An excerpt from emails sent to my good old college group of friends as part of a what-are-we-doing-now survey. Written while recuperating after an illness ... what better way to spend convalescence?
Recuperation time has its benefits, not the least of which is protracted periods of time when you can think and write! So, here's the nutshell version of the life and times of Leslie post 1976 when we all escaped …
Post the B.A. Eng Hons exams I spent a fair bit of time playing bass guitar in exciting places like Blue Fox, Hotel Hinduthan International, Calcutta Swimming Club and other less exotic places (anyone heard of sleazy place on Elliot Road called “Ghalib Bar” or “Saqi” on Dharamtala?). Yes, been there, done that too. I also did a few stints as honorary member of SXC Rock Band as “outgoing student” … till I could officially do this as “incoming student” when I joined the B.Ed mid 1977.
Thereby hangs another tale as Shakespeare might say. I used to keep fit cycling to Diamond Harbour every Sunday with a stopover at Gangarampur which housed the Boystown Orphanage. One such stopover sealed my fate, as it were. They needed (desperately as always) a teacher for English for a group of boys who were attempting the Madhyamik Pariksha. Payment not discussed, not applicable – there is such a thing as a free lunch. So every day I cycled (the same blue bike from college) 27.6 km down Diamond Harbour road, taught English to a bunch of young men, had the free lunch and a short nap, cycled back in the afternoon – then played bass guitar in the evenings. Exciting life. One day a call from St James changed that – they offered me a job teaching in the remedial class (six or so since it was populated with gents who had been 'plucked' from several other schools anywhere between 6 and 8). I taught for three months and in that time decided to do my B.Ed. Quit St James, joined up SXC as a full time student, reconnected with Arun-da at the canteen, Mel Brown at the Reading Room and worked very hard (don't snigger you guys, I was always the prof).
Graduated with a B. Ed in English and Geography (where did that come from?) and before the results were out, Mr John Mason left La Martiniere and a void to be filled. I took that job and survived the three months that I was contracted for – remember, I had Suhel Seth in Class 8 and Srinjoy Chowdhury in Class 11 and several others too painful to remember. And after Mason I was laying it on with a trowel (sorry, Will, you are most quotable). So, I left, joined St Thomas' Kidderpore in Ishan's hunting grounds and survived for a total of four periods. The shock was too much … that evening I joined St Xavier's as a teacher, July 1, 1978.
1978 – 1999 (in very brief)
Taught Mathematics (!) and Computer Science (!!) at St Xavier's for 21 years, with a brief two years when I actually taught Shakespeare, Dickens in the senior classes. Went on the be a senior examiner of the ICSE in Computer Science. I also coached the junior football team at SXCS (I told you there were laughs) and illustrious guys like Sourav Ganguly owe me for that.
Writing? Yes, that too. I edited the Nihil Ultra (the school magazine) for a looong time, designed and managed the school's website and wrote for a magazine called Computers @ Home (Cybermedia) for about four years. I ran their Technology in Education section for awhile.
Music? Yes. For some strange reason I quit playing bass (was it Lew Hilt or Randy 'Fuzz' Francis?) and switched to piano. Did a couple of years playing rock music with High – Dilip Balakrishnan, Nondon Bagchi, Subir Chatterjee, Lew/Fuzz. Then concerts with Anjum Katyal and a few odd ones here and there. Loved it, gave it up. I now play Jazz Piano – which means anything goes if you can fake it.
Studying? Somewhere in between I did a number of computer certificates and in 1983 sat for and managed a Cal Uni Rank 2 in the Masters (English).
1996 – present
The end is nigh, I hear you sigh. 1996 I married Beatrix Menezes, a teacher from Loyola School Jamshedpur. Don't do the math, I was 42 … we got down to raising a family. She too was a math teacher, from a family of 8 kids and I was from a family of 5. We have the difference of 3 kids (and several other differences too complicated to relate). Our kids Christabel (now 12+), Leonardo (11+) and Lorenzo (9+) keep us on our toes and sometimes collapsed in the armchair. You can read all about them somewhere else. In fact, there are some vignettes and pics on my website (coming soon!)
Of course, increased family, increased responsibility. Couldn't manage on a school teacher's salary so quit and sat at home writing for PC Quest right through the Y2K crisis. And then One Day at McDonalds Delhi – sounds like a Don Martin cartoon? – I met a guy who offered me a job, authority and accountability (something school teachers don't really need to worry about). I joined the erstwhile Schoolnet as a teacher trainer, then moved to multimedia lesson development, then hopped around the company doing a lot of things, more like an internal consultant. Finally, after 3 years as a failed Business Head, I moved back and took over corporate training and development. In between I completed a Diploma in Training & Development, some behavioural science qualifications and things like that.
Today I head Quality Management for two group companies of IL&FS and, in my old age, I am still discovering what QM means. As I continually complain, I travel to almost all the major and semi-major cities in the country setting up training systems, examining quality of content and delivery and playing policeman once in a way. My work makes me rub shoulders with youth from below the poverty line for whom we create jobs and train them to fit the bill and also with the Govt and Corporate top brass who are responsible for the payments and placements! Not to mention my old love, teaching .. so I get the opportunity to do workshops for Principals and teachers of “god” schools once in a way.