Life progresses in leaps and bounds. Dreams change. Priorities alter. I wonder how people actually hold on to just one thing for life. I mean, an idea lasts with you for some time and then it goes away, dissolves, vanishes into the thin air. It's been like this with me. There was a time when I could settle with nothing less than becoming a Shakespeare, a Freud or a Rousseau. That's how it was. I just floated on ideas. When boys tried their best to impress girls and dreamt of running away with them, I was genuinely cramming Plato's "Republic". There's always been this gush within me. I've lived and lived quite satisfactorily but nevertheless, there's always been this desire within me to burst out, to flow out, to say, to express. I don't think I have the correct words for this feeling but be sure; it's been there within me.
Initially, there are no choices in life. You're born where you're. You hardly have any control over the kind of training and grooming you are going to get. Your mental horizons are decided at that stage. It's only later, quite late in life; you get an opportunity to decide for yourself. But even there, your mental horizons are already fixed. I tried to fix my own horizons. Reading, exposure to classics in literature, philosophy, mythology, history and other similar areas did inspire me.
When the source of creation gets dirty, it repulses you. Wherever the world may go but I'm sure that this one thing will never change.
I totally identify with Aristotle's view that it is a basic human tendency to make sense out of this chaos called life. Man will try to understand things, no matter what. This need is as basic as hunger and thirst - no exaggeration intended there! Thinking has been my forte. Through this abstract but very real process I've tried to choose my own mental space. I don't know how successful I've been. But I've tried. I believe that an individual is what he thinks. The choice of our mental food, our approach to things, and our inclination towards our matters of interest in life finally decide the kind of individuals we are. Life is a question of canalization of mental energies. The direction is important. The path that you take decides everything. There's no destination, needless to mention! Life is a celebration of its own movement.
So, I landed up with a university teaching job even before I had any power to decide for myself. It didn't sound bad. It's not that I didn't try for anything else or didn't dream of other things. My dreams of 'a Shakespeare, Freud, and Rousseau’ hadn't died. But nitty-gritty, there I stood - a university lecturer at twenty one. An ordinary university - but I didn't know about it then. I took my job very seriously. I thought it was all about teaching, learning, reading, writing etc. How wrong I was then!
Our Vice-chancellor had descended on our remote, obscure university from a great institution from Delhi. He was full of disgust for everything he saw around himself. He looked at our varsity just as we look at a slum. He was a man of international repute, a great Professor of Computer Science from a great institution in Delhi. He had even managed to force a Lecturer from his great institution to come down to our varsity and sit in the computer center. This small, frail, mouse-like Lecturer had the misfortune of pursuing his Ph.D. under the guidance of our Vice-chancellor. I did not know then that 'doing Ph.D.' was one of the highest, most evolved forms of slavery. A Ph.D. scholar was a personal servant of the guide. He was a bonded labor, who could not fancy any meaningless ideas like self-respect, propriety or justice. A Ph.D. scholar had no rights. He was at the mercy of the guide. Bringing vegetables, grocery and other items of daily need to the guide's house was the most important assignment of a Ph.D. scholar. Booking tickets for the guide for his hi-fi travels to various academic gatherings was another vital task. There were several other tasks ranging from serving tea to cleaning tables that a Ph.D. scholar was supposed to do. Of course if the guide was a man, and the scholar a girl, things would be different. Things would be much smoother then.
In any case, I've deviated. So, we had a mouse-like Delhite Lecturer sitting in the computer center. He was obviously very unhappy with his situation. He always said that he was at such a small place only out of 'respect' for his guide; otherwise he would not have been here. Nobody ever questioned his high intentions.
Life teaches. It teaches you even when you don't want to learn. It drives very definite lessons home. It doesn't matter if the lessons are welcome or not. When I joined the varsity, I was looking for a proper teaching place, a sitting place, a learning experience, healthy discussions, interaction and what not. Instead I was placed at this computer center with a simple command, 'Learn computer.' Our Vice-chancellor was a computer freak. He believed in computers just as we do in God. A computer for him was a kind of idol. It was an answer to just everything. May be, he was right. I don't know. But I was looking for a teaching job. Anyway, as per orders, I sat before the computer every day. Nobody taught me anything. I was supposed to pick up things automatically. I was considered bright! The dejected Lecturer from Delhi, disinterested operators, and cramped computer cell - this was my entry to the big, grand world of higher studies in India. The fact that it took me about one decade after this initial exposure to computers to revive my faith in this wonderful machine called a computer is a testimony of the futility of the forced computer encounter. Once a very mature colleague told me never to expect anything university-like at our university. Perhaps, he had read my fancies about being a university Professor!
