Remembering Gangu Sir…

July 26, 2011 at 9:15 AMJul (Friends, Letter, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

A student friend messaged me saying, “Sir I am reading Gandhiji’s autobiography.” My reply read, “May be this will change your views about the great man.”

Within a few seconds my mind went to my personal copy of Gandhiji’s autobiography. My mind opened the cover page of my copy and I could see, through my mind’s eye, written on the first page of my copy, in a red ink, ‘Wishing you a happy birthday. With love- Gangadhar E. Naik’ dated 30 March 1998.

Year 1997-98. We were in class 8 and during the second half of the academic year there were a bunch of B.Ed. trainees who came to our school to teach us for a couple of months as a part of their training. I faintly remember that there was someone to teach Science for our class. Or was it Mathematics? I don’t remember. But I remember, very well remember, Gangadhar E. Naik teaching the students of our class who had opted for Kannada as first language. I had opted for Sanskrit and never got to attend the classes of Gangadhar E. Naik. But he was quite popular among the students who had opted Kannada as their first language. We, the students of Sanksrit, heard a lot about this man and his classes. Not that his classes were excellent or extraordinary but that he was a very very friendly man. So we named him Gangu like we would have a shorter version for any of our friends. Then on, among our friends, we would refer to him as Gangu Sir.

Though he never took classes for us, he knew all our names and would also talk to us whenever we crossed paths. Once as were walking near the staff room he called my friend (Preetham, if am not wrong) and me. When we entered he asked, “So, you have renamed me?” We got scared. Thinking that he would complain about it to our teachers we started giving explanations and justifying ourselves. I remember saying, “Sir, people call me Sammu so I thought Gangu and Sammu would rhyme so we just referred to you so once. Not more than once Sir.” He just said, “I like the name and I felt happy that you thought I was so close to you all that you could rename me.” Then I remember having walked out of the staff room with the pride that I had managed to escape and that I had fooled someone with my answer.

With passing days Gangu Sir got close to few of us. He also started calling me Sammu, as I in my defence, had told him about the rhyming scheme. Being friendly with students was quite revolutionary on our school where teachers were not just strict but also spied on the students. His friendly approach was welcomed by all of us. We enjoyed his company and he enjoyed ours. After a couple of months he had to leave. He left. Though Ganu Sir’s training in our school was over he was still in Udupi. He would call some of us, including me, once a week asking how we were. Once when he had called me I told him that it was my birthday the following day and asked him to come home. He gifted me with Gandhiji’s autobiography.

That evening while talking to my parents he said he loved his time in our school especially because the students were lovely and also said that he had got very attached to all of us. In the same conversation he had also said where his room in Udupi was. I made a note of it mentally and decided to pay a surprise visit. When I gave a surprise visit he was extremely happy. He was sitting and writing a letter to someone in his room when I entered his room which had doors kept open. I told him that I too wrote letters to my cousins. That is when we had decided to exchange letters after he left Udupi.

He was in Hassan for sometime. Then in Madhya Pradesh for sometime. Wherever he was he wrote letters and also called occasionally. There were times when he would call and say, “It is so boring here. No friends. So called you.” I was quite young, I guess, to understand what it means to feel alienated and not connected to the world in which you reside. Whenever he called he would speak for hours together. We friends would tell each other that Gangu Sir had called and everyone had the same ‘complaint’ that he spoke for long and that it irritated our parents. Slowly some started avoiding him. But he and I continued to speak for hours and write letters to each other. He would ask me why others were not talking to him properly and the easiest answer I had with me was, “Sir they are all doing either medicine or engineering those courses demand too much of study. May be that is why…” and he would agree with me. This was years after he had come to our school as a part of training.

In the year 2004 October I had been to Heggodu for the yearly culture course. That was my first visit to Heggodu. One day after the morning first session was over, we all came out for a cup of tea and a friend of mine said, “Samvartha someone has come in search of you.” I was shocked. Who would come in search of me in Heggodu? That too when I myself am new to the place. I asked my friend, “Who is it?” and he pointed his finger towards a man. I look in that direction and there stood Gangu Sir.

I ran to him feeling glad to see a familiar human in a new place. I asked him if he was a part of the course. He said, “No. I had called your place last evening to tell you that I have come to Siddapura (his village). That is when your sister informed me that you are here. I felt very happy because Heggodu is close to Siddapura and I can meet you. He insisted we go to Sagara on his bike. I agreed and sat on his bike. On the way I asked him how far is Siddapura from Heggodu. “Around 40 kilometers,” he said. I was shocked!!! Gangu Sir, who was my teacher during my high school, would travel 40 kms on his bike just to meet me. I was deeply moved. Who was I? Why did I mean so much to him? I dint know. I realized that he was a very emotional man and remembered his words to my dad saying he got very attached to all of us.

