A former student of mine called yesterday. Since I am an extremely poor conversationalist, silence began to dominate after a brief exchange and he requested me to hand over the phone to my wife who was his teacher for more years than me. Later my wife told me how much the young man, who is now a student of medicine in one of the top medical colleges in the country, admired and acquired some of my ways and attitudes. I was stunned. What admirable qualities do I possess?
Solitude and absolute refusal to gossip and flatter are two of the lessons he learnt from me, among a few others, it seems. “But they are not qualities,” I protested when my wife reported it. No one who wants to be a success can afford to choose solitude and abstain from flattery. I lived among people who would often tell the Principal things like, “Sir, your shoes are shining so well today. Which brand of polish do you use, sir?” Those people are principals today and must be lapping up questions like, “Sir, you look fabulous in this new suit. Was it bought online from Raymonds or from the Metropolitan Mall?”
“He didn’t learn it from me,” I told my wife. “He had it in him.” I reminded her about one incident which took place at school. The whole class 12 had decided to boycott a function because of their disagreement with some management decision. But this one boy stood alone. He did what he thought was right and ignored the entire set of his classmates.
He had understood the hollowness of most human exchanges. He chose solitude because he valued life above such hollowness. Did he learn it from me? I don’t think so. We are guided more by our genetic makeup. The delights of solitude belong to a rare sub-species. And there may be some affinity among that sub-species. That’s why, I guess, he called us the day he got his medical admission and sang a whole song over the phone for two of his schoolteachers.