Continued from “Learned Men: University Memoirs - II
(University Memoirs – III)
K’s first meeting with teachers started with an introduction. His eyes firmly fixed on Sudhi, the lady lecturer, K tried to play the part of the VC as effectively as he could. He believed in creating sensation. His sole motto seemed to impress people on a momentary basis. All teachers, sitting at the round table in the Executive Hall, introduced themselves one by one. The pleasure of becoming a VC at a young age overwhelmed K. Sitting next to him was Prof. Ratan. At fifty-five, Prof. Ratan had developed very rigid ideas about life, teaching and the workplace. He was a Professor of Mathematics. His language, both Hindi and English, was very poor. He had very limited words in his vocabulary. The word ‘better’ came from his lips as ‘batter’. His pet sentence was, ‘How can we ‘batter’ the university?’ What he meant by this sentence was, ‘How can we improve our university?’ He started his introduction and soon came to his ideas on ‘battering’ the university. He was promptly cut short by K, who exercised his new found authority with tremendous alacrity. K did not believe in wasting time.
It’ll always remain a mystery to me how one individual can convince others of co-operating him in evil deeds, in destroying others, in maligning others, in deviating others from normal path.
The next Professor to introduce himself was Professor Shyam Deo Pratap Singh. SDP was of the ancient warrior caste. He belonged to the caste of rulers. He had royal blood running and gushing in his veins. He never forgot that fact simply because the fact had given him job, had helped him develop contacts, had helped him in getting promoted and had even helped him in getting rid of his first wife. SDP believed in thumb rules. Everybody watched the interaction keenly. In a university, you don’t have to tell someone how to make two persons fight, what to say that would most hurt the sentiments of one person towards the other. These things come naturally to a university teacher. Make two persons fight and then watch the ‘tamasha’ in full amusement. Everybody knew that SDP too had an ego. To begin with, he spoke while sitting, assuming that the VC was a teacher and so was he. They both were of the same age group. Their castes, of course, differed drastically. K was ‘Ravan-vanshi’. SDP was in no mood to pamper the new duck. He was in no mood to belittle his own caste. K, on his part was overflowing with pride. A VC at forty-six, he already had Raj Bhavans in sight. All his life, he had pleased his VCs. He had worked day and night to keep his VCs in good humor. Now it was his turn to be pampered. K had a tipsy ego. It was irked in a moment. K fundamentally believed in terrorizing people and hen exploiting them. As SDP started speaking, K thundered, ‘Will you please get up and then speak.’ SDP was stunned. He had never expected such an open insult to his ancient, warrior caste. Not knowing what to do, he stood up, gave his introduction and then added, ‘Sir, we’re all teachers here, including you. Why should we make people stand? After all, it’s our internal gathering.’ K lost no time in thundering back, ‘I don’t need to learn from you, Mr. SDP.’ Here, the chapter was closed. Or, was it? A new chapter of animosity and tragic events had started that day.
Next came the Lecturer of French. This Lecturer of French, Mr. Katju was even older than K or SDP in age. But he had joined university service late in his life. Earlier, he had worked as a translator in a French firm in the south of India. Katju came from Hyderabad. He was a case of strange minority in our north Indian scenario. Leave alone the varsity; it was difficult to find people of his community in the whole of the city. Students did not opt for French. He had no work as such. This made his condition even more vulnerable. K came to the point, ‘How many students are there in your Department?’ ‘Ten, Sir’, came the feeble voice. K visualized a whole world of vulnerability and exploitation. K was ecstatic. He said, ‘What’s the use of such a Department? The government is talking about self-reliance of universities. Government funding is not going to last forever. We’ll have to stand on our own feet. We have to generate our own resources. Try, Mr. Katju, try. Get as many students as you can. Inspire the students. After all, yours is a foreign language. Paste pamphlets on trains and buses. It won’t cost you anything and your advertisement will go to neighboring cities. Students will come and you will be able to justify your existence.’ By this time, Katju was trembling with fear. There was darkness before his eyes. I realized what is the fear of losing one’s job? Yes, I could feel another tragic saga unfolding but mind you, no one, just no one, including me could ever conjecture even in dreams, the price Katju ultimately paid for his fears, for being a weak personality, for not standing up, for not fighting injustice.
