Continued from "The Picture Gallary of My Varsity" University Memoirs - III
(University Memoirs – IV)
The beauty of K’s work was essentially his being multi-dimensional. He could actually work on many fronts simultaneously. He could torture dozens of persons at the same time and all of them would feel that he was targeting that one single individual. His capacity to harass was indeed limitless. Katju was a very natural and obvious prey for K. After all these years, when I realize and analyze the scenario, I feel I should have known better. But at that point in time in my varsity, nobody, just nobody had dealt with a person like K. All of us had, till then, met mortal, ordinary human beings. None of us was prepared for a monster like K. It still gives me shivers to remember that I had actually seen and dealt with a man as ghastly as K. He had no God. He had no rules. He had nothing to hold him back. He had nothing to lose. He had already lost everything- happiness, simplicity, sleep, innocence, just everything!
... the shackles of traditional concepts of sexual conduct were the biggest hurdles in India’s progress. If India wanted to march forward into the future, she’d have to do away with all nonsensical concepts of virginity before marriage, chastity, one-partner devotion and so on ...
K began his operations ruthlessly and systematically. He removed the friendly in-charge H.o.D in Katju’s department. A hostile person was given charge of the French Department. The Vice-Chancellor regularly sought the status report of the Department, its various activities, attendance register, admission register, fee register etc. It’s really amazing to know that it’s not very difficult to harass someone. Big tortures are made up of small steps. Attention of the boss is often enough to cause panic. That’s exactly what K was aiming at. K had the knack of instilling fear in a deadly manner. The person before him would be convinced that he would be killed. K successfully brought pictures of complete ruin before his prey.
Many letters, memos, explanation calls and visits of the Honorable Vice-Chancellor to the Department followed. Everyone stood clueless as to why such misfortune had befallen this apparently innocuous creature called Katju. The rumor mill churned out various stories- the Vice-Chancellor hated South Indians; Katju said something objectionable the other day; The Vice-Chancellor could not stand silly people; he liked smart, active, capable people. Katju was considered to be good for nothing. Nobody liked to be seen with Katju.
Everyone feared the wrath of the Honorable Vice-Chancellor. Some pitied him in their heart but it was of no good. Katju was desperate. He had left his translator’s job. The brothers of his wife were all big, black South Indians. He had to continuously prove his worth to them. He had two children to look after. His daughter Neeta was in First year BBA. His son Asheesh was in tenth standard. ‘Where would I go? I won’t even receive alms.’ Katju worked himself up day and night within himself. He had a myopic vision. He did not know that it was not so easy to take away someone’s job. There were modes of protest and redress available. But Katju was a weak man. He knew that he could not fight. He had invested some money in shares but naturally losing his job was not an option before him. He had to survive. But, how? That was the gigantic question. His relationship with his wife was cold. They had never experienced warmth. Both of them had accepted the fate of being together and that was all. That’s how most of the marriages are, aren’t they?
Things were repugnantly rolling out. Katju was anyhow reeling under unbearable pressure. And just then, something happened in the university that shattered Katju’s mental vision. It changed him as a person. His thinking changed. The incident could be described in one sentence. K suspended a senior professor from service. The professor was from Environmental Sciences. He was also a South Indian. K, true to his temperament, believed in outrageous activities. It was his style. He derived lessons home through his dreadful deeds. That was a defining moment in the history of my varsity. The teaching community would never be the same again. The rod of the administrator left its permanent scar on the psyche of teachers. From then on, each teacher would become totally diplomatic. They would never openly disagree with anything. They would work for their personal security. That meant, they would earn more and more money in any manner possible. They would purchase land. They would go for insurance in a big was. The basics of life were taught to us in the cruelest manner.
The ‘kissa’ was that the suspended professor had gone to the court against the governor who had appointed a dean out of turn. The suspended professor’s turn was eaten up by another professor who had higher links. Since the governor had done something wrong; he had broken seniority without any logical reason, he was sure to face problems in court. Of course, he could not say in court that someone had buttered him better and therefore he deserved to be a dean. Now governor sahib wanted the suspended professor to withdraw the case against him. But the suspended professor had notions of propriety and academic traditions. Needless to mention that he was a fool. K, on behalf of his boss, the governor told the stubborn professor to withdraw the case. The professor had refused. K had an opportunity. The devil never misses an opportunity. He could please governor sahib! Wow! He could further ensure tenures of VC-ship. So, one fine morning, the professor received the lovely love letter that he was suspended from service for not returning the checked answer sheets on time! Check-mate! Done! Gone! All your bloody notions of propriety! God dam!
