TS Eliot’s birthday last week brought vivid memories of the poet (born on 26 September 1888), who was alive when one studied him in college in 1960-61.
Teaching the MA English Literature class, Professor Suraj Prasad Sharma and his associate, professor Sinha mentioned him as a poet who had captured the imagination of the younger generation as a clever wordsmith. Both professors were old men, one of them re-employed after retirement, whose favourites were earlier purveyors of the English Muse.
“What poetry does Thomas Sterns Eliot seek to convey when he writes such lines as, ‘I grow old, I grow old/ I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled?’” observed Sharma ji in a cheesed-off tone.
He was 10 or 12 years younger than Eliot and died in the summer of 1962, being cremated at the ghat near the Taj Mahal. After returning from the funeral, the dashing assistant professor R B Banerjee looked upon at the sky and recited Eliot’s favourite verse, “Let us go then, you and I/ Where the evening is spread out against the sky/ Like a patient etherised upon the table/ Let us go through certain half-deserted streets/ The muttering retreats of one night hotels.”
Late the same evening, while returning from the Cantonments after sending a news telegram to The Statesman on Sharma ji’s death, one saw someone cycling ahead and singing the then popular song, Kaha le chale ho bata do mussafir/ Sitaron ke agey yeh kaisa jahan hai.
Overtaking him one noticed that it was Banerjee merrily humming on his way back from the Agra Club. Perhaps he found the film song matching Eliot’s thoughts after the poet’s fleeting visit to the Taj, where he probably found an echo of the Muse in the tragic life of Mumtaz Mahal, who died centuries before one-night hotels came up in London’s “muttering retreats”.
Going back to old technology, be it cars, any electrical household gadget or mobile phone is certainly difficult, a colleague recounted. Returning home in the Metro, a middleaged lady was busy speaking on the phone, when another phone in her handbag began ringing.
She quickly fished out an older generation keypad phone and in her hurry pressed some wrong buttons and was stuck with an unintelligent number flashing on the screen. Despite struggling with the keypad, she was unable to clear the screen. She then turned to a young girl next to her and sought her help.
The young girl too, began fumbling with the keypad as she tried to decipher a way out. Giggling away, she launched a hit and try method and finally succeeded in getting the home screen. “Now that we are used to smart phones, we’ve forgotten how to use this keypad phone,” she laughed as she handed over the phone to a grateful lady.
Thieves at work?
Some habits are hard to change, such as sleeping time. Many, particularly youngsters, sleep late and get up late. They call it body clock and their parents berate them for “bad habit”. This habit, however, proved to be too costly for a former colleague.
A habitual late riser, he had a major problem in his maid, who insisted on coming early for work. Left with no choice the friend would sleepily rise early, unlock the door and promptly go back to sleep.
This happy practice continued till the other day, a burglar entered the house and made off with our friend’s laptop, mobile phone and some money. While the thief was at work he was blissfully asleep, thinking it was the maid at work.
“Unlike the plain in Spain, the rain in India stays mostly in Mumbai,” quipped a tourist back from the deluge there.
(Contributed by RV Smith, Rakesh Kumar and Asha Ramachandran)