Thursday, June 19, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - "Guide"

One word, multiple associations:

- That iconic 1965 movie starring Dev Anand and Waheeda Rahman, with beautiful songs and (according to me) a terrible ending. Terrible in the sense that it upset me very much to watch a man die of hunger, forced by his ego at the start and then by the sheer expectations of his devotees.

- Sri C P Seshadri (“Master” to everybody, whether they knew him or not), my first, best, and only mentor when I started work as an apprentice sub-editor in the Indian Express, in my first job.

- Those awful “cram notes”, in deplorable English, available for students who couldn’t be bothered to think independently, instead learning by heart the pathetic essays and answers to exam questions from the guides.

- Those fat, tantalising books bursting with information about exotic countries and fascinating cities - how to get there, what to do, where to go, where to stay, what to eat, how to get around, how to behave, what to do, when to visit. I’ve spent hours reading The Lonely Planet guides to all sorts of places, hopelessly aware that unless I win a huge lottery, there’s no way of travelling everywhere in one lifetime - yet too enthralled by the history and culture of each country to desist from tormenting myself with dreams…

- A career that seemed so incredibly romantic to me when I was learning German and French, and I came across advanced students who earned good money as guides, escorting foreigners to places of interest. Some of them were independent, some associated with government tourism, some with travel agencies… and some were just moonlighting. A career as tour guide was never meant to be reality to me because I’m simply not friendly enough or patient enough to put up with silly questions, finicky people in hot sweaty weather day after day after day… But the idea still retains its aura of romance and excitement.

- Teachers... who should all be guides and mentors, ideally, taking up that vocation from a need to teach – unfortunately too many of them do not live up to that ethic, too many are unwilling and uninterested in helping their students to do better, to achieve their potential, to let free their imagination.

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