I have been asked this question a lot (not really): Why do you write? When we started this blog, and even before it, I came across people who all have their reasons. A father writes about Autism acceptance because he wants his son to grow in a world where he is not frowned upon. Another mother writes her young son and daughter online notes, which they can read when they grow up. Yet another writes because he has something on his mind, and Twitter and Facebook don’t cut it anymore (they never did). I don’t have any of those reasons. Then, why do I find words, why do I construct sentences, why do I create stories? Hitler in Mein Kampf wrote: “A lot less people are won over by the written word, than they are by the spoken one”. Then why do I persist in one of the most difficult arts?
I do it, for two simple reasons:
- I like it.
- I am good at it.
Both of these can be credited to various ladies in my life; who took upon themselves to teach me English, proper Grammar Nazi-like (I call myself a Grammar Jedi) English. When you are young ( I mean innocent childish young… I am still very young), you seem to enjoy everything Arts, Maths, Science, History. Also as a child, you always have your favorite teachers, mine in-variably were the ones who taught English. And they loved me back. I was a straight arrow, had a dimpled smile, and loved to read books, I mean I was a dream boat of a student if there ever was one. They showed and taught me the lure and grace of the spoken/written word. They taught me the secret art of grammar, and schooled me in the way of the Grammar Jedi.
The very first memory I have of my interaction with my “English teacher” was when I mixed up genders (used a he instead of a she) while making a sentence. The class laughed, and so did she, but I don’t remember being embarrassed (perhaps I thought I had made a good joke). But I remember her telling us that there is ‘a he in every her’. The class giggled again, this time I joined in. She smiled back at me and said, “See, it isn’t that hard.”
Flash forward a few years, and I am a teenager, exploring the world as much through books as through the internet. Our English teaching duties were handed over to a beautiful Bengali teacher, who went by the name of Sanjukta Banerjee. As most Bengalis are, she was well versed in literature. This was also the time when we were moving on from short Ruskin Bond stories to Shakespeare’s plays and Wordsworth poems. One day she was discussing with us Milton’s Paradise Lost (believe me that book was still way over our head). I don’t know what led to the discussion, but I remember what she said
“When you read Paradise Lost, you realize how much Milton wanted this to be about Lucifer. Almost right through the book, he takes Lucifer’s side, raising him to a level where he becomes a worthy opponent to god himself. Then he realizes what he has done, and might get into trouble for what he is doing, and then brings him down.”
While most of what she said didn’t make sense, the way she said it made an impression. I felt the same goosebumps when I read, “I am vengeance, I am the night, I am Batman”. I could almost see Marc Anthony when he said, “Friends, Roman, Countrymen… I come to bury Ceaser, not to praise him.”. I knew now, that it was not uncommon to feel like this, instead it was actually very natural when you were doing something you loved.
During my final two years as a school going kid, I had 2 teachers who shared English teaching duties. Rajita Thapa, was a young 25 something teacher, who inspired us to pick “Write a Story” from the Composition section, instead of writing according to cues. She taught me that to think fantastical and big you didn’t need 800 pages. She taught me to write what I like instead of writing what gave me marks. In an atmosphere where it was imperative that I did what made profit, she taught me to do something which I liked.
The other one is a little more special. Mrs. Saraswat was a slim, convent schooled, hearty, white-haired lady who just happened to be my first valentine (that’s a story for another day). One day when I asked her how did it matter if I used your instead of you’re, and she said
“Dear boy, very soon, you are going to be writing poems. Poems for your friends, for your girlfriends.”, she paused and smiled coyly at the red cheeked boy. “At that time.”, she continued, “You would realize, that finding the right word is important, but it’s the right comma, the right full-stop and the right apostrophe which makes all the difference. People like pretty words, but they love perfect ones.”
Of course in between all this, I learned a lot of tangible things too. But these little pearls of wisdom helped me become what I am today. I try to write and create a world, I try to write what I want to write, and I try to write it as it should be written. But most importantly I write it because even if I make mistakes, I am not embarrassed by them.
While this might not be your exact tale, I am sure a lot of you can relate (if you had the patience to read through all of that). So if this made you think of your English teacher, or any other teacher for that matter, tell me how they touched and changed your life.