I've always been the odd one out. It was so at the beginning of my career as well. I never understood why certain Professors were so angry with some fellow Professors. Why University teachers constantly criticized each other, plotted against each other, formed their separate lobbies. It was like a gang war. The only difference was lack of direct violence and apparent display of absolute sweetness. Loyalties counted. The lobbies were basically formed around castes. The Lala lobby was the most powerful one when I had joined. Likewise, there were Brahmin and Thakur lobbies as well. Usually, a senior, patriarch-like figure headed a lobby. He will support, and uplift members of his lobby, no matter what. He will present them in good light before the Vice-chancellor and win favors for them. They, in turn will remain loyal to him. They will follow him at all costs. Members of a lobby socialized with each other. Their family members met regularly. A lobby was a world within itself.
My university was situated on a rocky, hillock kind of a sight. There was ample greenery in the rainy season. Winters also looked pretty green. But summers were dry and parched. Terrible summers were naturally coupled with regular power cuts. Things turned nasty during summer. There were no genuine efforts to develop greenery. From time to time, funds were allocated for plantation etc. but they were only false moves. The money of course went elsewhere. Every Indian knows where the money goes. The university premises were often used as open lavatories and toilets by people of the surrounding area. No one ever objected. Nor did anyone feel anything awkward about it. It was the ‘done’ thing. I truly questioned my parents and their mode of upbringing that made me so miserable watching people excrete within the temple of the goddess of learning.
I thought my university was a queer place. I feared if all universities of the world were like mine. Nothing was clear. I hardly understood the motives behind the way people behaved. I thought the varsity folk used their energy and brain entirely in the wrong direction. I know that generalizations are wrong. But I am tempted to say that universities house inflated egos. So many bulging, de-shaped, ugly, twisted EGOES. There can't be any other explanation for the behavior of the faculty and the staff. Lies, cheating, spying, maligning, conspiring... The list is endless.
The photo gallery of my university was long and queer. The senior most Professor was obviously bald. His name was Prof. M. S. Mahato. He had a huge following. He personally followed his wife. His wife had a substantially important role to play in the university politics. Each evening, the couple walked together on the university roads, confided in each other and decided their game plan. They also held regular social gatherings in their house. They followed a Baba ardently. The Baba, like all other spiritual gurus, had special days to be celebrated. Birthdays, silence days, Nirvana days - their yearly calendar had plenty of such dates. They loved bhajans. Research scholars, junior teachers etc. sang foolishly, as though engulfed in the ocean of spirituality. There was a rival lobby of the same Baba devotees. The fight was actually to prove as to who was the 'genuine' devotee. But of course, the modus operandi of this Mahato man will take some space to be described.
I don't know what's going to happen with our caste system. The original idea was to create a caste-less society. But then our constitution solidified 'caste' by silly and unreasonable extension of reservation in government jobs just on the basis of birth. This created a new caste - rich Dalit. Our Mahato man belonged to this caste. His wife came from a higher caste. They had, what is popularly known in our country as 'love' marriage. Love marriage, as everyone knows is a marriage where children marry defying their parents, many times outside their caste. These things would have blurred but for the constant official reminder of 'caste'. The actually needy and poor remain outside the vicious, mainstream orbit. Anyway, Mahato was a complicated man. Once upon a time when he was a student, he used to study very studiously and sincerely. He got into university service without using his caste tag. He belonged to a caste that was supposed to oil and massage the landlords. But then things derailed for him once he entered our university.
Actually many incidents and turn of events distorted Mahato's vision. He went to England with his wife and children on a study tour. When he returned, he tried to live like an English Bohemian in this small, middle province town of India. His wife made pastries and cakes in home; even got a very short haircut. To add to the English dream, she even dressed in skirts at home. All this was okay. But the blow came when the family started going on 'enjoying' their vacations quite often. Spirituality was another hobby of Mahato. The two things combined and the deadly concoction of spiritual voyages resulted. To make a long legendary story short, once Mahato-man had gone to Rishikesh along with his wife and children and something disastrous happened with him. A god man raped his wife before him and his children. The legend had it that the god man put a spell on Mahato and children, so that they could not move while he attacked and raped Mrs. Mahato. When Mahato returned, he was a changed man.
