Sunday, May 17, 2009

"Because I want to Learn..."

The sun seemed very ill-tempered as I peeked into the classroom. The Physics professor was still explaining his complex differentials to a bunch of bored students. That meant that I was quite early for biology classes. That also meant that I had to spend the next ill-fated twenty minutes boiling under the hot sun without a sense of purpose about me. I grudgingly settled down on one of those little concrete benches outside of class, and tried to count the minutes.

I saw her then, her head bent over our biology textbook. Her hair was in a hurriedly tied up bun with a pencil sticking out of it. It was one of those things which I found curious about her. A most unassuming woman, she seemed to be. Uncomfortable in the sweltering heat, I tried to play a mind game. I turned observant, silently eyeing that hard-working soul who was bending over her textbook. Tall. Intelligent. More than forty. Old--But still my classmate. How should I address her if she decides to look up? Drop a careless “Hey there, how’s it going?” or would a polite smile suffice? I didn’t know. She was one of those people who had appeared amicable from the start, but I hadn’t really gotten around to striking an intelligent conversation with her. It goes without saying that I’m very bad when it comes to starting conversations….I hoped she wouldn’t notice me fidgeting there, next to her.

“Oh hey there! Sorry didn’t see you before. How are you?”
I jolted. She was smiling back at me light-heartedly.
“I’m fine. I just arrived.” I tried to sound cheerful amidst the heat which was now pressing down on me.
“Hmm….so there’s a class going on in there, huh? Mathematics….”
“I thought it was a Physics class…”
“Oh is it? Hmm…Physics! Gosh!”
“Yeah, I know. It must be so hard! I always found it insane and difficult in high school.” I responded.
She smiled. That smile was mysterious…there was something that smile implied, which was beyond me. I simply waited.
“I once majored in Physics from a University in England, you know.” She declared.
The fluid conversation effortlessly hid the fact that I was embarrassed. The woman was at ease, talking about why Physics had appeared so interesting to her. She didn’t boast, but I knew that there was some zest in her, a degree of intelligence which gave her the appearance of a smart intellectual. I saw the vitality in her eyes, speaking to me with so much cheer. Wow, she was a very different kind of a fifty year old.

Slowly, a slight suspicion started weaving a web in my brain…if she had a good job now, knew her Physics right, why is she returning to learn Introductory Biology? I wanted to ask her the question without appearing like an interrogator. But I wasne’t given a chance to ask. Because she answered it before I could even mouth it.

“One day, I went to my doctor. He spoke about my health. He spoke medicine….and I told him, I’m very sorry sir, but I don’t speak doctor! Then I thought….why can’t I? You know, I always knew my Physics right, but Biology? It was so unknown to me! So I thought…why not learn? Why not update my knowledge? So I decided to take this course…”

“Why are you taking this class?” she asked me.
“Because I’m a biochemistry major” I said involuntarily, “You?”
Because I want to learn…”

Her words immediately reflected the lack of depth in my answer. They also made me think hard. The woman was taking these classes not because it would benefit her professionally or earn her more bucks. She was returning to learn undergraduate level biology simply because she wanted to know….she still wished to be the student....

The physics class dispersed. I picked up my bag which was now slipping off my shoulder. I was still thinking…would this be something I would ever do, given a chance? Would I ever come back to learn Art Appreciation or Psychology when I was fifty years old just because I didn’t understand these subjects? Would I still remain curious about my surroundings, and retain the zest to learn, understand and interpret the world through various means at the age when all one wants to do is take one long vacation? Maybe not, I thought…maybe not. But as I observed her cheerfully shoot some creative doubts to the teacher that day, I changed my mind. I promised myself that when I was old and weak-kneed, if a doctor ever spoke to me in a language I didn’t understand, I would go right back and take human anatomy classes without hesitation. This woman taught me something. I made a mental note to remember that that I’m always a student and it’s never too late to learn....

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Given Up Yet??

