Friday, May 8, 2009

#18. I Met A Student of Mine

The Most Forgettable Incident of My Life

I started my career as a University Lecturer. It is easier to handle small children. Teenagers are probably the most difficult, but at undergraduate level, people who continue really want to study. It is another matter that in India for a large number of students at that time in the middle sixties of the previous century (was it really, it seems like yesterday!) was to get a degree so that they could get a government job or at least a teaching job. Well, government is no longer the source of large scale recruitment. There were not many avenues open to the young men then. Better of them went to medical or engineering courses where the admission standards were tougher, Some who had more confidence in themselves continued with their studies with the intention of getting into civil services or other decent jobs through competitive exams. In the late fifties and early sixties banks and insurance companies started taking people at junior officers’ level through competitive exams State Bank of India and Life Insurance Corporation of India, the two government companies were the more attractive options among the 'others'. While working as a Lecturer, I was preparing for the Civil Services. It was an ideal arrangement. Teaching job gave a lot of spare time, holidays and vacations. A number of students followed this route to the civil services. On the sideline I had also filled up the form for the State Bank Probationary Officers which required a written test followed by an interview. The test did not require any extra preparation than what I was doing for my scivil services exam, except polishing your school mathematics in which luckily I was not bad.

We had a graduate student, a Bengali who did his masters in Economics during the period I taught. I got through in the Civil Services, and was waiting for the call to proceed to the Academy at Mussoorie. I also got through in the Bank exam after appearing in the viva voce. This was summer, and the results of M.A. were also out. This boy I mentioned got a first. He came to meet me and sought my advice on what to do now, and how to go about it. I told him about the Civil Services and also about the bank exam. I gave him some back papers of bank exam which I had, listed out relevant books and gave him whatever tips I could in an hour or so he was with me.

A couple of years passed. I had completed my training in Audit & Accounts in Shimla and was posted to Bombay. From there I switched jobs to the Indian Administrative Service and was again waiting for a call for training while at Delhi after having been relieved from Bombay. Some movie was running in the Regal cinema hall in Connaught Place. Only those who were young men in the sixties can appreciate the powerful draw and attraction of cinema those days on the mind of the youth when there were not many avenues of entertainment open. TV had not come to India, Video and cable TV which have changed the entire lifestyle and entertainment scenario in the country were quite a few years away. I bought the ticket for the show, there still was about 15 minutes to go before it started. I went to a restaurant to grab a cup of tea. And there somebody suddenly came and accosted me. I took some time to place him. Then I remembered. It was the same Bengali boy whom I had given some tips about various competitive exams while in the University. He was with a group of friends who I learnt later were his colleagues. The boy had put some fat (thin he never was for that matter ). 'Sir, I have got through in the State Bank , and am at present undergoing training.' I silently cursed. All the time the movie was in my mind which was about to begin in a few minutes. 'Sir, it is you who suggested this job to me and I have got through because you told and guided me about it. Do you remember that you gave me back papers for the entrance exam?' and his tone expressed his genuine gratitude. I was fixated on the movie, congratulated him, wished him luck, excused myself, left the conversation and ran for the movie.

The incident still rankles me. I remember the hurt in his eyes. Yes, I could have spent some more time with him even though it would have meant missing my favourite movie for 5-10 minutes and I could feel the disappointment in his voice by my abrupt departure. It is one of those incidents which is etched in my memory cells and I keep on remembering it after almost four decades. No, I have not met the guy again. From all I know, he might have retired now after putting in distinguished service in his bank, and I hope he has forgotten long back the discourtesy shown by me at that time.
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1 comment:

malu said...

Hi Anand,
This was a beautiful post. Reminds me of the Mark Twain quote - "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do."
Thanks..