I am never the one to lament or allow anyone to lament in my presence, un-poked, that ‘A…h, in our good old days, things were so nice and see now, you (miserable lot) would never know of such good things…”
A couple of days back I was asked to take my two minutes of fame in front of an audience, but talking as a student and not a teacher. I had no difficulty in switching the roles, but when I started talking, there was much that came to my heart than what I could possibly verbalize impromptu.
I came off the stage in a few minutes, but then these memories lingered and I owe them a due acknowledgment.
Our typical class was full of arguments, exchange and debates – even accountancy class. That meant that often the allotted time to a chapter would be spent over exploring a single or a few issues, but then that understanding would be so rich and clear, that the follow-up completion of the chapter was a matter of play.
And if we still wanted clarification, we could always chase our prof. How? Look for the prof in their office, and if we could not find them or meet them there, we also went to their homes. There were a few, whose homes were the known dens where students hung around. Again debates, discussions and – lead us to light!!! Once, even after our studies were over, and one of my classmates was my husband, we went to a prof’s home. Of course, we needed no appointments. At midnight, his wife, who was also a prof in another department, and was sitting with us all along, gently reminded her husband that he recently had a by-pass and his doctor had asked him to go to bed no later than midnight. We left.
We also left smoothly the class of some of those faculties who had no demonstrated grip over the subject. We sure prepared for our class, at home, in lobbies and everywhere else, wherever students could hang around. Boy, that way our class never ended.
But then we had self conducted classes to make up for weak teachers, and informal electives, like sketching, cooking, poetry, singing and so much more. May be boys had their own men’s-only electives, we suspected due to thin disguising – but the girls-only lunch hour electives, where we brought our own preparations were invariably plundered and ransacked. Ugh!
And our director – was totally charismatic. A non-stop smoker, he would have killed us all if our course lasted longer than three years. But he was such a giant. Thorough scholar, the one who could take a class in economics to unknown heights and depths, a friend of Amartya Sen, and the one with remarkable sense of humor. How did one get that blend of a personality?
He and other profs, would insist that we include field work in our projects and then sit for hours discussing and critiquing our proposals and observations. Once our work brushed so closely with investigative journalism when we did not get permission to conduct our interviews on-site: we went to the locality where the workers lived, interviewed them over a cup of tea brewed in one of their shacks, saw their forearms and hands and discussed their working conditions. We almost fought with our prof who graded it only B+ : he did not budge – did not explain also! How unfair
One thing I remember distinctively. When we had our first case discussion, after about several minutes of the class desperately trying to diagnose, I said something that was very close. The prof, after some time, while criticizing the class for being slow and unclear, put down my comment as ‘intuitive’. For quite some time I went around believing that intuition was not good, rationality was desirable.
As I was climbing down the stage, I felt lucky that I have come full circle from the days then to days now – I can be rational without losing my intuition.