When Mahato returned, he had all the ingredients of a university professor. He was determined to exploit young girls. He could not tolerate any trace of self-respect in any upcoming teacher or scholar or even a simple student. He had to run his own clan. He had to have followers. He could not own his wife's insult. The hidden incident started rotting his psyche. He loved to destroy families. He enjoyed the pain of others. He humiliated young husbands by flirting with their wives before them. He did not leave spirituality. He only changed tracks. From traditional deities, he shifted to a sophisticated Baba. The Baba's life itself had many unexplained twists and turns. But spirituality helped Mahato in developing his lobby. It helped him in changing basic faith of those around him. It gave him an opportunity to organize or get organized functions where he could sit on the dais and sermonize and feel important.
Mahato had his eyes firmly set on a very beautiful, delicate Rajasthani girl who was doing post graduation in the department. She was married and that was added salt for Mahato. He craved for wives of other men. Her husband was weak and had tremendous weakness for money. The poor husband served in a school. Now let’s see how Mahato turned this pretty but foolish Rajasthani girl into a university professor, a dean, an HOD, a warden and what not.
It's amazing to note how Indian universities actually function. There're extremely cheap women who call themselves professors. There're equally repulsive men in the name of professors. The modus operandi of entering universities as faculty has been totally non academic. At least in the majority of the cases, people have become university teachers because of the 'blessing' of the research guide or vice-chancellor or some other professor. Now, this 'blessing' does not come for free. You have to pay for it. And, naturally once you pay for your 'blessing', you'll also tax others when you are in a position to 'bless'. All over the university, this blessing saga goes on. People crave for blessing. People work day and night for blessing. Those who can bless do not do so easily. Every research scholar, every aspiring university teacher knows the sentence, 'I need only your blessing' or ' please do keep your grace on me' (bus apki kripa-drishti chahiye). There's no other method here. Knowledge, capability, flair for teaching, enthusiasm, will to work, dedication for the subject - all such things are in fact disqualification. Everyone starts attacking a person with these or any of these qualities. Nothing unites human beings better than mediocrity. Inferiority complex transcends all barriers. Caste, region, religion, gender, profession - everything nullifies when it comes to crushing a genuine person. I distinctly remember the comment of a potent professor to a young lady Lecturer, ' You've too many angularities. You don't fit in the frame. Doesn't matter. As time will pass, you'll learn how to fit in.'
It's sickening to see how men enjoy their sensation to be tickled. A university professor by rule is a miser. He is generally a non-generous person. He spends very carefully, if at all. He saves a lot. He wears ordinary clothes. He misses no opportunity to save money. It's very difficult to get even a cup of tea from a university professor. Now all entertainment in this world comes at a cost. Shopping, sight-seeing, games, movie-watching- past time activities require some expenditure. But flirting with the wives of other men does not require money. You sit and you brood. You plan and you malign. Like sick, slippery snakes you move around women and girls. You show them power. You tempt them with dreams of a bright future. You use girls of your daughter's age. It comes free. No money is required. Once I was sitting in Tibetan Studies Centre at Sarnath. A seminar was going on. An impressive, middle-aged, influential and snaky professor was sitting in the row in front of me. His name was Professor Tripathi. He was from Delhi. Ria Kapoor, a dainty but determined girl was sitting next to him. Ria was a Lecturer in some private college at Kanpur. She wanted to make it big. She wanted to be a university professor. Tripathi could do the magic for her. All through the seminar session, we the back-front occupants enjoyed cheap scenes of lusty wandering hands over a young female body.
Our dear, 'chweet', cute, mute, lovely etc. etc. Rajasthani 'bala' did not waste any time in not getting into the frame. Identity, protest, self-respect - these words are sheer wastage of time. They have no place in the dictionary of an aspiring university teacher. These foolish, bogus concepts like exploitation, ethics, dignity - they only procrastinate the desired result. In the end, everyone has to fit in the frame. Remember, everyone, everyone... No one can escape the frame. The frame has been set. It's caste in 'adamantine' mettle.
