Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The art of life

He knows how to live life, artfully. I am truly impressed with this man who passionately follows his calling to teach. Rushing towards the classroom with a book or two in hand, rolled-up sleeves, impeccably creased trousers and sandals, he appears without fail more smartly dressed than is expected of a philosopher. Add to this an expression of rapture in anticipation of the upcoming class and you have a romantic hero of the ‘70s in your midst. Students are always greeted with a smile that promises another logic show or another magical hour in a big classroom of a small town college in Ishwardi.

He continues to provoke an ocean of questions in the minds of his little learners and thus invariably runs late for lunch; the last of his students’ queries always lingers till the doorsteps to his house. After lunch he takes a 15-minute siesta which is synchronized with his mind clock and then half-an-hour of self study before the next class. Senior students await the hour when the logic of mathematics will melt into philosophy and synthesis will create antithesis.

Life, for him, became a pilgrimage for wisdom ever since he met his teacher Nikhil Sen at the Kolkata University. Ignoring the prevalent and narrow-minded definition of success, he instead learnt to challenge life. He didn’t sit for the competitive examination, refused to take up just any job and even rejected his family business in favor of Kant, Hegel and Hume. Of course Uttam and Shuchitra have always been his repose, just like the boat-outings with his wife on moon-lit rivers and daily evening walks for clandestine smoking away from the house.

Though I am a great fan of his wisdom but I was, at one point, skeptical of its real life implications. His school of truth, beauty and goodness seemed quite unreal in the environs of Dhaka. The principal of a college in Dhaka had once requested him to come over to the metropolitan. He courteously refused, knowing all too well the amount of time he would have to waste in proving his wisdom over and again. He was right: Dhaka is now rated as the worst city in the world after Harare in terms of habitability.

He has served tours at Pabna Edward College, Sylhet M.C. College and Rangpur Karmickel College. At the end of his institutional teaching career he took his students to Kanchanjangha to celebrate his innings. Kanchanjangha could have been an inspiration from Satyajit Ray or perhaps a symbol of his philosophy of truth, beauty and goodness.

On my insistence he wrote three academic books but then stopped writing because of his belief that teaching itself is media; dozens of his students have happily taken up teaching as a profession. And then there is the station master at the Ishwardi rail station, also one of his students, who met us with a smile, took us to his office and offered tea. I was amused at his courtesy and knowledge; he worked on his computer the whole time during our conversation. There and then I decided to make contentment my goal: surely through teaching.

Recently, I rang up this person who knows the art of life to share with him my happiness. He told me that he knew I would eventually find my way to teaching. He also told me how he has taken up another assignment to guide and teach his grandson: “He’s good in both Bangla and English but still a bit weak in Mathematics. His has an ear for music and I want him to be equally good in Mathematics even if he decides to go to a music school. He would need that for higher studies no matter what course of education he chooses.” I was surprised to hear him discuss his new student’s weakness in Mathematics. Nothing is small to him. Perhaps that’s why he could master the art of life, by seeing big in small and small in big.

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