I, consciously, made a decision to improve my English when I was in twelfth standard, Fr.Lawrence was our English professor and he was teaching us Shakespeare’s plays such as King Lear, Julius Caesar and Merchant of Venice. He was the first teacher, who, made me conscious of my English problem. Later, in my F.Y. B.Com, when Prof. B.S. Raman came to teach us Accountancy and Commercial Geography, I had decided to what to do in life: like him, a fine teacher. So, by now, I knew, what I had to do to achieve that goal… I was determined to do something about my English…

There is this famous saying:
“When you decide what you want in life, the whole Universe conspires to support you.”

In my case, the Universe did not do any partiality…  My dad’s sister (Sr. Leo) was a nun and lived in a convent, hundreds of miles away from my home. One day, a sister by the name Sr. Lawrence, who was a very dear friend of my aunt, travelled all the way from their convent just to gift me a very fat – and exhaustive – English dictionary. It was called 'The Encyclopedic Webster’s’ Dictionary’… It was much beyond a normal dictionary. I just fell in love with it… from the day one and spent hours and hours immersing in it…

Our College (the famed St. Aloysius College) had a wonderful library. There was this Reader’s Digest book – ‘Write Better Speak Better’. I would sit for hours after my college, till it became dark, and learn English. Later, when I came to Bombay, got my first salary, the very first thing I did was - buy a copy of this book. It cost me, then, Rs. 150!

When we started THE DAWN CLUB in 1989, we decided to build a fantastic library of motivational and other books. I got hold of so many of Readers’ Digest books apart from ‘Write Better Speak Better’… They had this whole range of dictionaries and thesaurus… to name some: 'Reverse Dictionary', 'Visual Dictionary', 'Word Power Dictionary', 'Right Word at Right Time' and so on. We ended up buying all of them and housed them in our library... We had the Britannica and World Book volumes too… and, I remember spending lots and lots of time going through them...

All this was before the invasion of internet.

Once the internet came in – and, importantly, once I learnt how to use a computer and become fairly conversant with use of internet – like everyone else around me, I found answers to my English problems right here – on this computer screen – yes, just by the click of these buttons!

You know what, I also found a very young and vibrant, colorful and sassy dictionary called – ‘Urban Dictionary’.

A week ago, I was with one of my very dear friends… He is a supremely gifted, very articulate, highly qualified and yes, very loved and adored, professional. While we were in the midst of a discussion, a person appeared. I knew this person well but my friend did not. So, when this person said something quite nasty (though he did not mean it), my friend could not take it… He flared up and blasted at the man. I tried to explain to my friend that I knew the person and he did not mean it… “It is okay,” I tried to calm down my friend who was angry for my sake.

“No Gerry… It is not okay,” my friend was empathic, “Remember, you are not going to take this 'shit’ anymore. Period!”

I kept silent…

But, that night, I referred to the Urban Dictionary to find out what my friend’s powerful line really meant:
When you don't let other people bring you down.

And, then, just yesterday, this happened… A very dear student of mine, who hails from a fantastic family and, who I can vouch to be a beautiful soul… Posted a comment on one of the tweets…
The tweet said:
“Making a joke does not prove you have a sense of humor. Taking a joke does.”

My sweetheart (student) said:

‘Deep shit’!!!

I smiled so much… the smile lasted in my heart till the sun went down, late last evening…

I have given away all the books in THE DAWN CLUB library – hundreds of them – to an international school run by one of my dear friends. But, I haven’t given away the two books, which made a huge, huge difference when I needed it the most...  the one gifted by ‘Sr. Lawrence - ‘The Encyclopedic Webster’s Dictionary’… and the other, Reader’s Digest classic – ‘Write Better Speak Better’!

I am conscious of the world I live in…  I am conscious of the fact that each and every soul on this planet – including this mortal – has a very young and vibrant… a very colorful and sassy Urban Dictionary inside him…

I am a ‘bloody’ liar, if I claim, “I don’t”!


Pic.: Alex D.


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