Letter from a teacher – Rituparna Khan

Letter from a teacher – Rituparna Khan

High up here from the window of my studio apartment, located at the 13th floor of a high rise, “Kolkata Greens”, I saw fumes clouding up at a squatter area in the vicinity. People were ransacked and scattered here and there trying to save their lives. Due to a local power failure in my locality the elevator of my building was not functioning. I changed from my housecoat to casual attire and stepped down thirteen storeys and headed towards the location of ravage. After fifteen minutes, when I reached the spot, I saw the fire brigade men trying to put things in order. The area was grossly vanquished by the destructive fire, however. Roofless slum dwellers were squandered and their blank faces reflected their plight. Rumors were already moving in the air that it was a sabotage of a local promoter who was interested to build up a multiplex there. The tattered squatter colony was a perfect misfit within such a posh locality. Media people also reached the spot to make a sketchy and lucrative Hindu-Muslim communal riot story out of this accident. So, everything was there, destruction, sabotage, communal story, media manipulations and distortions. I was helplessly gazing at the sight and all of a sudden my eyes stuck at a white envelope lying abandoned by a corporation water supply tap. A picked it up, unraveled it to find a letter. It was from a teacher to the teaching community.  It read like this:

“It was 1945, the Second World War was about to end and end many probabilities and positivity with it. It was the Nazi concentration camp of Adolf Hitler. I was one of the hapless teachers trapped there. Yet I was fortunate because I was kept alive to do a heinous act. Since I was alive I could write this letter to my peer group, all the teachers under the sky of freedom of today’s world. I thought of unfurling that piece of paper in front of my peer group now, as well as to all of my readers.

I want to show you all the picture of the concentration camp that I had seen.

I had seen the gas chamber being designed by an expert, highly educated engineer.

I had seen the venomous gas was prepared by a super qualified chemist.

I had seen educated doctors killing the innocent children by poisoning them with the toxic gas.

I had seen expert nurses to push helpless people to death bed.

I had seen highly qualified, educated, expert, erudite slaughtering mothers, babies, and elderly persons indifferently and gleefully.

I had seen all those lethal spectacle and which were most heinous act I had ever committed.

I had been fortunate and unfortunate too.

I had been fortunate since, I could escape death.

I had been unfortunate since, coincidentally these killers, the engineer, the chemist, the doctor, the nurse, all were groomed by me, when they were in school. I was compelled to see their expertise in taking lives away.

After seeing all these dreadful acts I am skeptic about my own education and my ability to educate others.

My degrees and my knowledge seem to be useless, infertile.

So, I earnestly plead you all. Don’t train your students to be well read and learned in text books only that fetch huge marks. Groom them up to be true humans.

Please be cautious that imparting your knowledge does not give birth to another educated giant, a knowledgeable satan or a boastful idiot.

What is the utility of education if it does not lead to true progress of humans and real development of humanity?

Please don’t commit the mistake that I had done.

Please keep in mind to train posterity to be not only well educated and highly qualified, but beyond that, to be humans and true humans after all.

This is a prayer from this hapless teacher to my community and my readers.

Thank you.

Germany, January, 1946.”

Being a teacher by profession, I was speechless to read such a candid confession. I wondered how I could discover such a letter after so many years, here, at a slum in Kolkata and how strange it was that the devastating fire could not destroy this letter as if it was waiting for me to be read!

At that very moment, the door bell pierced through my ears and I sprang up on the bed, only to find that I had a very bad and sorrowful dream. I rubbed my eyes, opened the door to collect the newspaper, and put it on the centre table. Before I could turn my head to freshen up, my eyes caught the news headline on the first page of The Telegraph: Two scores of Indian soldiers lose their lives in a terrorist attack in Pulwama District of Jammu and Kashmir, February 14, 2019. I was flabbergasted and dropped myself on the sofa to read the ghastly news in detail. It only talked about animosity and death and destruction. The very next moment the thought flashed in mind: do dreams and nightmares seen at dawn, which really takes our sleep away, come true? Oh God! Never give me such ghastly dreams and nightmares. Amen.

Note: Based on the facts and stories of Nazi Concentration Camp of Adolf Hitler during the Second World War and the Pulwama terrorist attack in erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir in 2019.

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