He took me to a very good restaurant in Sagara. We were having food and talking. That day in our conversation he said, “Sammu, you shouldn’t grow up. Though you have grown up you are still the same high school going Samvartha to me. As one grows he loses his innocence. That pains. You all got so close to my heart those days was because while I was seeing a different kind of world filled with selfishness and cut throat competition I got to spend time with you all and you all were so innocent and uncorrupt. You all were like fresh breeze. You all mean so much to me because in your company I can still see humanity surviving somewhere.” Though I did not understand every word he said that day, I remember every word, to this day. I had understood that he was referring to the elderly world as corrupt and children as innocents. But slowly I understood why the man was so emotional about all of us, why he would speak to us for hours over the phone, why he would write lengthy letters to us saying there are no friends and why he would travel 40 kms on his bike just to meet me for a couple of hours.

I understood this even the more when I entered the world of selfishness and cut throat competition. I remember the day I completed my masters degree I had messaged Kinnari madam saying I am done with my exams. He reply was, “Welcome to the big bad dirty world.” It dint take much of a time to realize how bad and dirty the world is. But thankfully my first job was of a teacher and I got to interact closely with students who were just out of school, with still some innocence left in them. As and when I started spending more time with my students just because it was more comfortable and energizing being with the still not corrupted minds, I remembered Gangu Sir a lot and his words in Sagara. I too started wishing that my students would never grow up.

While I was doing my masters I got too involved with my course and my institutions. I forgot many friends and also my family. Gangu also disappeared slowly. During my third sem, while I was interning in Bangalore, I was terribly hurt by a friend and was walking on the streets of Bangalore all alone. My cel phone rang. It read ‘Gangu’. I cut the call. He called again. I cut the call again. He called again and again. I cut the call again and again. That was it. He never called me again. That was 2007 December.

In my melancholic mood I did not realize how rude it was on my part to repeatedly cut the calls of a man who was so emotionally attached to me. I thought my pain was larger than the universe. Probably that hurt him. He never called. Later when I remembered him very much as and when I was getting attached to my students, I thought of calling him several times. But I did not have the moral courage to call him for I knew that I was unnecessarily rude to him and had hurt him. I remained silent and the silence continued. I felt guilty. But there was no way that I could cleanse my sin.

Years passed. I left Manipal, went to Mangalore. Left Mangalore came to Delhi. Now even Delhi is also almost done. Wher is Gangu? How is he? Sadly, I think, against his wish, I too grew up and became a part of the selfish world to think that my pain was larger than the heart of the man who would travel 40 kms on the bike just to meet me for a couple of hours. I had disrespected his emotions. I had disrespected him too, through my rude behavior. I had misbehaved with the man who was in our school for just two months but never taught me yet got emotionally attached to me crossing the unseen ocean that flows between students and teachers in that school, who saw me as a friend leaving aside the fact that officially he and I shared a teacher-student relationship. I had hurt him. I was guilty. But the river kept flowing. I would remember him once in a while and tell myself- That was bad of you Samvartha. You shouldn’t have done so.

Two days ago somehow I remembered Gangu a lot. I was still awake at 00:30 hours in the night. I decided to break the silence. I checked if I had his number on my phone. Yes I had his number. I sent me a message at the ungodly hour saying, “Greetings to Gangu Sir. Remembering you. Hope you are doing good” and did not reveal my identity, even while knowing that he doesn’t have my Delhi phone number, just because of my guilt which was pricking me as intensely as I was remembering him. After some good twenty minutes his reply landed. “May I know who is this? I have a feeling that it is Samvartha”. My eyes had mist on them. I said “Yes, it is Samvartha” and within a minute he replied “I wont ask how you are for I know you would be doing well in life. How are your parents? Where are you these days? Doing what? It has been so long Sammu.” The moment I read him referring to me as Sammu tears broke open through my eyes.

Gangu promised me to call yesterday. I was waiting. He did not. I thought of calling him, several times. But my guilt was something that stopped me even after the messages that we exchanged. Will Gangu call me? I don’t know. Will I be able to call him? For that I should be able to forgive myself. Can I ever? I don’t know.

1 Comment

  1. Shrip said,

    it is like e a flower in the old book

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