LEAVE ME ALONE
When I was in Second-year B’Com, I came across a man in my life. His name was Norman. I was 19 and he must be 30. He had come up in life the hard way and was a compassionate soul. He showed a great deal of interest in me, in my progress… So, he kept directing me, motivating me, even helping me financially.
But then, as months passed by, I felt a lot suffocated by his approach… Norman was dreaming for me, planning for me and even funding for me. Initially, I felt very cared for and loved… I felt a lot grateful to this soul. But, as I felt the strain of being trampled upon my individuality and freedom, I began to feel the irritation and resistance in my heart. It was simmering within me for months. Then, one day, around ten of us had been for a picnic. There, some statement this man made towards me triggered off my rebellion. I voiced my discomfort, my loss of freedom – and I found myself bluntly telling Norman : “Don’t manipulate me… Leave me alone!”
I left that group, immediately… and cried like a baby. Till I felt good about myself.
For long, we did not see each other. One evening, after some years, I received a phone call from him, here in Mumbai. I was so thrilled to hear his voice. We met. We spoke about the episode on that hill… and we both laughed it out over the dinner.
We both knew, what had gone wrong. He could not crush me in the name of care and love. I could not be an ungrateful soul even though I valued my freedom.
That was several years ago.
Later, without realizing all this, I found myself playing the reverse role. I adored great singers and envied the tremendous adulation they got from the audience. Similarly, I loved great sports-stars and simply got awed by the aura around them. And, here was me - the poor me - always down in the dumps… So bad in everything - studies, sports, singing or speaking… a chronic case of inferiority complex. So, I started dreaming for my two younger brothers. I wanted Rony to be a great singer, and, Viva a great Cricketer. They were very small and susceptible. For many years, I kept directing them, pumping them and funding them. And, they did not let me down. Rony was becoming a rising singing-star in Mangalore… and Viva was playing Cricket for the college and moving ahead.
But then, when all this was happening, I never realized – even for a day – that I was playing a Norman in their life. That, they were individuals in their own right… and, I could – and I should – do only so much… and I should leave them alone, free. No, I was still dreaming for them, planning for them… and even breathing for them. I brought them to Mumbai – the ‘Dream City’ – and I was hoping to launch them in a big way.
With in a short time, the obvious thing had to happen. First, Rony expressed his discomfort with all this. He wanted to go back to Mangalore, and he did. After some years, Viva too felt the breathlessness. He was so overawed by me that he could not tell me what he felt. One night, when I came home, there was a note waiting for me. “Dattu, I am so fortunate to have a big brother and a motivator like you. I can not forget what you have done to me in my life. But then dattu, it is time I became my own man. Sorry, I am moving out to stay in a hostel. I love you, dattu. Thanks for everything”
It was night. All that I did was brooding on it. I was hurt. I was angry. I was restless. I was unable to sleep… By the time my restlessness ended, I had realized my folly… I reaslised how the obsession with another person’s life – all in the name of love – was a blatant way of imposing on him the burden and pain of my own unfulfilled dreams. It was clear for me, by now, that I was manipulating my brothers, emotionally. And, I had to respect their verdict, now… however bitter it sounded. And, I had to be graceful in learning this valuable lesson.
I did; and, we all moved on with our lives.
Today, Rony is a very popular singer in the Konkani circle. Viva stopped playing cricket, but has become a fairly successful businessman. And, I have no qualms – and not an iota of arrogance – when I say: We are extremely good to each other… and proud about each other, too. My brothers have remained profoundly grateful to me… and I shall always remain grateful to them for helping me grow-up in my life.
Immediately after this episode, I had penned in my dairy this little poem:
I tried to make my younger brother
A Great Man.
Day in and day out, I sat with him,
Tired to motivate him, coax him,
Train him, guide him, support him…
And I kept reminding him:
“One day, you shall be Great!”
Many years passed by,
Nothing dramatic happened;
I began to get frustrated… mad!
Then, one day, he coolly told me:
“Brother, there are mountains,
There are plateaus
And, there are plains.
Is it necessary for every soul on this earth
Tb be Great like a mountain?”
I started thinking,
I started thinking.
Later, I published this poem in the Dawn Club inspirational booklet – ‘THE LATE BLOOMER’. Every summer, when we have our Public-Speaking sessions, our students chose to read some inspiring passages in the class. This poem is one of their favorites.
Maybe, we all do it. Or, maybe, someone does it to us... always!
Just yesterday, this drama unfolded in my class.
Vijeta is a very bright and committed student. She is also is a level-headed and very socializing kind of person. I have been teaching her for the last four years and we have been having an excellent rapport. Never ever she has hurt me, in any way.
