Having made the heartbreaking choice of studying journalism for my Master’s degree instead of my first love English literature, I marched off to the University to master the art of reporting and editing. All was well, till I learnt that folks in the English Department next door were studying Dostoevsky. Knowing that I would be breaking a thousand and some more university rules, not to speak of offending my teachers in the Mass Com Department, I decided to sit in the English classes. All I needed was a teacher who would understand my desire to study Dostoevsky despite not being a Literature student, and who would not put too much in store by meaningless stupid rules. With the kind of boldness that only a 20-year-old can muster, I approached the iconic professor who was teaching the class.
And before I knew it, permissions were sought and obtained and for the next six months, twice a week, when my classmates were labouring under Press Laws and Public Relations, I would be lost in the world of Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov and Sonia the streetwalker, beginning to understand the thin line that divides the moral from the immoral, the right from the wrong and the valiant from the coward…..
Today, each time I work with a group of sex workers trying to understand their lives and their difficult circumstances, my reference point is always Sonia Marmeladov, the 17-year-old prostitute from Crime and Punishment, who took to walking the streets to feed her hungry siblings and I realise again and again how important it is to have teachers who can teach you to look at the world in a non-judgmental fashion.
And I thank my incredibly lucky stars to have come across one such teacher who took in a student, who wasn’t even supposed to be in his class, and taught her how to look at things with empathy, kindness and generosity.
Dr U R Ananthamurthy. Thank You. And you are being missed
Asma has done her Masters in Journalism and worked with several newspapers in Bangalore and Chennai. She is at present, a full-time mother, a part-time editor of her own newspaper –Positiv+ and a sometime media consultant with several organizations.