Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The lessons of Life

The human mind is a strange species and there are so amazingly different varieties to it that one never ceases to wonder. I would like to describe myself as someone who has not only travelled much but observed much in terms of the human mind and its thought processes. While there are some who are blissfully unconcerned about others matters and the world at large besides themselves, there are some who are too concerned about others thoughts, but again there is another amusing lot whom I call the ' I know it all lot'. Being in Bengal for numerous years has brought me face to face with the intellectual Bengali and his pride at all things learned. He talks, walks, reads & pouts the learned. .yet the creativity here is rampant & so gloriously so. One such incident at the airport left me much amused, a delayed flight and a lounge shared with odd co- passengers was not exactly a delightful option for the next 2 hrs. I opened a small edition of 'Chicken soup for the Soul' and began reading it. Beside me was the quintessential Bengali dressed in Kurta & spectacles. He smiled benignly at me, perhaps I thought at our mutual state of anticipated arrivals. .but lo behold the man had eyes only for the chicken I held so close to my soul! I asked him with tempting eyes, do you want to read? He guffawed at me..;) His moment of drama I had provided him. He peered at me through his intellectual specs & said a young girl like you should be reading Kafka, Marx..as I rolled my eyes & told him I wasn't exactly into that kind of reading. He let out a tongue curling eeesh! But why..he asked as if the earth would fall on my head if I didn't read Marx.. I smiled politely & said cause I found other things more interesting..he had found his point of tirade & I was subjected to 15 minutes of lecture on the principles of Marx… all the while as I nodded and politely purred at his speech, I wondered at the man who refused to see in spite of his intellectual leanings that I was just not interested but too polite or sensitive towards his feelings to tell him off. Where’s the sensitivity I say? Had I turned my face & asked the same man to shut up, he would probably be mumbling to himself wt an indecent woman, what about indecency that harbours on the lines of not understanding that one's opinions might not always be that of another’s... lecture over I restrained from clapping & told the man in a sweet voice how much he had enlightened me! While he was lecturing me his daughter of 5 kept pulling her daddy's fingers asking him to play with her & he kept brushing her off. .intellect I wondered , is it greater than being human or even humility?

Same atmosphere, same ambiance, a year or two later I was at Pune airport, as I took my seat of delayed flights & hours more to go. I took out my cell phone (the latest gadget that tells people I’m they busy types..I know its all there technology). Least bothered in mobile games I ventured cautiously into some nevertheless. After all I should be doing something productive or be tech savvy & not read about soups that harboured on Chickenish lifestyles..phew! A restrained and musical 'hello' to my side, woke me into the consciousness of a woman. Somewhere in her 60's, this lady in a mustard silk saree, just left me gazing at her unabashedly. She would have been some one extremely good looking in her prime I mused but what struck me about her was her grace & her dignity. She smiled at me, & I realized waking from my reverie she was speaking to me. I fumbled and said mam…aunty & stuck to aunty. She smiled again & said, beta I am unable to operate my cell phone well & send messages, can you help me out? Dressed to kill & expensive to boot… I mumbled a sure at the expensive phone & well manicured hands. The simple act of helping her out, left her thanking me profusely and telling me how much it meant to her that she could tell her family she was alright, all thanks to me! I was bewildered.. why was she thanking me so much, I wondered, but that’s grace I mused. Cell phone use established we got talking. The lady of 60 was a role call in humility, laughter & all the love that life is about. Much to my amusement she sauntered down to a store and bought me a handfull of chocolates! Small gestures but one that touches the right places. Her twinkling eyes, and laugh wrinkles were such a magnificent sight in love of humanity. Lisping into Hindi and English from time to time, she told me she had been a professor in a college, but now liked the job of taking care of her children & their children better. When I spoke she listened & said things that made you feel she was listening with attention. I wondered where this breed of people had gone...the ones who listen, the ones who make even a chance acquaintance feel special. Education she did not have less, but she didn't find the reason to broadcast it or push it down another’s head.

I was taken back to another place & another time where my friend of Marx had all but shouted. This woman with her innate silence & humility had taught me more about life than all his rants could. She cared about people not about what we know & how much we show we know, after all that’s what learning is all about. While disembarking from the plane & going our ways, I told her Aunty I hope I can age as gracefully as U have. And she said with a gorgeous smile, you just made me want to live another 20 years!

Life is indeed strange & education & its lessons stranger still. While it teaches, it forgets to tell us to care, to listen to the lessons of life that are important still and that learning and grasping, and implementing are lessons learnt by few.

© 2010 Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury

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