Among the many tragic tales of the varsity, this was also added. The suspension broke the professor. He kneeled before K. I had seen him sitting outside K’s office many times. The peons of the office of the Honorable Vice-Chancellor told him that the Sahib was busy in some meeting and could not meet him. All of us went and came out but the professor who had dared to challenge authority sat outside, waiting for his turn to be allowed to butter, lick boots, sing false praises, do sinful acts, corroborate in wrong doings, kill conscience… He kept waiting. He had two daughters, both studying in professional colleges. His wife was a homely creature. She was bewildered at the turn of events. The daughters were scared.
Time passed. Points were driven home. Lessons were learnt. The case was withdrawn. But K was in no hurry to waive suspension. The suspension was the living proof of his might. The only might is the might to harm others. Right! There cannot be any other criterion for social respect. If you can harm people, people will respect you. Otherwise, you are vegetable. Some eight or nine months later, the professor was reinstated. But something had died within him. It was a matter of further six months or so before he succumbed to a massive heart attack. I remember seeing him in the ICU. He was smiling, as though saying that he knew about the pity he generated in people. But he never wanted to generate pity. He wanted to fight. He was not allowed to fight. He died. The Honorable Vice-Chancellor and his voluptuous wife visited the bereaved family. The family said nothing. The wife of the professor was offered a clerical job. The only silver lining in the whole saga was her refusing the offer. Her brothers took her back to their native place in Warangal. There was no further mutation, no further churning, and no further disfigurement of the family, at least not before our eyes. That was relief.
You will say that I am lying; that I’m taking my literary license a bit too far. How can such incidents of sheer injustice happen in such enlightened places like universities? How is it possible that no voice of protest was ever raised? But believe me, my dear reader, no one even thought of protesting. The teachers’ association kept organizing functions in the honor of the Honorable, now doubly Honored Vice-Chancellor and everyone behaved as though nothing had happened. Everyone shared K’s public joy in ridiculing the professor. Everyone agreed with K with bowed head that the professor was indeed useless. Such people had no right to live. They were a burden on the system. If K would have his way he’d cleanse the system of all such elements. And in their place bring in all smart, active or overactive people instead. If only K could have his way!
The courses that the professor ran were eagerly taken by his colleagues. All teachers kept supporting K and kept getting rewards like, a place in the flying squad of examinations, or a membership of some wretched committee, some pennies here, and some currency notes there. The integrity of teachers lay scattered.
But there was no such silver lining in Katju’s case. Around the time of the suspension, Katju was once summoned to the Vice-Chancellor’s residence. He was instructed to be present in the nightly sittings of the Honorable Vice-Chancellor.
That night K talked to Katju about his daughter, who was pursuing BBA from the varsity. K was in his elements. He talked at length. He told Katju about the beauty of Katju’s daughter. He described his infatuation for her. He told Katju that he had been watching his daughter at various functions for quite some time. He also told Katju about the importance of being ‘bold’. Katju should ‘boldly’ help a person like K in meeting his daughter. It would help him in his career, and it would also help him save his job. When fathers allow their daughters to meet their bosses ‘boldly’, it could even result in promotion of fathers to professorship.
Ghashiram went to Poona from Kannauj, served his daughter to Nanaphadnavis, and became the Kotwal of the city. Ghashiram became Ghashiram Kotwal and unleashed a reign of terror. Hats off to Vijay Tendulkar for the fiery play!
K was philosophical. He talked of ‘Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam’ that day, the great Indian ideal that the whole world is your family. He said that the shackles of traditional concepts of sexual conduct were the biggest hurdles in India’s progress. If India wanted to march forward into the future, she’d have to do away with all nonsensical concepts of virginity before marriage, chastity, one-partner devotion and so on. Katju’s mind had become dysfunctional. He felt numb. He could not think. There was a strange kind of shiver running through his frail body as though some force more powerful than him was chewing into his mind, heart, body and soul.
K talked of his own family with such tenderness. He told Katju about his nest that spread across the nation. Some Brigadier’s wife at Chandigarh, some Sadhvi at the shores of the Ganga at Allahabad, some college teacher at Goreganva – there were thousands of them; K’s women and girls. And through them, there were their husbands, fathers, brothers, and friends. K felt proud of his fort. He was candid. He was speaking the truth. K told Katju that he was born for this purpose only, to unite the world into one sexual union. He was a messiah, the messiah of the miserable. He would protect and rule a person only if that person would be miserable. Therefore, first to make a person miserable, making that person suitable for his blessing and then blessing him or her – this was the modus operandi of K. K took Katju on a mental voyage of his own. He kept talking as though in a trance.