What did Mahato do sitting in his chamber? He did what most of the university teachers love to do. They sit and talk and plan and then 'enjoy'. For university professors, ‘enjoyment’ is a very tangible word. The moment you say, ‘Oh, he’s enjoying’, the other person will understand everything. When your enemies are not in a position to trouble you, when you’ve free access to women and girls, when you attend functions as chief guest, in short, when you become an idiotic ego-potato, you’re definitely ‘enjoying’. And yes, mind you, university professors are very particular whether you’ve made them special or chief guest of honor. They may forget their son’s birth date but they never forget the sequence in which ‘honor’, ‘chief’ or ‘special’ have to speak. If the sequence is disturbed, they’ll carry the grudge to grave. They may have nothing substantial to say, but they are ready to kill for protocol, regard, respect, sequencing of speakers, seat arrangement on dais and so on. And yes, if you forget one of their positions while calling them to deliver their precious thoughts, you’re doomed. For example, you may forget as to which subject the professor belongs, but remember all Deans, Chairmen, Councilors suffixed to his name. The Indian professor values these suffixes like hell; they are his life-time earnings. Remember, decades of tail-wagging have earned him these titles. If you don’t believe me, just pick up the letter-head of a professor. The left margin would be full of title, membership, award bullshit.
Senior professors have access to the Vice-chancellor. They have their network. They know important people. They exploit the younger lot because the younger lot does not have entry into important corridors. This is the kind of training the younger lot gets. How to develop network? How to butter the VC and if possible the Registrar also? How to cut down prospects of others? How to malign others? University communities speak in chorus. The senior professors run their own 'gotras'. Each 'gotra' will speak in the same voice. Just as ancient sages had families. These families became clans and took the shape of 'gotras'. Just as our khap panchayats are ready to die or kill in the name of 'gotras', the members of the gotra in a university behave in the same manner.
Now our Rajasthani bala or let's call her Raji had no qualms about being used. She was what her name suggests ‘Raji’ (ready) all the time, anywhere. Raji was beautiful. She was fair. She was slender. She had large eyes. She spoke with extra stress. For example 'Sir' became 'Sirrrrrr'. The heads of sirs rolled with her 'sirrrrrrrrs'. She learnt the art of showing cleavage. It saved her from performing hazardous experiments and getting the right results in the laboratory. Instead, she loved sitting with 'sirrrrrrrrs'. She knew her path. It's amazing how women walk with determination on the path of promiscuity. She needed money. She wanted power. She had to be a university professor. She had to be the warden of the hostels. She had to be the chairperson of college council. She had to run a self-supporting course and make extra bucks. She had to do all this and much more. And the only route she was taught to get all this was her lovely cleavage.
Raji became whatever she wanted. Her beauty granted her everything. Everyone loved Raji. She mastered the art of tickling the sensation of middle-aged, perverted men. Through words, through gestures, through signs – she made men happy. Men loved to be around her. They loved to laugh with her. No one needed to bother that she was an utter fool. She could not write one correct sentence either in Hindi or in English. Men, wise men, professors – all came to sit near her. They dictated what she should write on files. They even scribbled notes on her behalf. Her victory was complete. She was everything that she ever wanted to be.
Raji had become part of the university folklore. Everyone knew her success story by heart. Long after she was gone, people used to recall the golden tales of silvery Raji. No matter they skipped the part how Raji eventually started getting old, how she started in failing to capture men’s slippery attention, how other girls and women started taking her place, how desperately she tried to recapture her lost youth by popping estrogen tablets, how these hormonal tablets resulted in cancer, how Raji lost one of her beautiful breasts, and how she even supplied her research scholars to powerful professors to get her work done. No one ever talked about these things. It was as though everyone wanted to keep the memory of fresh Raji fresh in their mind. It was taboo to talk about her lost glory, and her fallen years.
When the source of creation gets dirty, it repulses you. Wherever the world may go but I'm sure that this one thing will never change. This is one category which will never go - good women and bad women; strong women and loose women. Mother Mary, Joan of Arc, Mother Sita, the Queen of Jhansi - we cannot imagine a world without these figures. The pure woman as the source of creation will always inspire the human race.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real situation/s, institution/s or individual/s is a coincidence.'
Continued to "Learned Men: University Memoirs - II"