In Hindi, ants are always “she” – I don’t know why. They are never thought to be male. The truth is that only one ant, the queen, is female, all other ants are male. It is strange, perhaps not so strange, but to hide the truth they call the ant “she.” Perhaps because the ant is so small, to call it “he” would be against the male ego. They call the elephant “he.” They call the lion “he.” If they specifically want to indicate the female elephant they call it a she-elephant, or a female lion a she-lion, but otherwise the term in general use is the male. But the poor ant…and unfortunately I have chosen it for the story.
He, or she, whoever the ant is, philosophizes – perhaps the ant cannot be a “she,” otherwise where will the philosophy come from? – I have never come across a woman who philosophizes. I have known many women professors of philosophy, but strangely, even these professors talk only of clothes and pictures. If somebody is present then they praise her; if she is absent, then they condemn her. Philosophy is the last thing they think of. How they manage to become professors is not strange to me, although you may have thought it should have been. No, they can teach because it needs no thinking; in fact, that is its most basic requirement. If you think, you cannot teach.
One of my professors was the strangest man I ever came across in the university world. For years not a single student enrolled in his class, the simple reason being that he would always start his lectures on time, but nobody ever knew when he was going to end.
At the very beginning he would say, “Please don’t expect the end, because nothing in the world ends. If you want to leave, you can, because in the world many leave, and the world still continues. Just don’t disturb me. Do not ask me, ‘Can I leave, sir?’ – nobody asks that, even when one has to die, so why should you ask a poor professor of philosophy? Dear one, can I ask you why you came in the first place? You can leave whenever you want. And I will speak for as long as I feel the words are coming.”
When I reached university everybody told me, “Avoid that man, Doctor Dasgupta, he is just mad.”
I said, “That means I have to meet him first. I have come in search of really madmen. Is he really mad?”
They said, “Really mad. He is absolutely mad, and we are not joking.”
I said, “It gives me great ecstasy to know that you are not joking. I can do that for myself. Whenever I need to, I just tell myself beautiful jokes and laugh hilariously saying, ‘Great! Never heard that one before.’“
They said, “This guy seems to be mad himself.”
I said, “Absolutely right. Now tell me where Doctor Dasgupta lives.”
I went to his house and knocked on the door. There was not even a servant. He lived like a god: no wife, no servant, no children, just alone. He said to me, “You must have knocked on the wrong door. Do you know I am Doctor Dasgupta?”
I said, “I know. Do you know who I am?”
He was an old man, and he just looked at me through his thick glasses and then said, “How can I know you?”
I said, “I have come to find out.”
He said, “Do you mean that you don’t know either?”
I said, “No.”