Lover of English Language
Irrepressible. That’s the first word that comes into my mind when I think of her. Utterly… impossibly… irrepressible.
Where do I start..? I know you will call me audaciously ambitious and you will not be wrong. But I will try still, to hold a tornado in the palm of my hand…. to contain the vastness of the universe in my eyes… to define a woman in my words.
In college, her professors called her Hulchul*. She was the wind- not the gently blowing warm breeze of a late summer night… she was the gale that was wet with the promise of rain- and life. There was nothing mild about her. Everything was larger than life… louder… impassioned… uncontainable. She was full of life… she WAS life.
In school she studied in the vernacular medium (Hindi). Out of nowhere, she developed a deep love for the English language. She bid her time until she would get an opportunity to find someone to nurture that passion and give it shape. She found someone when she went to college. This is what her English professor said of her when she left college, and I quote,
She was doubtlessly the best student of English in her class, and always impressed me with her easy grasp of the idiom and literary beauties of this foreign language.
She was for one year the Secretary and for another the President of the Institution’s Hobgoblin Club- a club to foster appreciation for the language Shakespeare wrote and spoke and to draw out creativity. I remember, it was always she who set tone to the meetings. She also edited the Club’s manuscript journal ‘The Hobgoblin’.
Her conduct and activities always seemed to be marked with a certain gravity and noble purpose in life.
She studied only the very rudiments (read alphabets) of English during her school years. She recalled once what a sound beating she got from her father once because she could not remember how to spell white. The harder she tried, the more confused she got. Perhaps it was then that she decided to tame the beast and bring it under her feet for life.
Her vocabulary was phenomenal. Her grasp of the subtle shades of meaning variations was outstanding. When asked for the meaning of a word, she could rattle off- in nanoseconds- the different contexts the word could be used in, their meaning in all the different contexts AND sentences to demonstrate those meanings. Needless to say, the listener felt overrun by an express train.
This is what her professor during her Postgraduate studies had to say of her, and I quote,
Miss G. is a highly intelligent, vivacious, young lady, full of enthusiasm and hard intellectual work. Not only regarding the texts and periods prescribed for intensive study, but also regarding many other aspects if language and literature, she displayed immense interest. With regard to the LITERATURE OF THE XXth CENTURY, which I was handling for the M.A. Final during 1961-62, I can say with pride that Miss G is familiar with even the complex ideological turmoil of the times, and the breath-taking stylistic experiments undertaken by writers like T.S. Eliot.
Another field in which Miss G. distinguished herself during the year was English Drama. Her acting as OLIVIA in the poetical play: MALVOLIO, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s TWETFTH NIGHT by Stephen Williams, impressed one and all. She was so enthusiastic about the play that she herself designed the costume- a superb gown with frill, hood and all. The knowledge she gained of play-production is bound to be of great use.
Miss G. has a good command over both written and spoken language. She has a disarming simplicity about her.
Her accomplishment is astounding enough in itself. But when viewed in the light of the atmosphere in which it happened, it seems unbelievable. You are forced to give credit to the spirit that forged itself into the shape it designated for itself. She wanted to study English. Her family was much ahead of its time, it is true. In an era when girls were not allowed even to learn the alphabet, her own mother was a Matriculate and could understand English. Still, it was a little too much for them when she announced that she not only wanted to do her post-graduation, but that her subject would be English. She was refused permission. In retrospect, that was amusing. It was like you told the earth to stop spinning.
As I said, she was irrepressible. She decided what the shape of her tomorrows will be and bent to the task, never raising her head until she had done what she wanted. English coaching institutes were unheard of. Since she was paying for her own education by taking tuitions, she never had any money to afford a private tutor. She also did not have the time. The free college library, her unmatched intellect and her indefatigable enthusiasm were the only resources… the only tools… she ever needed. She was a self-made woman in every sense of the word. Neither her vision, nor the physical shape defining that vision were borrowed. From conception to reality, she created herself. William Ernest Henely’s poem Invictus seems written only for her:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
… To be continued…
Written on Date: 24th Feb 2011
* Hulchul: Disturbance, commotion.