A MATTER OF TIME
By Neel Anil Panicker
“Let me start by telling you a story, if you please. But before that let me begin with a Biblical aphorism: You reap what you sow.”
He heard some rumblings from the back and looked towards the last bench.
Pin drop silence followed. Years of teaching MBA aspirants had enabled Keshav Chandran, the senior most Verbal Faculty at ‘Coaching Time’ to appropriate this moment for himself. His every single movement and action following this was choreographed right down to down to a T. Like a master conductor in charge of the largest symphony in the world, he played to hilt all the instruments at his command. And so began the slow languorous moon walk around his enclosure, the small space around the student seating area that was his own personal fiefdom, his own private space from where he lorded over his ‘flock’.
His eyes, razor sharp as an eagle’s, swept past the four rows of the jam packed classroom, lingering over each student, at times swooping down on a few, especially the ones he found interesting, ones that intrigued him no end.
Several pairs of eyes followed the direction of the raised finger.
“Yes you, the boy in the check shirt, the one who has a blazing red bandana strapped around his egg shaped head.”
The student who was now at the crosshairs of his ‘investigation’ shifted uneasily in his chair.
“A man is known by the clothes he wears. Do you know what that means?”
The hapless student looked to his left and right and wished the ground below him gave way and he disappeared into it.
Keshav Sir decided to ease the tension now that he had made his point. Sarcasm could very well have been his middle name. He liked putting his students into awkward, uncomfortable situations, pushing them to the wall, their hands raised high up, and then slowly extricating them and pulling them back top safety.
‘That’s what a teacher should do, that’s what a good teacher’s job is, the role he needs to play,’ he loved to say to all ‘Trainee Faculty’ who attended his compulsory ‘handholding sessions’.
The class he was currently addressing was an Introductory Class. The very first of the current academic year. A ‘Happy Morning’ Class that commenced on the dot at 8 am on weekdays.
He had stepped into the corner room recently refurbished class at the appointed hour and found myself staring into the eyes of some 40 odd students, eager beavers all, their faces aglow with the excitement of attending coaching from the numero uno institute in the whole of India.
As is customary, he kickstarted the process by asking the students to come to the front and introduce themselves.
They had come, their faces displaying rigour and vigour, a few, in their over enthusiasm, even tripping over others’ legs and bouncing books, papers, water bottles et al off tables and chairs.
The odd few held onto their seats, resolutely refusing to part from their positions, their heads lowered, eyes half shut, as if in deep contemplation of the ground beneath their trembling feet.
But a good hour later, the ice had broken, and after that it was the deluge. Everything thereafter had turned well and now there was an easy camaraderie between not just the teacher and the taught but also among the students.
By now, Keshav Sir had taken complete control of the class of eager beavers and had the students eating out of his hands.
“Well, dear students, that’s another aphorism. Aphorisms by their very nature are a holy cow, immune to being twisted, tweaked or even turned around on its head. At least that’s what they are meant to be otherwise why would anyone refer to them as an aphorism. Take, for instance another very popular one: Honesty is the best policy. A great moral compass, a very apt philosophical saying and absolutely attuned to the olden era when human values enjoyed primacy over all other values.
But the world has moved on and how. Now try plugging this dogma to today’s millennials and you are sure to be dismissed as a crackpot.
But why only the millennials? Only the other day a 52-year-old man found himself behind bars only because he had filed an Income Tax return that mentioned his annual income as over 40 lakhs. So what, one may ask?.
But consider this: the said person turned out to be a notorious bootlegger, also the kingpin of a multi-state illicit liquor conglomerate whose trail the police and excise authorities were pursuing for the past so many years.
An overzealous Excise official smelled a rat and tipped off the cops who landed up at his house with an arrest warrant.
The hapless man was paying for his honesty in declaring his ‘true’ income right down to the last rupee.
This, as countless other incidents from recent past, very unambiguously drive home the point this adage as innumerable others of its ilk have bitten the dust, having clearly far outlived their expiration dates.
And that brings me to the subject at hand which is: Isn’t it time we bid adieu to one more such anachronism and that is that ‘Time heals all wounds.’
I mean for centuries we, as in all of mankind have been fed this spiel that Father Time is the biggest and greatest healer if ever there was one and with the passage of time all of a person’s suffering will simply vamoosh into thin air, as if they never ever existed.
No, this is all wrong. Utter gibberish, so very false and misleading. This is the most outrageously inaccurate adage that has ever been bandied about since the beginning of time, since the time when Adam and Eve, the very first homo sapiens frolicked around in the Garden of Eden.
But what’s even more surprising is that thanks to centuries of brainwashing, all of us have been conditioned to believe to our heart’s conviction what essentially is a lie morphed, packaged, and resold as an eternal truth.