Until a few days ago, there was a cozy nook in the blogosphere for a 16 year old to talk about his life. It was an amazing blog. The 42 subscribers of the Laptop Dairy will know, and so do I. I would often hop into Mohammad’s little space whenever I felt like taking a break. His posts entertained me, and told me so many stories. Those blog posts didn’t exist to glorify him, they were there to voice his thoughts. They talked for him. They taught, and retaught. They weren’t always about wry humor or random complaints. They were original, from the heart and very much special. The Laptop Diary has disappeared today with “One Last Story…” .Although the reasons for the blog closing down remain unknown to me, I shall say that there are many people who will miss his journal entries in the days to come. It feels like Mohammad left a story unfinished….

Many teenage blogs start out with so much optimism and confidence. Some of them gain popularity, and others melt into oblivion. Either way, it’s unfortunate that most teenage blogs die out pretty soon. They are discarded, dormant or neglected. But they all have something in common: Most of them start out with big dreams…sometimes, these dreams grow to unbelievable heights. The initial optimism associated with starting something new can colour a person’s thought.
For example, a 14 year old might dream of that day when a very willing and generous publisher chances across their little space on the World Wide Web and exclaims in delight upon a marvelous discovery. They might imagine their blog becoming that bestselling book—on the same shelves as your Twilights or Harry Potters. Or they might choose not dream. They might just take to blogging on a whim, and not care about what they write. Both species exist, but I feel that most young bloggers fall in the former category.

Why then, do talented teenagers give up blogging so easily? There are so many reasons which can hamper them from blogging on a regular basis. It might be the parents telling them that its time to give up on their hobbies once they enter 12th, the lack of encouragement, or even laziness. Looking back, haven’t I considered giving up blogging on so many occasions? When my brain couldn’t voice my thoughts as effectively as it once did, when that unknown uncle at a party said, “Aha, 12th, is it? Time to say good-bye to your hobbies, dear!” and when someone scribbled “Your blog is so much crap!” I felt like simply deleting everything and giving up! It felt frustrating to put up with all that, sneak in some extra time to jot something down here when I could be doing something better with my life. But I loved to write, and that’s the only reason why I continue to blog, irrespective of how many people are actually listening.

Sometimes, as I go back to read my older posts, I feel that some of them are pretty immature. I could delete them, for all I care. But I don’t. Preserving them is important because they reflect how I’m growing up. Many teenagers don’t do that. They are ashamed of the stale poetry they scribbled when they were fifteen-somethings:

“I like pretty butterflies,
I think they are so cute…
I like they way they flap their wings,
And go from flower to flower…”

That’s why some of these blogs close down. It’s the author’s decision, but a whole bunch of wonderful stories and poems are lost. Others give up when they enter 10th or 12th grades, and think that their life will be affected by blogging. Although this is arguable, I personally think that blogging doesn’t have a negative impact. Sparing something like 20 minutes per week will not ruin your life forever. In fact, I do not regret blogging all through my PU days. If I hadn’t, I would have forgotten those wonderful experiences which are so dear to me.

The next time you drop by that random teenage blog of that thirteen year old who scribbles three poorly constructed sentences with lots of smiley faces in between ( with 0 comments below her post), don’t just smirk and think she’s wasting her time. Drop a nice, “Hello…it’s nice you actually decided to blog, even amidst the thousand things that occupy your life! Happy Blogging!” Sometimes, encouragement and support is all it takes to make a fantastic blogger out of a shy and talented thirteen year old. It can do a little something to sustain such blogs.

As for me, I hope that there are no more “One Last Story”ies in any of the teenage blogs. I also hope that Laptop Dairy’s “One Last Story...” means “A New beginning…” somewhere else on the World Wide Web. For all I can say, blogging is an experience which is well worth the effort. It would be easy to give up, but it would fruitful to continue. I wish that these teenage blogs continue to stay alive simply because I feel that every teenager has a story to tell....