I remember I was once coming back from Calcutta with a couple of students and Sayoni — and on the way we typically stop to have tea at a place called Balaji Food Park. Nothing special, just a roadside restaurant, like many others that dot the NH2 near Shaktigarh.
As we neared, we put the location in the map so that we don’t miss it and drive by. Very soon, Google announced, ‘You have reached your destination’.
‘Not really, Google! This is not our final destination. But what do you know anyway!’ I said.
But then Sayoni said, ‘But isn’t every destination that you reach a temporary one?’
We pondered for a while to decide how to respond to this deeply philosophical point — and then as always, said, ‘Tweet it!’
Most of our tweets happened like this: during the course of regular conversation. We never sat in front of the computer thinking, ‘well, let’s write a good tweet now.’
Sometimes you all have been collectively witness to those conversations — during the common meeting. Several of the incisive lines about the IIT and people’s obsessions with engineering careers came effortlessly as I spoke in front of you, most memorably:
Tweets flowed during our morning tea meeting with some of you, during our long walks on the tennis court road in the evening, during our weekend adda at the Theque, and in the classrooms.
But most often, they flowed from frustration, desperation and suffering, as most good art does. As we contemplated how ‘our dream of creating perfection will always be foiled by the imperfect world,’ we wrote, deriving an unlikely lesson from the sublime movie ‘Black Swan’:
Just a few days after, on 18th Dec, on a similar melancholic evening, as we pondered the ingratitude of the people while we work hard to improve their lives, we understood how Dr Struensee felt in his final moments:
Well, December 2017 was clearly a bleak month, for some reason we don’t remember now. That should give us some persepective. Things pass, as Buddha said.
During some other despondent times, we contemplated whether there is any point to all this at all, whether we will ever make any difference in spite of our superhuman efforts, and wrote this:
Class 12 sometimes had to bear the brunt of this frustration. Once after I scolded the current class 12 severely, and as always, regretted it later, not because they did not deserve it, but because I love them:
While we are on the topic of scolding, I must mention that my scoldings can be brutal, but they are also beautiful, if you are not at the receiving end of it. In the common meeting you have been witness to one of the best lines delivered during a rebuke:
Though, I personally, have always tried to be an example that you can follow, and that is the spirit behind writing a lot of these tweets: so that you can learn to analyse the world around, have deep conversations, learn to form elegant sentences. My philosophy about teaching was most succinctly explained in this tweet, which I have always tried to personally live up to:
In terms of my own inspiration, there have been many sources. I have been inspired by Yuval Harari’s intellect, Richard Dawkins’ reason, Roger Ebert’s openness, Mahatma Gandhi’s brilliance, Willy Wonka’s humour, Shakespeare’s insights and Rumi’s poetry — just to name a few.
But my favourite hero is a local one: Vidyasagar. As I fought against many entrenched beliefs to build this school, I found inspiration in this courageous man because of whom many of you girls are even able to receive this education. Though his efforts were superhuman, by elevating him to the level of a god, we have made him distant. As a result, most people have no idea about the amount of struggle and frustration he bore in a lifetime, the amount of resistance he encountered and overcame.
I must thank my other Bengali hero, Sunil Gangopadhyay, for giving us a glimpse of the real Vidyasagar, through his seminal novel ‘Sei Somoi’. Sunil’s Vidyasagar was not a god, but a man of flesh and blood, who we can empathise with. It is Sunil who made him accessible and a source of inspiration to me. While reading Sei Somoi, I wrote these two tweets:
Inspirations can sustain you through difficult times, but during other times you need coffee and adda to revive yourself! The coffee shop Theque, though much reviled as a cause of poor results of certain students of our school, has been the place where we spent many good hours, having great conversations.
Many tweets were coined sitting right there, particularly the ones related to smartphone obsession. Once in Theque, we saw the couple on the next table are not talking at all with each other, each busy swiping and scrolling on their smartphones, and I said:
In spite of all this criticism of smartphones, I was soon considering gifting a smartphone to one of our high-performing school staff. Goody Goody protested by writing this gem:
In case you are wondering, the smartphone was finally gifted, in spite of this elegant protest.
These tweets capture only a minor fraction of the colourful history of the school, but I do hope they capture some of the energy, enthusiasm, inspiration, despondency, frustration and fun of building it. We experienced life to the fullest, with all its rainbow of emotions in the last ten years, and the tweets are but a reflection of that rollercoaster ride.
The outcome of all this emotion, effort and experience is nicely captured in this tweet:
May I always keep it so, with your help and support.