The man who first introduced T.S.Eliot to me, as a poet who could use language and religion (religion?) as no other, was a great man. He had told me it was better to study Physics than Literature. And today, I don't know whether I half believe him or not.
There's no way to make sure, of course. He died in 2007. I miss him like anything. I miss his coarse jokes, I miss his obnoxious cigars, I miss his wheezy scoldings, I miss everything.
The strangest thing is, when he died, I was blank. He always liked my poetry, he liked even my worst poems, the ones I wrote when I was an overbearing horribly pretentious and precocious kid who read Bishnu Dey and Symbolist poetry. You know the type I'd not like so much now. Would I like a 13 year old who reads Joyce and Rimbaud? And thinks Shakti Chattopadhyay is best read at that age only?
Maybe that's because I don't like kids.
However, that is to say, as I was reading Eliot today, for a test, desperately cramming lines for Monday's test- to be able to quote and impress- of course, otherwise what's the point, eh? I remembered my dearest Arko Jethu, physicist and raconteur par excellence. He knew it all by heart and he would have thought studying for a Literature test quite boring and useless, for the test of Literature is not something that one sits for one winter morning. The best student of Literature, according to him, was one who lived it. A month before he died, he asked me to return his Collected Eliot.
And that is why, sometimes, when I try to make sense of things hurriedly before a test, I miss him horribly. Because for him, he of that honed memory and remarakable rigour, of record marks in Physics for more than a few generations, who could quote from his favouritest works of literature at will, literature was not dreary academia. For him, the mind it was that shone through the darkest days and the worst hours. This was a mind that grasped life in its entirety and that knew no pettiness. Which is why perhaps,nobody or nothing could really touch him.
Since Prufrock was one of his favourite poems, I read that at his memorial service. He had believed that I would do remarkably well when I chose to study English. Alas, the initial interest has worn off a bit, I know I am no great shakes really. Just as I failed him in Physics, I have failed him in this. I feel so awfully guilty. I am, as he once said, worse than a dhnyaarosh. All the champagne and ham gone to naught.
I have not been able to live literature.
And now as this sinks in, I wonder. What can I do? Is there anything I'd be good at? I wish I could act, or paint, or dance, or sing, or just solve sums. I can't do anything. The way I'd want to.
Frustrated, non-existent genius is a dangerous thing i.e., to rephrase, a little knowledge etc.