He told him about his birth. They were traditional land lord of their village in U.P. His father’s elder brother had become a sanyasi. His father was a Developmental Officer. But there were no children for a long time in the family. Children started coming only when the elder brother, the sanyasi came on a sojourn to the family house in the ancestral village. That was the reason, K told Katju, why he always kept remembering his Tau, his uncle. The earth is round, said K. Everything comes a full circle. Edges mingle. Family name goes on. The name of the father runs; the blood of the uncle runs. It all runs. His uncle was a great linguist, a contemporary of Rahul Sankratyayana, a very wise man, the old patriarch of a small village of U.P.
K talked of his voluptuous wife. She had always been voluptuous, even before marriage. She had a creamy skin, her hair like the mane of a lioness, her eyes fierce, as though ready to eat, and her body slightly swelling from all sides. She was not fat; she was not slim; she was simply ideal for rubbing, squeezing, playing. She was not only ideal for kneading; she was ready as well, all the time, everywhere. Like Browning’s duchess, her smiles showered equally on all. She was loving to all. K went on telling Katju how wives help husbands become Vice-chancellors, how central ministers lick, taste, chew, and eat wives and how husbands become ‘kul-gurus’, how wives help husbands in running the university by visiting ministers, officers and extending the families of the messiah of the miserable. Wives also brought, netted, spotted other women and girls into the pious aura of husbands and thereby helped the noble cause.
At times, it appeared that K was a fool. May be, he was. He always talked about the incidents that led to his becoming the Vice-Chancellor. He had carefully crafted a dignified tale of how he was invited for a lecture in Rajasthan, how the governor of that state got impressed with his knowledge and oratory, how he got recommended to the governor of our state and how he finally got appointed. He had rehearsed his part over and over again. We knew each line by heart because the Vice-Chancellor was a ‘bakbaka’ (silly and talkative), because the Vice-Chancellor always needed people near him, as though afraid of being left alone, because the Vice-chancellor extended his family just anywhere, with whomsoever available. He talked so much, really so much. But then, a foolish person could not have ruined so many lives, so many souls!
K had no time schedule. He was never busy. Just see, his meeting with Katju kept extending like a rubber band. It was already three in the morning. But the Honorable Vice-Chancellor was in full flow. Katju, of course had no sense of time left with him. He had become an open river to be drunk as freely as K wanted. His mind was all pulp. It is at such points one has to reconsider the opinion as to K was a fool or not. He was cunningly planning and executing his motives. That is true. But in the process, he himself became insane, if not exactly foolish. The vehemence with which he pursued his course left him open at many pores. Many of the mentally sick people are initially very cunning. Simple people are normal.
Then K came to his final blow, a blow that invariably won his souls. He talked with such passion about the injustice of God. Most human beings nurture such deep sense of ‘injured merit’. They keep a keen record of things they missed in life. Most people do not pay enough heed to what they have or what they themselves have done. It’s amazing that people worship God out of habit, fear or lack of option. Most people live unintentional, instinctive lives. There are actually very less number of people who analyze themselves and their positioning in the universe. An utter fool who is adorning the post of a university professor will never thank God for the undeserved boon; but he will certainly blame God for giving the same bounty to his neighbor. K understood it all very well. He silently and if needed boldly provoked the sense of lost opportunities, missed possibilities in people. If any catastrophe were to strike someone, he’d say that God had done what he had to and now it was for us to correct things. His own skin disease, his voluptuous spouse, his early unemployment and many other points came when K got to talk about the injustice of the scheme of things. Then he came to lucrative jobs of those who knew French and how Katju was struggling in the remote area. He dug into Katju’s areas of unfulfilled desires. He loved watching people in that vulnerable state. He wanted to know the unfulfilled desires of people. That gave him a beginning for his work.
Finally, Katju nodded. He was convinced of his daughter’s use in the pious activity of uniting the world. Katju would not have to do anything. Meetul and Dabba had been trained in the art. They’d manage everything; Katju had only to look on and sulk, and ignore.
And so the folklore says that K met Neeta, Katju’s daughter. And he ‘met’ her over and over again. Katju’s wife came to know about it quite later. She was a woman of steel. She filed for a divorce suit. She took both her children back to Hyderabad. Katju now lives a divorced life. The huge university bungalow that he now occupies glows with blessings of K. Katju had been blessed by K and blessed abundantly. As time passed, Katju developed contacts within police high-ups, bank high-ups and grew to be very popular. Every night became merry. Every day became busy. Of course he could never acquire the ferocity of K but Katju in his own way was a changed man. Nobody asked him about the number of students in his Department. No one threatened him. Looking at Katju now, I always remember the story of the dragon that bit people and the moment it bit the other person also became a dragon. Multiplying of devils is no new concept. Raktabeej multiplied as his blood dropped on earth. Each drop created thousands of Raktabeej. Mythology makes sense to me.
Continued to "Miserable Mistri: The Tragic-Comic Figure of the Varsity"
NOTE: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real situation/s, institution/s or individual/s is a coincidence.