Professor Sen has always been the favorite teacher of all the students of Rathama University. He had served the institution for 40 years and called them his ruby years of life. There was something special in his teaching style, his personality, his deliverance that always drove the students towards him.
Professor Sen was our Psychology teacher in undergraduate years. His classes were always full of energy. Debates, analysis, arguments, and stories. Oh yes, the stories. His ability to come up with an anecdote on every topic was his specialty. That was the reason nobody wanted to miss his class. One can copy the notes but cannot gain the experience of being flown into the world of imagination.
I was reminiscing the best moments of his college life while driving. I wanted to reach Mr. Sen’s house as soon as possible. I was not able to keep myself calm ever since I’ve received Manik’s phone call.
“Do you know Shweta, Mr. Sen is very ill. We should meet him.” I could sense the seriousness of the situation by his shaking voice.
“Okay Manik. I will pick you up from Ruby Park sharp at 10:00 A.M.” and I hung up.
I floated back to the memory lane. In one of our classes, we were discussing the physically disabled people. One of my friends put his view by saying that these are special people. “I have seen many blind people with amazing hearing ability and sensing the colors with touch,” he said and we could not agree more. We were waiting for Mr. Sen’s views. We knew his views will have some significant remarks and most importantly some anecdotes. This time too he did not disappoint us.
“I don’t think blind people can physically hear better than normally sighted people, but yes, I agree with you that they outperform them in hearing tasks. This is because of their perception. They use their idle part of the brain to process the information from remaining sensory cells. This is called reorganizing the functions of these areas. Not only this, my dear,” he continued, “their perception towards life is also unique. They can turn their disability into productivity. Let me narrate an incident with you.”
“I once got an opportunity to work in an NGO for deaf and blind children and adults. I had some inhibitions and doubts in the beginning and I won’t lie, I was a bit nervous too. I had thought it would be difficult to communicate with them. What if I am not able to understand what they want to say or not able to explain what I want to say? Thoughts such as these were making me restless but as soon as I entered the premises, all my prejudice about disability changed. There were no gloomy faces. Everyone was happy there. An extraordinary blend of the expressions of contentment with curiosity to know more was on their faces. A rare combination of the gleam of hope in their otherwise silent eyes could be seen. I worked with them for a month on my project. We generally used to hold their hands to engage them in conversation because hands are their ears, eyes, and voice. Their communication- partner was also there to avoid miscommunication from our side. In one of the interactions, a kid told me that they too have dreams. The only difference is that they do not see the dreams through their eyes, but enshrine them in their hearts. He said their dreams always come true because they cannot hear phrases such as “This is difficult” or “You can’t do it”.
This is the sort of confidence they possess. It is not their special sense of power bur much beyond that. It is their perception towards life. We cannot change what we do until we change who we are.”
We were mesmerized by this narration of his. Our concept of life and its hardships has changed that day.
I reached Ruby Park sharp at 10 A.M. Manik was waiting at the front gate. We waved at each other and he quickly sat in the car.
“I hope we will see him hale and hearty,” Manik said.
I could not say anything. I was choked.
After 4 hours of non-stop drive, we reached Malda, Mr. Sen’s hometown. His daughter opened the door.
“How is Sir?” I asked.
“Serious,” she sighed. “Doctors said there is not much hope now. Cancer has spread all over the body. The bones have become brittle now.”
Mr. Sen was very happy to see his old students. “Shweta.. Manik. I knew my kids would come to meet me one day. A teacher’s life is incomplete without his students. I could not die before looking at my children’s faces.”
“I have not seen him so happy for a few months. I am so glad you have come. He would die peacefully now,” his daughter said.
Mr. Sen looked toward his daughter and replied, “Somya, my child! I was ever at peace and contentment because I knew my purpose of life – spreading knowledge and teaching human values in the easiest known way. That was the reason I always used anecdotes in my lectures. I know how much you all liked to hear that.” Sir looked at us with shining eyes.
“Each and everything on this earth has their own purpose. Vegetation gives food for all living organisms, rivers provide water, cattle give milk so on so forth. Similarly, there is some purpose to your lives too. So broaden your horizon to include what will happen after you have died in this physical world. The chapter doesn’t end with this life. Instead, a new chapter starts. So plan now. As the saying goes – if we fail to plan, we plan to fail.”
We were listening to him intently. He has still got that charm of captivating anyone with his analysis and that day what we got was the biggest lesson of our lives.
“We all are immigrants in this world. We have come here by choice and so we should never forget our purpose. We are not refugees here because none of us are forced to come into this world. We were not tortured or oppressed in the other world. Still, we live like refugees who are afraid to return, afraid of death. We have come here to nurture our soul, to do some unfinished task.
Have you ever thought about it? If not, start thinking. Life is nothing without purpose.”
His last sermon still resonates in my ears. Our favourite teacher has left this world giving us our last assignment of finding our purpose in life and reminding us of our identity – We all are immigrants in this world.
© Priyanka Kabra