Sitting next to Katju was Dr. Mistri. He was from Physics. Fortunately for him, he too had scars like K. He fumbled with words while speaking. All his life, he had been waiting to develop right contacts. He wanted to surrender himself before someone more powerful than himself. He wanted to be powerful by being associated to someone powerful. His search had ended with K. He had found his god. Even before uttering a single word, he had in his mind surrendered himself to K. K might insult him. K might misuse him. K might ask him to sit by his side during nights. K might take him on tours. K could do whatever he wanted with Mistri. K on his part immediately understood that he had found a new devotee. His sixth sense conveyed the complete submission of Mistri. There in the Executive Committee Hall, in full public view, two hearts united, in fortune or in misery to be together. Of course, nobody understood anything at that time. It required eyes like mine to see what was happening. For everyone else, there was nothing special. Mistri had introduced himself, most ordinarily and K had just nodded. But even before the first meeting could be over, Mistri was in charge of the most important front of the university in K’s eyes – the media cell. K knew the might of media. He needed someone completely loyal to him. He had found his man. The marriage of these two souls was perfect.
It’ll always remain a mystery to me how one individual can convince others of co-operating him in evil deeds, in destroying others, in maligning others, in deviating others from normal path. I’ve seen so many well-wishers turn enemies that now I don’t keep the count. K knew this art of arousing jealousy, of telling others that if they together did not hinder a particular person, that person would actually rise. K went about it patiently. His army would attack a person most innocuously. Some phone calls, some chit-chat about the target, some chance meetings and the person would be ready to harm someone at K’s behest. He would become K’s tool. In return, K would get him chairpersonship of a seminar session, some publication somewhere, some contacts and such stuff. There are so many frustrated professors who wanted to make it big but couldn’t. Some recognition somewhere, some honor at some function would fetch him a soul. This dramatic turn has always been an enigma to me. I’ve seen so many dramatic turns achieved by K. K believed in wasting a talented person’s energy. One who writes well would be asked to write odes in K’s praise and get published in some local magazine and be overwhelmed with gratitude towards K. To promote mediocrity was his sole aim. Goodness terrified him. Simplicity threatened him. He could not see such things.
In that fateful first meeting with the teachers of the varsity, the next in the circled table was Sudhi. Sudhi Raman was there by default. In those brute BIMARU circumstances, Sudhi was unfit. She was different. In appearance, behavior, thinking, academic pursuits, and priorities in life, this tall, slim, shapely girl was an item from some other planet. She was reserved. She had no ‘heart to heart’ friends in the varsity. She was educated in a sophisticated manner. Her high breeding showed itself. Her family, her class, her exquisite manners put her in a category of her own. How had she landed at our varsity was quite another tale. Some project with Vedanta philosophy in collaboration with the Japanese had brought her to our place. Later her appointment was regularized by the Delhi VC or we may say VC from the grand Delhi institute. Sudhi first generated awe, then admiration and then finally huge amount of jealousy. She was a presence to be felt. Meeting her defined the status of the person who was meeting her. Her enthusiasm, charm, positive attitude, goodness, and zest for learning- these things were hard to be matched. Since people could not match her, they tried to pull her leg. Sudhi had actually not met a man in her professional arena who had not made advances to her. Being rebuffed, the man would preserve the bitter feeling. The members of the varsity quarreled with each other but on the point of Sudhi, all were one. It was the unwritten rule of my varsity. Without communicating, without thinking, everyone would harm Sudhi. Her crime was that she was better than others. For the first time, I decided to break the unsaid law. ‘Let her be’- this sentence welled up within me whenever I saw her. A single soul struggling against an ocean of malicious mediocre insects, trying to keep her head high, respecting herself- I often felt the need to leave the girl alone. But that was not our destiny. She would never be left alone. And after water would go above the nose, I would not be able to keep myself aloof. Of course, we didn’t know about all those things at that dramatic first meeting of K.
