Thursday, August 10, 2006

Too much knowledge: Case Study 1

This is not a learned observation, but just presenting three case studies of people who have always pursued knowledge and what happened to them. Also about how they are perceived by the rest of their worlds.

Case study no. 1:

A person born into a lower middle class household in 1930s Calcutta, could not buy books in school. His desire to study, to gain knowledge (still undefined), multiplied and reached its threshold and kept waiting there, ready to pounce at the first given opportunity. He borrowed books to start with. Attended school with hand-me-downs of every kind, starting from his uniform to his sandals. He didn't have shoes.

His lust for books of any kind led him to the study library and information sciences and eventually he ended up as a librarian at the National Library in Calcutta. And he read. Kept reading until he could define his area of knowledge: history and politics of the world. So he read history and politics in two languages: English and Bengali. As happened with everybody who was found reading in the fifties and the sixties, he was swept away in the huge gust of communist ideology and landed in a room full of books by Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Engels, Dze Dong: politics, and interesting. Can they save the world after all?

Then came disillusionment with the downfall of communism all over the world. They strangle you, he said. They do not allow free speech, so how can a communist regime be called anything different from Hitler's? Dze Dong started the concept of wall posters in China, so that people can come out with their greivances. They could not speak otherwise. There were many Tiananmens that went unreported many years before Tiananmen. He knew. He told us. And then he went back to reading history. When I gave him the full set of Hobsbaum, he was ecstatic. The same things, but in a different light. Hobsbaum. Why did you have to leave Penguin at all? At least I could get some books.

And his collection grew. The rooms started getting smaller. The storage in his mind bigger. I could not imagine someone with such a scalable head. Keeps getting larger and larger, keeps upgrading its RAM.

All this storage needs some outlet, and he has his tongue. And can he speak now. Speaking became his habit and later an addiction. He started speaking even when alone and his eyes sparkled at the sight of another individual. Soon, the milkman stopped knocking every morning. He stealthily came up to the door and left the packets of milk before it. He did not want any more of Tagore's ideas of nationalism. His son started roaming around with headphones, and his wife went absolutely mum. The neighbors kept their doors firmly shut and in that whole neighborhood people developed an apathy for books. There comes!

There were some others who liked to listen to him. So they called him over and would listen to him speak incessantly. Some would even sit with him every evening, reading something new and taking notes. His wife passed away silently, except for her songs which were captured in tapes. His son looked for an absolutely quiet father-in-law.

He is still speaking. Into the phone, on the stairs, at the marketplace, in letters...

6 comments:

Prerona said...

"Soon, the milkman stopped knocking every morning. He stealthily came up to the door and left the packets of milk before it" reminds me a bit of someone i know ... my dad ... except then its all about his beloved factory. this gentleman sounds wonderful. wish i could meet him

Gargi said...

i did... :)

Manic Street Preacher said...

wow.
wow.
i think i know who ure talkin about?
i'm not just sayin this for a smartass comment on your blog. i really MEAN "wOW".

Enemy of the Republic said...

This is great writing, Oreen.

Oreen said...

what if you guys stop coming to my blog one day?
man, i so look forward to all your comments...what a sucker for comments i am...

thanks...

prero, you wish u cud meet him, well...
gargi, you sure did...and nice to have you here/...
manic, no comments :-p
enemy, long time...been reading you regularly...

Anirban said...

Do I know this gentleman!!! Maan how have I wished for years that I would learn even an iota of what he knew. And just to refresh your memory, he played 'Danda Gulli' too on the streets , if when he was 50 years old.