Compliments - contd.
by Subhash Chandra
(New Delhi, India)
Back to Page 1 of the story
A memory from his early years in teaching floated up. A distant cousin had travelled from Dehradun with his paintings to get his opinion, especially. Anil was no expert on painting. But he could see, they were mediocre – crude, explicit and the colours discordant with the theme. And yet he kept those feelings to himself and said, “I think, they have a lot of angry energy; they are rebellious.” These were random words, spoken off the cuff, meant just to console. But ten years later, he read a report in the newspaper that the same young man had organised an exhibition at Lalit Kala Akademy and his paintings had got rave comments from art critics and aficionados. And the cousin came over to his college with a painting, as a gesture of gratitude. His passion and hard work had worked wonders. So, Anil thought, Prasan, too, would slowly get better with the passage of time. There’s an apprentice period in any field. And Prasan was as passionate about writing as anyone else. So he told him, “Yes, these stories are better than the previous two.”
And each time, he brought more stories Anil would lie, hoping that constant practice would teach him the finer points of the craft. Prasan insisted on him to write his comments on the printouts. Anil did.
One day, instead of Prasan his wife came, and she looked woebegone. She had the same shoulder-bag in which Prasan used to bring.
“Boudi, is everything O.K.?”
“Anila Da, why did you have to do it to him?”
Anil was scared, “Why, what happened? Is Prasan alright?”
She took out of the bag a bunch of stories on which Anil had scribbled his comments: ‘Reasonably good,’ ‘Characters are built well,’ ‘Unusual theme and, therefore, interesting,’ ‘Better than the
earlier two stories.’
“Each one of them has been rejected by the journals and magazines to which he sent them. He has taken long leave from college.”
“I’m sorry, Boudi ...but...”
“He has got into depression. He has lost appetite. He does not shave, bathe or stir out of the house. Most of the time he sits in front of the computer, staring at the blank monitor.”
“It is the early stage. I think you can help him. Will you?”
“Of course, Boudi. I will do anything.”
“Come over and talk to him. He has the highest regard for you as a scholar and a human being. You could do some counselling. I am sure, he will listen to you.”
“Okay, I’ll come over the day after tomorrow evening.”
Anil thought hard how he would go about it. He knew the depressives suffer from low self-esteem; they lose the feeling of self-worth. Prasan was an excellent teacher. A man of impeccable integrity, he would work hard on his lectures and never miss his classes. Anil visited his college, talked to a couple of his English Honours students. They were full of praise for his teaching. “Sir, he is the best professor we have. We’re lucky to be taught by him.”
They readily agreed to accompany Anil to Prasan’s house. The students repeated to Prasan what they had told Anil.
After two days, Prasan came to his college and resumed teaching.
And then one day, after a few months, he again came with the jhola on his shoulder as usual. As Prasan dug into his jhola, Anil’s heart thumped. God not a story again. It was very much a story. But a published one this time.
Prasan handed him the magazine and thanked him profusely. “But for you I would have lost confidence and given up long back.” ***