Her Ozymandias and Mine!

Reading Time: 4 minutes

One class by a teacher was so different. Hemashri talks about her daughter’s and her experiences of studying Ozymandias, three decades away, from their respective teachers and the stark differences. She finds real-life Ozymandias in government offices, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.

It was another session of PTM but the same old suggestion that our daughter can perform better. She cannot be labelled as dumb but yet not the typical studious type she is. She finds her other activities more interesting. Textbooks are dull for her due to her indulgent mother perhaps.To meet her teachers we went to the other building. In the lift, my daughter showed me “Ma she is Gitu ma’am! She is such a wonderful teacher. She taught us Ozymandias and she is the wife of an ACS Officer.” As we went closer I felt like greeting her ‘hello’. When I told her that she is our daughter’s favourite she told me, “But I have taken only one class” Our girl replied “Ma’am you taught us Ozymandias and it was such an interesting class. I enjoyed it.” Just one class and the lady won the heart of my girl! Really interesting! That reminded me of my first encounter with Ozymandias, some 28 years ago!

 It was in the year 1988 that I got enrolled in Higher Secondary first-year class in Cotton College after completing HSLC in a Government Vernacular School. We were a huge class of around 75 to 80 students running from this building to another for our classes. In the English Class, there came a Professor, short and thin with a Hitler-like moustache. He started the poem Ozymandias. Before starting the class, he asked the students whoever secured more than 80 % in English to raise their hands. There were quite a few and I too raised my hand. Then he gave a lecture that those coming from the government schools may have scored more than 80 percent but in general, they have a poor command. He had asked each one in which medium we studied. After the lesson on Ozymandias, he started asking us the meaning of some of the words in the poem. I was sitting next to a very pretty girl and as I asked her name I found the teacher pointing at me asking me the meaning of the word ‘sneer’. Before I could answer, he again said, “I told you those from vernacular medium may have scored well but you all have a lot to learn.” I felt very annoyed by his belittling comments. He seemed to be an Ozymandias personified. Daddy did not want me to study Arts but it was what I wanted. When I finally took admission in the Arts stream he told me I should study English Literature. English for me was an interesting subject but I had not decided what I should study for graduation. This professor in the very first class made English somewhat allergic to me. There was another lady professor, pimply and perennially pregnant-looking, who made English classes toxic for me. She would come and just sit in her chair and then keep reading the lesson herself without ever explaining anything. In the first year, I started bunking my English classes as we had a hectic schedule of Economics, Mathematics and Statistics classes. These two unique teachers helped me make up my mind that I should not opt for English as my major.

In the Statistics class, once I found a teacher expressing her annoyance when a student requested her to explain in Assamese. She spoke to him very rudely. He was a brilliant student who was the Best Graduate of our batch!

My daughter and I had studied the poem Ozymandias, in two different ages. The essence of the poem remains the same. The words:

My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

These remain relevant and valid for all ages and generations.

 A teacher won my daughter’s heart in one single class explaining Ozymandias. Three decades ago, in another classroom, an Ozymandias Professor had robbed her mother’s interest in English Literature in a single class! Oh! What a teacher can do in just one class.

Ozymandias Lives on

The real-life Ozymandias that I have to endure in my world outside the home has a red nose and reddish eyes. Arrogance, my Lord, pure unadulterated arrogance to the tip of their noses, whereas their purpose and mission are to serve commoners. Their bloodshot eyes show off rage and scorn that these Ozymandias feel inside their tiny hearts of peanut size.

These are the fat rats who have erased their lesson of Ozymandias. Yet the message remains relevant and universal for every generation.

I do not know if their lesson on Ozymandias got erased by time. I recall the closing lines of Shelly’s poem:

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

One class changed it all for both of us, mother and daughter. Oh, Ozymandias!

©Hemashri Hazarika

Photos from the Internet

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Hemashri Hazarika is an Officer of the Assam Civil Service since 1997. Her research on Assam Civil Service brought reforms in 2015. A first-class Postgraduate in Economics from Gauhati University, she was awarded JRF/NET by UGC in 1997. Her experience as a bureaucrat has sensitised her to human sufferings. A solutionist by passion, she takes an active interest in issues related to Governance, Development, Women, Children, etc. Reading, Writing, Speaking and Painting are her hobbies.