It is a truth culled from India’s genius that memory outlives those who possess memories, that time is the divine itself, _whatever_ we might mean by that, and so impossible things can be worth their failure because there is more to life than just success. Rajanaka is, at least in part, about these truths, if we can call them that. And like all things worth thinking about, these things can take some time. For it’s part, time is unforgiving not only because mortality is fragile and indeterminate, but also because there is just so much left to learn. So much so that we could not ever finish. I revel in that, at least for now.
I have six students this semester taking my Classical Sanskrit Poetry Class, including an Eastman School violist and a few others quite exceptional. I actually regard them all as exceptional because there is no reason, _not one_ to take such a college class. I’ve written about this before because it is, with near certainty, the height of folly, second only to reading all four epics of India and Greece in a single semester. I plan on many such folly-driven academic charges of the light brigade and if no one shows up, I will rage at the walls and do it anyway. With luck, some good soul will walk into the room. Half a league, half a league onward.
Yesterday, I had failed to put the lamps on (those hideous florescent overheads are prohibited in my office world) when office hours started at 3pm. By the time one student tepidly knocked at the door, it was near 6pm I was sitting in the dark with lots on my mind, but I got up and immediately turned on the lights and, as I have for 30+ years, was sure to leave the door ajar. It’s important to feel safe in an unsafe place, and learning difficult things is unsafe, which is why the rest must be easy. Anyways, she says to me, “Bob-not-his-real-name and I are curious about what you do on Wednesdays since you make a point of not being here.”
I rarely answer questions about any self that is not “Professor Brooks,” since I mean to draw a boundary that does not confuse one bit of our academic relationship. They must not make this about me and they must not feel compelled in any way to “please” me. Our conversations are about ideas and arguments and these include all sorts of feelings, emotions, and complex matters of being human. The conversation is hardly clear but the boundaries must be; they are there to learn, not to be indoctrinated. But because she asked the way she did I made a minor exception, or rather just let out a bit more. Such undergraduate rules don’t apply here, and my Rajanaka life has few secrets. I aware of my luck, good fortune, my privilege here. I have the time that others don’t— so I try to use it in a way that maybe does some good.
“Well, in the last few years of her life, every Wednesday was devoted to spending time with my Mom. I would pick her up, take her to her faithful hairdresser, out to lunch, and home. Then I would sit with her the rest of the day and read, in her living room. She would sit with me, usually crocheting or reading herself, and pretty much not say another word, or she’d make me another cup of tea, silently. We’d had plenty of time to talk and now was a time to sit together. She just wanted company and I wanted hers. I’d wait till suppertime and announce it was time for me to go home. She’d protest but thank me for coming and I would tell her I was the luckiest kid who ever lived. Those were my Wednesdays. Nowadays, I try to have a day that honors her. So I write to friends, I try to read at least two books about things that have nothing to do with one another, always some poetry or an essay, and then I do my own work, I write, study, translate.”
“We just wanted to know, so thanks for telling me.”
I hope you have a great Wednesday or whatever day is Wednesday for you.