Continued from "Miserable Mistri: The Tragic-Comic Figure of the Varsity" University Memoirs - V
University Memoirs VI
Ramaiya was the son of a Deputy Collector. He had seen official ‘rutba’ (grandeur). Dog, servant, cook, car, carpeted drawing room, fine cutlery- he had seen it all and that too free of cost. This ‘free of cost’ became his motto in life. Ramaiya believed in living a life entirely ‘free of cost’. During an occasional dinner or lunch, Ramaiya would try to eat the maximum simply because it was coming ‘free of cost’. Even tea and snacks were driven to his plate instinctively. It was taken for granted. His greed was taken for granted. If Ramaiya became in-charge of the guest house, Tiffin started arriving from the guest house kitchen; labors allotted for guest house work started cleaning Ramaiya’s premises, even curtains and doormats of the guest house and Ramaiya’s house became somewhat similar.
The world loves to pity people. People don’t like strong people. Mediocrity and meanness unite people against the noble and the strong. You keep crying and the world will keep cooperating you. You start singing and laughing and the world will try to crush you.
Ramaiya was shameless. All he wanted was a license to loot. He had very large eyes. He stared at women, children and girls steadfastly. The women of the colony always said that Ramaiya’s ‘nazar’ (way of looking) was very dirty. Ramaiya succeeded in insulting women just by looking at them. One of Ramaiya’s neighbors had taught his children to stare back at Ramaiya for as long as he stared. Thus, we had staring competition in the campus. The school auto would come; children would sit; the auto would proceed towards Ramaiya’s house for his wife and children to come and sit in the auto. This used to be the moment of nerves. The boy would stare at Ramaiya; Ramaiya would be agitated. He would give the expression as though he would gobble up the child. The child would mumble ‘Jai Hanuman ji’ as his parents had taught him to say in moments of danger and continue to stare back. This would be repeated every day.
Looking at Ramaiya, I was always reminded of that police officer in The God-father whose son gets used to freebies. It’s such an accurate scene there. How parents corrupt their children without realizing what they’re doing. Children watch actions of their parents; not words. There was something wrong with Ramaiya’s DNA. Wrong was right for him and the vice-versa. Many people do wrong things in life but they know that what they’re doing is wrong. With Ramaiya, there was no such hassle. He went on and on, from one wrong to the other. He was completely shameless. He took money from students. He could wait for hours for free lunch or dinner. He never spent money. People said that he starts from home after ‘sheershasana’; which means that when you exercise with your head down and legs up, even the coins in your pocket come out. You become completely devoid of any cash, currency or coin. Then you start from your home and so there’s no danger of your spending any money simply because you don’t have any money with you. That was his theory. No money, no card, nothing; only Ramaiya; big, huge, dark!
There was only one person who could see Ramaiya’s beauty and that person was K. K loved such simple people. You pass on some benefit and are free from that person; he won’t trouble you anymore. All through K’s reign Ramaiya was kept satisfied. Yes, in our varsity and perhaps in other varsities as well, a VC’s tenure is often termed as ‘reign’. ‘Singh reign, Mishra reign’ and so on. It says a lot about mindset. I mean, we Indians are yet not free from feudal past. We are yet not free. Why such a word as ‘reign’ is so naturally accepted in a place like university. In fact, a university should have been the first place to question the word. But there was no such trepidation in our closed world. Ignorance is bliss, right! So, let’s go reign by reign. Kings used to have reign; in democratic set ups we should have tenures, periods.
Anyway, K’s reign slowly but steadily nurtured Ramaiya’s corrupt instincts. His bank balance, property, valuables, shares, and insurance- everything steadily kept raising. For ever, his riches grew; forever he craved for more. Ramaiya smelt special scope in college affiliation. One of the many duties of a varsity is to affiliate colleges, renew those affiliations annually, collect affiliation fees from colleges, monitor examinations in colleges and overall maintain academic standards. There's a full cell in a university which looks after these affairs. There's a continuous process of sending inspection teams to different colleges for starting new courses or renewing affiliation. All this sounds so ideal, so good. But in reality, things take a different shade altogether. Most of the politicians of our region ran colleges. There's nothing like the business of education. You take money but there's no guarantee of delivering the goods. Fee is the birth right of the college. If the student does not succeed, it's not the fault of the college. The fault lies with students; they didn't study well. Education is a guaranteed business in our country. We love selling our degrees like tomatoes, potatoes. Everyone loves to be a graduate, post-graduate, doctorate etc. Dr. is a great prefix for names.
