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Learning, a ceaseless process, a phenomenon on which the law of our existence cycles, an unending event, which irrespective of our wants, is a part of us till our last breath. We learn to cry, to laugh, to hurt others or spread smiles, to accept fidelity or be corrupt, to be positive or pessimist, to win over the world or be lackadaisical. Lessons are taught everyday but it is up to us what morals we draw from them. When it comes to learning, Loreto convent, my school, is an inevitable part to mention. Whatever I am, it is because of this institution and if I studied in this Institution then it is because of my mother. However, coming back to learning I remember that thrice a week we used to have Moral Science classes which were taken by the nuns in my school. Moral plays, moral stories, moral talks etc., constituted the content for those classes.
One day Sister Celine took our class. She was an Irish lady and we admired her for the effortless grace, the impeccable eloquence, her refined gait and of course her commendable accent. That one class that she took had a profound impact on me. Literally we learnt grammar but sensitively we learnt sensibility; by discussing differences between simple words. She held us a painting of a girl, her back to us and an endless sea ahead. Softly she asked,” What do you see?” It was simple to answer and she seemed satisfied with our participation. She held the painting again and opined,” And what do you ‘observe’?” the stress on the last word told us something grave. She did not say a word more but everyone got her implication. Here came plethora of ‘observations’ and not just ‘what we saw’. We observed the insatiability of belongingness of the girl, we observed her poignant watch towards the ocean, we observed her patient yearning for someone, we certainly learnt things about that picture that mere ‘seeing’ could not have taught us. We learnt a lesson of a lifetime.
Then, feathers of a bird were distributed to us. She intently asked again, “So, my girls, what do you touch?” enthusiastically we came with expected answers. Then the question, “And , my children, what do you sense?” We were now getting the game. We now understood what our teacher was actually teaching us. We sensed the gentleness of God, we sensed the smoothness of bliss, we sensed tranquillity of divinity, and we had now learnt the art of sensing.
Eagerly, we waited for our next lesson. Pin drop silence was maintained in the class. Just the traffic on the road or mild cacophony of a distant class were audible. Amid all this, we learnt our lesson. We were asked to listen. We had to ‘listen’ and not just ‘hear’. We closed our eyes and listened to something which we had never heard, or rather never endeavoured to hear. We heard the rustle of the leaves, the singing of sparrows, the raindrops on roses, the anxious movement of a squirrel, the innocent laughter of a toddler. We listened. We listened intently. These were the lessons of a lifetime.
Ten years down the line, I learnt the significance of these priceless lessons. I was working in The American Centre for Languages as an English trainer. Amazing was the fact that I got to tutor students who were twice my age and way more experienced. Glad to learn from them and gladder was I to impart some of my knowledge. Once while having a group discussion I observed the restlessness of one of my students, which had been since a long time. She was a 58 year old woman, principal of Hindi medium school and a very ardent learner of English. I respected her not only because of her age but the eagerness she had for this language. I had observed her for long and now it was irresistible for me to ask the reason for her anxiety. We sat in the isolated teachers’ parlour. She held my hand. I held back. I sensed that touch. That touch had an infectious melancholy, there was a search for healing of her inner wounds, there was an unquenchable thirst within her, that touch, that grip desired for the unachievable in her life. Without my further interrogations she confessed something that I had never thought of.
She was an unmarried woman who had accepted spinsterhood to look after her mother. All her siblings were married and settled out of station. And now she lived all lone. After the death of her mother, it was the children of her school that were her life. Her job was not only a monetary necessity for her but it was an emotional satisfaction. Now she was being asked by the managerial committee to resign. She knew that it would someday happen but never thought that she would be shunned so callously. Serving after twenty years, she never desired to be asked to leave so abruptly and only because she was now at retire able age. She was broken but I observed the thing hurt her the most. She wanted someone to see her pain, she wanted someone to share her loss, she wanted someone to console her, to support her and most importantly, someone to listen to her. I knew just listening to her will lessen her trauma, she will calm down, she will find peace. She struggled for a couple of days but ultimately she resigned. Those tears perturbed me too. I wanted to do more than listen to her, or advise her but was unable to figure out anything. Then one day she disappeared for some time only to be heard after a week. I was glad to see her smiling. She came to me, hugged me and told that her students were eager to come to her for tuitions and incessantly thanked me. I had tears of jubilation that day. I learnt something more in life.
Just observe those who need you, just sense their sorrow, just listen to their anxiety and trust me you can make a huge difference to someone’s life. This does not mean that one has to fetch someone with grief. Talk to your closest one. Everyone has troubles, some day the teacher shouts or the boss nags, someday the mother in law scolds someday the daughter in law disrespects, sometime the children do not care or sometimes the spouse hurts you, that poignant ambience around you can be forever dismissed by just sensitising your eyes, your touch and your ears. Observe them. Sense their feelings. Listen to them. You have the power to heal the world.
- Anamta Rizvi
About The Author – Anamta Rizvi is a literature student at Jamia Millia Islamia. Originally from Lucknow, she has now found her foothold in the capital city of India. A passionate writer and a compassionate human being, Anamta believes in giving a voice to her concerns about things that are not fine in the world around her.
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