Sitting next to Sudhi was one of her most staunch but most silent enemies, the Lala lobby chieftain, the professor of Management, D. K. Sri. DK was after money as perhaps everyone was. But he was more exposed in this field. The moment anyone talked of DK, money came to mind. His method of making money was unique. He would get everything as per rules, after proper auditing. He was also the Director Self-financing Schemes (SFS) of the varsity. He has framed all the rules himself. In his scheme of things, he would get extra remuneration for whatever he did in the varsity. SFS classes were supposed to be different from regular classes; he would get payment for teaching an SFS class. Then, he would get thousands of rupees as remuneration for being the Director. Then, he would be paid for being In-charge of an SFS course. Then, he would teach or at least teach one paper in different SFS course in the varsity and get paid for those classes. Then, he would be sumptuously paid for making SFS papers, conducing SFS entrance examination, and SFS main examination… The list was endless. This shameless creeper drew double salary and always bragged that the varsity could not be run without his SFS. The government grant could not sustain the varsity; so SFS was necessary; and for SFS, DK was necessary. He had obtained a degree in management with some specialization in psychology. He had the deadly combination to teach, set papers, and guide a plethora of subjects like Education, Personnel Development, Tourism, Yoga, apart from his main subjects, Management and Psychology. DK never did anything for the huge salary that he received as a Professor of the varsity. Whatever he did somehow came under extra work with extra remuneration. He was a research guide in a number of disciplines. In each discipline, six candidates were allowed under him. So, he had a huge force of bonded labors. DK never fought with anyone. He only observed people and worked silently. He knew that open fights were useless. He knew when, whom, where and how to hit someone. He was very polite. He was well behaved and pleasant to talk to. He was an ardent follower of Linda Goodman and her sun-signs. He always kept that book by his side. He had memorized the date of birth of all important people of the varsity. He knew the sun sign of every single person. He knew everyone, or so he thought. He also thought that he could defeat anyone in the varsity with his sweet, indirect ways. He was most courteous with people he intended to harm. He always referred to English dailies and BBC and CNN in his conversation to look like an educated, soft-spoken professor. He did his work when he was alone with VC or Registrar. Then he pushed for his people, fought for them, belittled those he hated, struck directly at policies. DK believed in results. And the end result for him was nothing but MONEY.
Under the protection of DK, all his Lala cronies, Mona, Savita, Runjali, Geetesh were sitting. These people had no identity of their own. They were known by their lobby. They only voiced the opinion of the lobby. They spoke only in order to gather maximum information for the lobby. Who was going where, who was helping whom, who was working in which project, what was the schedule of the VC and the Registrar – all these were gems of information for the lobby. They would maneuver their moves accordingly. If an enemy was going out, DK would call a meeting of a committee in which the enemy would be a member. So the enemy would lose that opportunity to say something. There were thousand other ways of subtly hurting enemies.
Mona was crabby. Poor creature! She was destined to be in the Department of Sudhi. Totally eclipsed by Sudhi’s sheer radiance, this unfortunate soul never had any respite. She continuously thought of Sudhi. Sudhi was the most profound presence in her life. Mona was consumed by an insatiable hunger to outdo Sudhi. She mindlessly copied Sudhi. Dress, accent, style, posturing – just everything that Mona apparently did was inspired by Sudhi. What she failed to copy, however, was Sudhi’s knowledge, grace, simplicity and dedication to family. Mona wanted to outdo Sudhi but of course she could never become Sudhi. What could have been a small but beautiful earthly pot turned out to be a de-shaped, ugly, dissatisfied creature. Looking at Mona, I realized the importance of being one’s own person. Either moved by fear or hatred or jealousy, one should never pay attention to others beyond a point. Mona could have been original and fresh. Mona could have been sweet in her own way. But she sacrificed herself at the altar of jealousy. She could not enjoy what she had.
Savita was a different case. Daughter of a separated, single mother, Savita had venom in her. Her marriage was doomed from the very first day. She had one daughter whom she completely ignored. Out to attend seminars, conferences, meetings, workshops, she had no time for her little daughter. Her husband soon realized the uselessness of his position as a husband. He left for another place. Savita’s daughter was happily packed to a boarding school. She lived all alone in her flat. She could invite anyone to her place. She was as free as a bird. In short, she repeated her mother’s tale in a more refined way. While the mother had to face social rebuke, Savita was a 21st century woman of substance. She lived for herself.