And thanks o the relentless perpetuation, such patent falsehood now stands ramrod straight, shining bright and in glory, wearing the bewitchingly chic cloak of public approbation, thereby giving it the much needed veneer of respectability.
As for the damning truth (and this is something I strongly aver and is culled from my very many years of experience of life within and outside of the classroom), time doesn’t heal all wounds, it only helps us to deal with such wounds better in future.
Ah! There you go, did I hear you say it?
Another grain of wisdom. To that I say yes, and why not, if that grain of wisdom is hundred per cent genuine, something that comes with its own ISI mark?
So,a natural corollary to all this is the beguiling question that begs for an answer: How does one tackle life’s seemingly insurmountable battles and solve all the earth shattering problems that beset a man’s life?
.Well, my answer to that is: Negative Capability.
‘A what, did I hear you say? Prey, what the devil is Negative Capability. Well, negative capability is the panacea for all our seemingly unconquerable problems that life throws at you every once in awhile.
To all Doubting Thomases out there, I shall validate this with something that happened to me personally.
But before that let me tell you what some literary greats have to say about this coinage.
“it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously – I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.”
That’s John Keats, the venerated English Romantic poet.
And chew on this, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
Well that, if you didn’t already know is the writer of such masterpieces as ‘The Great Gatsby’ and ‘Tender is the Night’, ‘John F. Fitzgerald.
And now for the practical aspect of all that I have said. As a serious student, one whose dream it is to get into
any one of the top IIMs and one who is taking coaching here ‘Time Coaching’ you will wrest with this philosophy on a daily basis__ be it in the class or outside of it.
The role that Negative Capability plays in our life is paramount to whether we make a huge success of it or not.
Now, take your case itself. All of you have enrolled here and are about to commence your classes.
You are embarking on one of the most difficult of journeys in your life, which is taking a shot at cracking one of the most competitive examinations in the world.
As the days unfold every single day your mind will play mind games with you. From sky high exhilaration to rock bottom despondency, from taking classes that seem like a walk in the park to being hit all over the park, every single hour, minute, second, and moment you will find yourself swinging like a yo-you gone dangerously loose, oscillating between hope and despair.
At the end of each rigorous class and after you have mastered or thought to have mastered every single concept and theorem and trick and technique that could help in your quest to solve questions comfortably, accurately and most importantly speedily, there could be times when you will be beset with problems, occasions when you will arrive at a dead end, the fork, when you will be faced with a dilemma, a dilemma of varied choices, all looking good or all looking bad.
Suddenly you will find yourself at the crossroads, not knowing what to do and what not to do; your ego smashed to smithereens wondering how the very same type of questions that you were able to solve in a jiffy only hours or days before had now very heartbreakingly turned into ‘tough’ ones.
Your position is akin to the climber who straddles up the coconut tree only to find that there are no more coconuts left to pluck. Adding to the sense of acute discomfiture and of having failed is that fact that instead of slowly climbing down and trying to climb some other coconut tree, one that is full of nuts, you are hell bent on jumping onto the next tree, which is as good as committing hara kiri, caught as you were in netherland, your life precariously dangling from the edges. Like a merry go wheel gone off the rails you play with your life, feeling confident one moment and diametrically opposite the very next moment.
So, my advice to all of you students is simply this:
Fall in I love with the world of knowledge, with the world of books, pay minute attention to every single word that your teachers and mentors tell you, believe but don’t trust all that they tell. Hear them but retain to yourself the power to question all that they say. Know that there could be not just one side to a problem or situation. Brutally rip apart the issue, lay it bare, and then examine every single microscopic detail as if you were a top class forensic investigation specialist, rifling through seemingly innocuous everyday noticeables, looking for unseen clues, clues whose rightful detection and deduction could stop an innocent from being sent to the gallows and the guilty slapped with a conviction.
Develop the ability to hold two entirely opposing ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. Look at every single answer with suspicion that borders on morbidity as if it were a murder suspect only letting it off the hook after you have exhausted all the possibilities of its guilt.
Likewise, there will be days when you will feel like giving it all up, be utterly frustrated, think that no good can ever happen to you.
It is then that you must remember that the all great innovations and achievements that have ever birthed this world are all from the kernel of doubt, and uncertainty and sprung about after battling a prolonged confidence crisis of faith.
\So, dear students, don’t get bogged down when life throws you one those square balls.
Instead, pick them up and smash them for a six, and the way to do that is to know and make friends with your negativities.
Equip yourself well enough to first recognize, acknowledge, and thereby become capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.”
Do that, and you will never ever end up a loser.
©neelanilpanicker2018 #fiction #CAT #COACHINGTIME #2130WORDS