So, over the years, Ramaiya developed a special interest in affiliation, renewal of affiliation and starting of new courses in the colleges attached to our varsity. It became his specialization, in a sense. He made lots of money. The more money he made, the more hungry he became for more and more. He did not know where to keep his money. A point came when a total miser like Ramaiya went for a luxury car. A huge beautiful SUV animal, red in color, arrived at Ramaiya's door steps. In a way, Ramaiya declared his status. After all, he was a 'would be' Vice-Chancellor.
Perhaps it was that SUV only that twisted many a brows against Ramaiya. In a far flung place, near state border, there was a college that sold education degrees. Education degrees are pricy. B.Ed. is a guarantee of a school job. B.Ed. degrees come costly. Jayesh Shukla, a local hooligan, a man of political and criminal connections ran that college. Generally only such people ran private colleges in our area. Jayesh needed immediate affiliation. Ramaiya needed immediate greasing of his palms. Whenever money was about to come, Ramaiya’s palms twitched. He loved phrases such as ‘greasing the machine’, ‘oiling the system’. It’s only through these phrases he got himself conveyed. However, as time passed, Ramaiya lost all phrasal subtlety. He became more and more direct. The corrupt colleges with non-functioning systems greased the palms and went ahead in their ‘dhandha’ (business). But there are all sorts of people in this world. Jayesh wanted affiliation and he also wanted to ditch Ramaiya. He was trying very hard to wriggle out of Ramaiya’s grip. He even went to local politicians and got Ramaiya phoned. But Ramaiya was ‘andha’ (blind) in ‘dhandha.’ He must have his pound of flesh. The cat-mouse game was on for about three months. Finally, it seemed, Jayesh got desperate and defeated. He agreed to the sum on phone. He confirmed the sum on phone. He told Ramaiya that he was coming with ‘malai’ (cream i. e. money). Jubilant Ramaiya sat in his office dreamily thinking about the crisp notes.
The rest, they say, is history. Vigilance officials caught Ramaiya red-handed. The next day’s newspapers went wild with ‘A University Professor Caught Red-handed Taking Bribe’, ‘The Temple of Learning Dirtied’ etc. The vigilance team got Ramaiya’s hands cleaned and red color came out of the coded currency notes. Ramaiya’s senses failed him. Nothing made sense to him. The half an hour chunk of his life got disconnected. Nothing had happened. He was sitting in his office. Why were TV cameras thronging? Why he was not allowed to move out of his room? What had happened? The Head of the Department was signing some bail documents so that Ramaiya could go home. Ramaiya’s wife was panicking. She knew her husband better than anyone else in the world. In her dark mental regions, she had always feared such a day. Since that day, Ramaiya lost all that he had. Ramaiya became vegetable. For years together he tried to delay the case. He greased everyone and anyone’s palms. He could not even raise his eyebrows against anyone; leave alone chase his dream of becoming the Vice-chancellor.
Pity and Ramaiya wedded. Everyone pitied Ramaiya. The world loves to pity people. People don’t like strong people. Mediocrity and meanness unite people against the noble and the strong. You keep crying and the world will keep co-operating you. You start singing and laughing and the world will try to crush you. Perhaps, that’s the reason why people hide their money, their happiness, and their strengths. People try to keep a pitiable demeanor. Once, one of my relatives from America remarked, ‘I don’t know why everyone’s so serious in India.’ People don’t believe in laughing. If you laugh, you’ll be ruined. So, Ramaiya’s condition became perfect. No one envied him. Everyone helped him. Once a very experienced Vice-Chancellor, who had headed a number of universities shared his secret of success in following words, ‘You keep teachers and employees of your university in such a condition that they neither become healthy nor die’ (na mare, na motaye). Keep everyone in the lurch. Everyone should keep hanging in the thin air. A VC must keep everyone guessing.
Many people viewed Ramaiya’s case as an example of the heights of corruption in India as even after being caught red-handed; he could still save his job. The rest of his service period went in begging and greasing palm. But he remained a university professor. I personally view Ramaiya’s case as that of poetic and divine justice. The fact that he could save his job did not match with the humiliation he went through. I think that he was duly punished. For a brazen brute, who shouted and insulted everyone, Ramaiya turned into a pitiable figure for life. This was punishment enough.
Continued to "The Devil Strikes Sudhi"
NOTE: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real situation/s, institution/s or individual/s is a coincidence.