lives for the last few months. We are lucky that we had him with us, and very unfortunate that an untoward accident took him away from us. We shall no longer see him leaving Aakash at 7:10 pm sharp, jaunting briskly while rolling out his sleeves, curtly acknowledging any student who wished him a good evening without slackening his pace. He will always be one of the top people in my list of good teachers and, I believe, that of many others. I conclude with a message that my rational mind tells me is a mere ornament, but my grief insists upon.
π±α π±α π±α π±α π±α π±α π±α π±α π±α π±α π±α π±α π±α π±α π±α π±απ±α π±α π±α
Good day, Sir, for I don't know what time of day it is where you are. Sir, if there is an afterlife, I hope you find peace, contentment and loads of numbers in it. I hope you find a better phone, and wonderful batches of students to teach, inspire and guide to the doors of whatever IIT equivalent they have there, and I hope you get to meet Aryabhatta and Euclid and Pythagoras and Euler and every other famous mathematician. :)
It was not very nice of you to leave us this way, or any way really -- but not in our hands, eh? I know you suffered when you left: it is a salve to our grief to know that, at least, you are not in any more pain. Do leave your good wishes with us and whosoever comes to teach in your place (not that you can be replaced..!) so that we may achieve the goal that you intended us to achieve. We will do our part, Sir, because that's the only way to honour you. R.I.P, Sir, and thank you so, so much.
π±α π±α π±α π±α π±α π±α π±α π±α π±α π±α π±α π±α π±α π±α π±α π±απ±α π±α π±α

Note to readers: If you are someone who knew RJ Sir, please leave a line or two, because my friends and I don't have much to remember him by. Also, if you have authentic information about what exactly happened, please let me know, because nobody seems to be able to explain how an adult could drown in a pool... was he ill or injured? Was there nobody around? Most importantly, did he suffer much? It hurts not to know.

Update: The news was not on any English daily but through my friends I came to know that the Bengali daily Anandabazar Patrika carried the report as well as a Hindi daily. The image that follows is a screenshot of the Anandabazar report's considerably glitched e-paper version.
He came to help Durgapur's children. Durgapur, unfortunately, was not kind to him.
The last news of RJ Sir, ABP 1st October 2013.


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