Films can sometimes be defining parts of our lives. Finding Forrester is one such film. I found a connect and a reflection of it in my life. The film is based on a unique relationship between an eccentric Caucasian retired author and a coloured boy. Their shared passion for the written word brings them close and establishes an unlikely bonding. This friendship, this unique bond is the most essential component of their association.
The Guru Shishya parampara has been an integral part of education in the Indian tradition. In the old days the student or Shishya used to stay with his Guru’s, thus building a great rapport between them, eventually creating a great intellectual and emotional bonding.
‘Gu’ means Dark and ‘Ru’ means Light so the Guru is the person who leads his Shishya from Darkness to Light, and helps his Shishya to embark on a journey from ignorance to bliss, wisdom and enlightenment. The teacher gradually becomes a mentor who touches every aspects of the student’s life. Forrester, a reclusive author helps a sixteen years old intellectually gifted black boy Jamal to find his words, to hone his writing skill. Jamal in return helps Forrester break free from his shell. This movie is all about mentorship, how to guide a wandering soul and how to help find the meaning of life.
This movie always reminds me one of the most important people in my life, to whom I am and will always be indebted. I distinctly remember the day he first came to our home; it was a Sunday. A middle-aged man, quite short in stature, accompanied by a family friend. We were introduced and grudgingly I agreed to take English tuition from him, as I was preparing for my board examination.
I started addressing him as Mastermoshai. He came to teach me when I was about fifteen and he must have been in his forties. In no time whatever reservations, I had, were gone. Soon we bonded and bonded really well. He loved teaching and belonged to that now-extinct breed of ‘Mastermoshais’ who despite being an English teacher knew how to teach Mathematics as well.
He used to come three times a week, after work. I never saw him in any other attire except in dhuti-panjabi (dhoti kurta). The colour of his kurta was always saffron, I never thought of asking the reason. During winter a half or full sweater was added accordingly along with an off-white shawl.
Coming from a non-intellectual background he had been caught between the necessity of taking care of a large family and his own dream of pursuing higher studies. He gave up the later and took up an ordinary job to fulfill his responsibilities towards his family. He kept his love for language alive by giving English tuitions.
He believed that good writing came from a lot of reading and encouraged me to do so, though I didn’t need any prodding. He transmitted his love for the English language to me as I plodded through my board examinations. I think our mutual love for the language strengthened our bond and he inspired me to excel. I happened to see his predilection for English and the frustration, also for the lack of scope of the application of this language, as he was a mere clerk in a school board office. Even his access to any latest novel or magazine in English was limited, as we lived in a small-town where the district library couldn’t assuage one’s hunger for knowledge. Our home however had plenty of English magazines, books, novels and classics. He regularly borrowed books from my parents and after a hard day’s work, spent nights devouring those. It was his passion for reading that left a strong impression on me. I realized his frugal lifestyle couldn’t kill his appetite knowledge.
His influence upon me was beyond academia as he helped me to restore myself to life when I was going through a very rough patch and often got rather depressed. Even my nearest and dearest ones weren’t around that time and thought I could never pull myself back to life. But like the proverbial angel Mastermoshai was there. He took extra time out of his busy schedule and started spending more time with me, encouraging me to engage in conversation regarding the topics I loved. It was he from whom I heard the story of Mentor who was a character from the Greek epic Odyssey. Little did I know that this particular word would later become synonymous with him. His immense faith in me helped me deal with that adverse time and I slowly started believing in myself.
Then the time came for me to grow up and leave my town for higher studies and I hardly saw him after that. Whenever I went back to Purulia, it never occurred to me to visit him, except once. I took my child with me to invite him for my younger sister’s wedding. He came. I think that was the last time I met him. Then one day I got the news of his demise. The shocking news of Mastermoshai’s death took four years to reach me. A town that was full of my friends and relatives had managed to keep this news from me for so long.
I, who he used to call his favorite, had failed my Mastermoshai. I had never bothered to contact him. I took him for granted as if he was supposed to be there forever. But life chose to punish me, to teach me the value of relationships, which it does time and again.
Maybe this is his last parting lesson for me. He was my only Mastermoshai and will always remain so.
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