However, some days back, when she had not done her homework, I expressed my annoyance, but not in any angry or offending manner. I did tell her, “Vijeta, you are planning to become a teacher… How will you deal with your students in a similar situation?”
Suddenly, I saw her face sinking. It seemed, what I had said was not liked by Vijeta… I do not know what made her sulk… But, after the class, she just left abruptly, evidently irritated and sad, and I was left even more upset. “What did I do to receive this treatment?” I was asking myself, “I am her teacher… She can’t do that to me!”
Then, yesterday, just fifteen minutes before the class, I got Vijeta’s call. “Sir, is it okay, if I don’t attend today’s lecture?”
“Why, what happened Vijeta?” I immediately asked, “You know, I have just started an important chapter… You need to have good hold of the concepts.”
“Sir, today is Kiran’s (Her close friend and the daughter of one of my dear old students) birthday and she is taking us for lunch,” Vijeta said, probably, hoping that I would be convinced.
“Vijeta, my class will get over at 1.30. Why can’t you join your friends after that?” I countered.
“Sir, the party is in Vashi and we all have decided to meet in Chembur at 12,” she insisted.
“See Vijeta, I think you should not miss the class… You know, the concepts will help you not only in your exams but also for teaching,” I persisted.
“”But, sir, it is just one lecture!” Vijeta screamed.
“What? Come again?” I yelled.
“Sir, it is a question of just ONE lecture!” Vijeta was aggressive.
I hung the phone.
I could not swallow that argument. I immediately called-up Dheeraj, Kiran’s dad and narrated to him the incident. He was at home and he told me that he would talk to Kiran about it. “No, let Vijeta attend the class… She can join them a little late,” he agreed with me. I also wished Kiran and said, “Beti, I am not trying to spoil your party; hope you understand.”
“No sir, please don’t think so. I will ask Vijeta to attend the class,” Kiran assured me.
When I entered the class at 12.30 sharp, Vijeta was already there!
Other students were still coming. I did not immediately say anything to Vijeta. Nor, did she seem apologetic. Her face was grim and when I saw that, I had already said this:
“Vijeta, can I ask something to you?”
She looked grimly at me to mean, “Now what? I am already P….. off with you!”
“Tell me Vijeta, tomorrow when you become a teacher and stand here in my place, how would you deal with such a situation?” I asked.
Vijeta was waiting to explode. “Sir, I have been extremely regular… Mohit bunks so many classes, Veena does, Reema does, Anil does, Shree does… I don’t skip my homework, but everyone else does,” Vijeta had decided to confront me.
“Yes, you know how I feel about them when they do that repeatedly, Vijeta. You want me to feel the same about you?” I put it emotionally charged.
“But sir, I am also a college kid like them…
I love my friends, I love my share of fun…
and I think you are expecting too much from me… and I feel that’s unfair…
I can not handle it, sir.”
Vijeta was on the verge of breaking.
I was stunned!
The other students were watching us. The atmosphere was all tensed. I knew I was doing more harm than good by throwing my weight as a teacher.
“Vijeta is right,” I told the class, “Sometimes, we teachers don’t realize how much we pressurize our students. I am sorry Vijeta.”
“Sir, you don’t have to say sorry to me… But, I just felt like telling what I was feeling all along,” Vijeta tried to pacify me.
“Still, you have a point… and I must accept it, ” I said and started the class.
Incidentally, it helped me to teach well… and I could see Vijeta a lot relieved after that showdown with me.
After the class was over, I came to my office. I wanted to be alone for a while. Just then, the door opened. “Sir I am really sorry for hurting you,” it was Vijeta.
“No Vijeta, I realized I was burdening you with my expectations… and, you were feeling a lot suffocated. I am sorry,” I said completely mellowed down.
“Sir, please, don’t say that. You were right… But, it was me unable to handle that weight,” Vijeta quickly said, “Today, I just wanted to make my friend happy by being there.”
I was silent for a while. Then, I managed a smile, which – I am honest when I say this – did come from my pain… I gently said, “Vijeta, in life, we try to make someone happy without realizing that how unhappy it can make someone else!”
“I am sorry sir,” Vijeta said, again.
“I am sorry Vijeta,” I repeated.
Norman was a good soul… He meant well for me. I know that even though I had screamed at him on that hill – “Leave me lone”.
I am a good soul, too. I meant well for my brothers and my student, Vijeta. They know that – I am sure – even though they have screamed at me – “Don’t manipulate me”.
What goes around… yes, does come around!
* Except in the case of my brothers, all other names have been changed in this post.
The image used in this Post is by Ashok Ahuja. He is a professional Photographer and a very dear friend of mine. He is also one of the founder members of The Dawn Club, and, along with his gifted-artist wife, Sudha, has been helping me, and the Club, right from its inception.