Thursday, May 19, 2011

"A man's memory is his own private literature." – Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)

My dear students, friends and colleagues,

In the five appendices below, I have explained at length the various sources and consciously identified the five starting points of origin for this “60” piece. The purpose behind inviting you to witness what is going on inside my mind is to reveal how story ideas keep bubbling and simmering – cooking – in the backyards of our memories.

Dip into your mind. And lo!! A story will leap out!!!

Appendix 1. My auto-sketch: “Along the line, at railway gate No. 58” on this blog.

Two years ago, when I turned 58, I posted, “Along the line, at railway gate No. 58” on this blog. How did that “58” piece get written? Kajal Iyer tagged me on Facebook, asking to know 25 random things about me. Normally, I am reticent, and dismiss such FB gimmicks as an invitation to gossip. Like the Marathi writer ‘G.A.’, I prefer to let my writing, editing and lectures tell. But I took part, just for fun, and wrote the FB note on 14 February 2009. (Read it here on my source blog, “Journey Unbegun”.)

Two weeks later, I was glad I had listened to Kajal and jotted down those 25 points. I went back to that random list, rearranged the sequence and used the resultant outline, as the pattern for a sketch of myself. The dramatic setting was to create an impression that I was standing at railway gate No. 58.

I enjoyed writing that “58” piece, hugely, pouring myself into it. And it, in turn, has triggered within me such diverse, contending story lines: much like “the hundred flowers that bloomed” in Mao’s China of 1957.

For the first time, I candidly shared a part of my past in public; a bit of me that my students did not know; even some of my relatives and close friends could not imagine. I pulled and ripped aside the veil, and became vulnerable. My “58” piece was appreciated.

This is the first starting point for this “60” piece.


Appendix 2. My catching-up piece, “This is me, Joe Pinto, since 1967”.

Some of my school-mates, who passed the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) exams, ie, the old Standard XI, in 1967 from St. Mary’s (SSC) High School, Nesbit Road, Mazagaon, Mumbai, met at the Catholic Gymkhana in Mumbai on 11-1-11. Most of us were meeting one another after a gap of 44 years!!!

The re-union of the St. Mary’s Old BoyS (SMOBS) of 1967 was memorable. More than two-thirds of us smobs came with our wives. The rich diversity, of the communities we belonged to, was visible: Christians, Muslims (Bohras, Khojas, etc), Parsis, and Hindus. Most of our Class of 1967 is still in Mumbai; many are grand-fathers; some are settled in other parts of India (like me in Pune); and spread out across the globe: Canada, USA, Australia, Europe.

While preparing for that re-union, I found I was getting in touch again with most my class-mates for the first time -- since 1967. And so to fill out the gaps, I wrote for my mates a catching-up piece, “This is me, Joe Pinto, since 1967”, where I shared the five Ws and one H about myself, during 1967-2011. Read it here.

This got woven into this “60” piece as the second starting point.


Appendix 3. The five-part memoir of my mother, “Lessons my mother learned me”.

On 2 October 2008, I started this blog, “Against the Tide”, as a platform, on which I could “think aloud” and from where I could reach out to my students – beyond the class-room. (I am including, after re-writing, much of the raw material from my blog as parts of a text-book on editing.)

Many of my sincerest students, some friends and colleagues, and all my relatives liked, “Along the line, at railway gate No. 58.” They appreciated what I revealed about my background and motivations. Their respect for ‘Joe Pinto’ grew, now that I allowed myself to become vulnerable. Some of my most honest students also wanted me to write about my mother.

I had had completed 18 years of age on 5 March 1969, when two months later my mother died – suddenly. The pain still thuds inside me. I had posted, “Along the line, at railway gate No. 58” on 4 March 2009. Since the 40th death anniversary of my mother on 2 May 2009 was approaching in two months, and for the sake of my dearest students, I decided to write a memoir of my mother.

The intense process of writing about my mother, in the form of a memoir, gripped me completely (taking me deep into my own tear-full recesses), and turned out to be a five-part series. Read it here. Now, with additional research material I am making that series into a book.

The tear-stained memoir of my mother is the third starting point for this “60” piece.


Appendix 4. “Rules of the Road” and other pieces.

A bold few of my most perceptive students, the adventurous ones who have dared to take “the road less travelled”, noticed that I had unveiled, on my blog, a face and sides of “Pinto Sir”, which they could not have inferred from what they had seen of me in class.

I owe my students a lot of learning. So I felt they deserved to know more about my trials and tribulations as a young man; my experiences as a mass activist and full-time volunteer in various non-governmental organizations (NGOs); and as a journalist in Pune’s only local English daily newspaper – Maharashtra Herald (1963-2003).

My students, I felt, deserved to know about the social and political forces that had made me and my character. Then, they would be able to more fairly and fully appreciate and understand my lectures in class. I have tried to address some of these issues in “Rules of the road” and other pieces.

This is the fourth starting point for this “60” piece.


Appendix 5. “When I was 27 – a report to Gunjan”, written as a birthday gift to her.

Gunjan Chaurasia, one of my closest students from SIMC, Pune, batch of 2004-06, completed 27 years on 5 April 2011. As a human being, Gunjan is one of the bravest and gentlest persons I know -- and learn from -- because she tastes deep and strong from the springs of life.

I promised Gunjan I would share my life with her, when I was 27, and send her a report as a birthday gift. Unlike my other pieces, which I re-write at least 10-15 times, I wrote this emotionally charged “27” piece in about 2-3 hours. Read it here.

Since I felt my other rare students also deserved to read this report, I marked this email to some other students too. Their thought-full replies encourage me to use parts of this “27” piece in my “60” piece. I also have Gunjan’s permission since, to start with, it was written only for her as a personal birthday gift.

A rare few of my students deserve the kind of gift I wrote for Gunjan. The difference is they did not ask me, “What was it like, Sir, when you were 27?” So the moral of this birthday gift is: “Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door shall be opened unto you.”

This is the fifth starting point for this “60” piece.


My daughter, J.K. Pallavi (23) is leaving soon for the US to pursue further studies. As a parting gift for her I am writing a piece, “When I was 23, were the young free?” I started to write this piece, intending to give it to her, as a birthday gift when she completed 23 years of age on 23 October 2010. But a father’s love knows no bounds, and the piece went on growing. Now hopefully, I will be forced to give it to her, since she is leaving soon.

In this piece, for the first time, I reflect upon the temptations before my own generation; how we faced them; and share my hopes and fears about the present generation and suggest some ways by which they may be able to resist the tide. For, this blog is about two things: struggle and resistance.


Taken together, these five starting points, weave well together. Those who relish detail may want to go to the original pieces, for which I have provided links. I also use the occasion of my “60” piece” to open to the public my source blog, “Journey Unbegun”, on which I shall post original material, mainly written by me and published elsewhere, but also by a few chosen others.

Your support is my strength.
- Joe.

Pune, India, Thursday, 19 May 2011.

1 comment:

Nilima Shah said...

Sounds interesting. Looks like you are a specialist on this because you just made it so easy to be with you, motivated me to learn more on the subject!
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