17 January 2009

Sir Aravind

Thats me in the white shawl in college - Nov 2005 I was 18. Stupid (i'm still trying to overcome that handicap), idealistic and anxious to prove a lot of things to the world. I used to write for the weekend supplement of Coimbatore's division of the New Indian Express and the MD (of my college) was anxious to 'tap' my writing skills (i had none) and gain some publicity for the communication department (which was gaping at a steady decline of students and lack of good faculty every year) through the newspapers i used to write for. "As a communication student of this college, it is your privileged duty to talk about how your department helped you grow as a person and nurtured your skills for the benfit of your career advancement," i was told as i tried hard to stifle a yawn. I thought about how i first decided to write a tiny article about an ongoing event in the city. It was a good excuse to skip the boring lectures of the day. I would be granted 'OD' (on-duty .. attendance). Covering functions/events for the paper and clicking a few pictures (although i could ill-afford the processing fee for my film) didnt seem bad after all. I continued to take ODs. Now i was in a fix. I was already getting bored writing colorful stuff about the events in the city and of all the people, the college MD wants me to write an even more colorful lie about the department practices which i detested. Of course, there definitely was a brighter side of the department. Some brilliant faculty who would pop up for brief intervals in the department. But the point was, i wasnt interested in writing the goddamn story in the first place. Besides, why in the wide world would a newspaper be interested in touting a rich college without any financial gain? Somebody told me of Sir Aravind. He was the director for certain Diploma courses in the college. A member of the board of directors and strange, a wise and reasonable fellow. I sat fidgeting across a well polished mahogany table. There were flags (of countries i couldnt identify ) on the table fluttering in tune with the rotation of the fan above. As if in confirmation of all the travel adventures ive heard about him, the walls of his office were decorated with pictures and antique pieces from around the globe. He used to provide counselling and guidance to students who wanted to get into the travel industry, and all those who have talked to him, couldnt stop raving about him. Iam not sure what i was expecting, but the person who entered the room a minute later took me by surprise. He was well into his late sixties. Completely bald with a Devanand-style cap on (he took it off every now and then to cool off, i guess), shrivelled skin... and a complete grand father! It took me a second to realise that the picture of the kids framed on his table must have been that of his grand children, and not his kids. His son was a senior editor for Indian Express (North edition) i was to learn later. "So, what can i do for you? Are you interested in doing a diploma in Travel Industry?" After a full blank minute, i started blurting out. About writing for the papers, the college, my friends...about things i didnt know i ever thought about. He listened to all that i had to say very intently. With his head cocked to one side which strangely reminded me of my little pup i had lost when i was a young girl. He pushed the glass of water towards me once i was done. As i gulped down the water, he showed me the pictures of his travels, the seven wonders.... the golden light that covered the horizons of worlds that were far away from me. I was staring at a beautiful post card he had bought for his wife from an exotic location when he said, "Jyothy, do you know whats the difference between being alone and being lonely?" He continued as i looked up, "When you are at your house waiting for your friends to call so that you can hangout with them in the evening, you are alone. And then you wait for another day and another, for a person who never turn up at your door, or for friends who never call. Until, one day when you would wait no more. For no one. That is when you become lonely.""Im sure you will do well in whatever you choose to do in life. But, in a few years from now if you feel you would like to tell me something, here is my card. Write to me, i will be sure to respond if im still around.. alive. I would love to know how you are doing," he smiled. The persistant ring of the college bell pierced through the air. That was the last i heard from him- Sir Aravind. PS : As for the article i was asked to write about the department, i wrote about a film festival which the department had conducted that year. The festival wasnt a great success but it was a brave effort nonetheless.

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