Similarly, Runanjali and Geetesh were also integral parts of this important lobby of the varsity. It’ll be no exaggeration to call their lives sub-human. Their mental horizons were caged to being members of the lobby. VCs and Registrars were their gods. They could do just anything in the world in order to please and then extract benefit out of these two important dignitaries of the varsity. Names didn’t matter to them. Mr. Singh, Mr. Chalwalkar, Mr. Masia, Mr. Tripathi, or Mr Jain – whosoever occupied the position became their focus. Sometimes, I felt bad for different Registrars and VCs. They thought that they were using people but in fact, it was the vice versa. The lady professors had lost their sense of touch, their sense of body. They would go to anyone and everyone. While the poor chair occupant would think that he was using university professors, he would not know that had he not used them, the same privilege would have gone to the domestic help at home or the clerk in the Department. They were prostitutes in the name of professors. The bosses were being exploited. The male professors on their part had a more difficult task at hand. They would have to sit and drink with the bosses. It was difficult to manage that because bosses had their own social circle. Most of the male professors who aspired for the grace of the chair, tirelessly and shamelessly hovered around the chair. Whatever ‘Sahab’ said was done. When they hovered like this, there came a point where ‘Sahab’ would be dependent and whatever they demanded was done. It was a very beautiful, interdependent and complimentary relationship. I had mastered the art of watching that art.
Dr. Meetul and Dr. Dabba were next sitting in the circle. They were from the Department International Relations. Meetul was fiercely ambitious. He was ready to do anything for his professional progress. Belonging to a fashionable Department, He simply wanted to have full control over it. Temporary faculty, resources, functions, seminars, outdoor activities, tours- Meetul wished to have absolute control over everything in the Department. One line from Gore Vidal never leaves me, ‘Ideals come late in life, if at all they do.’ Meetul was young and had no qualms about doing the most immoral things for promotion, success, power and money. And of course K was watching everyone keenly.
Dabba was a moron. Dabba was a mouse. He was short, thin, and bent down from back. He had dark circles around his eyes. He could not speak fluently. In his youth, he was once caught romantically by an ad hoc college lady teacher. He thought that he was enjoying life but the ad hoc teacher knew what she was doing. She soon got pregnant. Dabba was caught and caught for good. He married Ragini, the ad hoc teacher and within six months of wedding, was blessed with a baby boy, Robby. Ragini later became a permanent college teacher because the government decided to regularize all ad hoc teachers. The government decided so because the wives of many big officers and daughters-in-law of many influential people were teaching as ad hoc. Colleges were good grazing ground for all sorts of cattle. Many buffaloes entered the noble profession. Anyway, to come back to Dabba, he was finished. He was henpecked. Ragini ruled him as well as many other men. Dabba resigned to his fate. He even started enjoying his wife’s little flings with other men and even felicitated them. Dabba always said that Ragini was very romantic and always laughed peevishly after saying so as though he was conveying a secret message. They were a nice couple, made for each other. Together, they progressed and prospered. It is a different matter that Robby, ‘the sixth month’ baby boy eloped with a girl twice his age when he was in 10th standard. But all that was mere coincidence. Don’t say that children copy parents. It’ll be impolite to say so. And yes, K was watching. K simply loved Dabba.
The picture gallery of my varsity is about to end; only one or two prominent groups remain to be described. Next in the circled table was sitting a group of three men, Dwivedi, Trivedi and Chaturvedi. I wish to describe this group as ‘good for nothing’ group. They were not bad but they were not good either. They would not harm anyone openly but would never help anyone either. They would never criticize openly but would never take a stand on any issue. The fence-sitters, the cowards, the hypocrites- they presented the perfect picture of teachers. Oiled hair, shirt-in, a book in hand, innocuous look, gentle-looking, they were great teachers indeed!
Prof. Rai was lonely in our university. He had come from another region. He had suffered many an injustice in the varsity; the most recent being that the Governor had appointed a dean out of turn. It was Rai’s turn but breaking the serial, the Governor gave Deanship on political grounds to someone akin to his own affiliation. Rai was downcast. He could not envisage any way out. Going to court would mean years and years of crawling and endless expenditure. Rai was more or less in a trap.
The last professor was Ramaiya. A Professor of Environmental Studies, Ramaiya had not entered a classroom in the past one decade. Ramaiya was worldly. Ramaiya was ambitious. Ramaiya had no morals. Ramaiya could say anything about anyone. Ramaiya had a loud voice. Ramaiya had strong political leanings. Ramaiya made strategies all the time. Ramaiya wanted to use people for his own gains. Ramaiya made people fight with each other. Ramaiya was a rumour mill. In short, Ramaiya was ideal VC stuff. His future VC-ship was all, that he could think of. He had no other interests.
This by and large completes the picture gallery of my varsity.
Continued to "Katju, Alias ghashiram Kotwal" University Memoirs - IV
NOTE: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real situation/s, institution/s or individual/s is a coincidence.