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Miserable Mistri: The Tragic-Comic Figure
of the Varsity
|by Prof. Shubha Tiwari|
(University Memoirs – V)
Miserable Mistri was the most erratic character of my varsity. He was small-sized. He was scarred. He shifted from one side to the other while talking. He rounded himself, twisted his body, and continuously adjusted himself physically. His body language was perhaps an indicator of his unreliable self. Viewed from one angle, K’s whole stay in the varsity and his subsequent contacts can be summarized in one phrase, ‘Mission Mistri’. He did whatever he could to strengthen MM’s position, his influence, contacts, prospects and respectability. Ironically, he could not give MM what he needed most, a promotion. MM had worked in the Police Department prior to his shift to the university. He had come to the system late. Therefore, time was running short for him. He was a Reader while everyone in his age group had already become a professor. He desperately and urgently needed a promotion. MM and K had chalked out a grand plan of promotion in the varsity; a plan that would not only promote MM but also make him a lobby head. He would head a full lobby! That was the plan. But the plan had to be executed. They were not imaginative enough to visualize the obvious lacunae in their vicious plan. But, let’s be logical in our narration; first thing first. What was the plan?
Deep into nights, when MM and K sat together and planned moves, discussed destinies and decided fates, they gradually developed a plan. The plan was to finish boundaries within the people who mattered. There were people who mattered and there were people who didn’t matter. SDP, DK, Lala lobby combine, Brahmin lobby combine, Sudhi Raman, and Meetul – these were the elements that mattered. SDP, as you would like to know, was to be executed; he was to be eliminated; removed from the scene. Sudhi had to be corrupted at any cost. The rest were no problem. Over a period of one year or so, the varsity would be united into one big whole. K explained that he wanted to receive loyalty from all sides, all groups. Quarrelling lobbies made it difficult for him to receive subjugation from everyone. Different groups might have differences among themselves but when it would come to K, there would be no difference. K clearly saw that there was no fundamental difference in persons. They were all morally corrupt; right and wrong did not matter to them. They all wanted to make money, by hook or crook. Academically, they were all poor. None of them had any commitment for their academic discipline. They all exploited research scholars and subordinates. All of them had a sham sense of vanity. They all wanted some temporary fun. They had no aim, no mission. They wanted to occupy big posts and the route to big posts, in their eyes, was money, contacts, caste and moral corruption. They were ditching their spouses. They wanted to look respected. They loved sitting on dais. They all wanted others to listen to their words. They posed to be academics. They had no problem in moving around the administrative office with files in their hands. All they wanted was sanction on some wretched file that would give them money. Most of them could not write correct sentences either in English or in Hindi. They had come to this profession simply because they could not become officers. Why they could not become officers? Because their fathers did not pay the necessary bribe at the state commission.
What separated the bunch of jokers was their assumption that one’s financial gain was another’s loss. Petty issues like who’d compeer a program or who would be in the list of invitees to a dinner with a visiting dignitary or who would sit on dais – these were issues on which the university professors fought. K had eyes. He visualized a vast realm in my varsity. There would be no two groups. All men would be K’s men; woman also, of course! He often, in his speeches or in private conversations, stressed the meaning of the word, ‘kulpati’. ‘Pati’ in Hindi means husband and ‘kul’ stood for the whole university-family. So, he was the husband of the whole university. He would be husband to all women and girls. He would be husband to husbands’ wives and daughters. In this manner, he would make his ideal ‘kul’ (clan).
So, the plan was the structuring of an ideal ‘kul’ and that structuring needed restructuring. Sudhi was the most potent threat to K because her very presence negated the presence of K. In terms of psychic energy, she surpassed K. She stood for all those things which k wanted to destroy. Her presence insulted K. Her presence was a proof of failure of K and his likes. People like Sudhi could live and live happily proved that people like K had no power over their lives; they could not harm the likes of Sudhi. Sudhi reminded K and everyone of what he did not have, namely, purity, innocence, thirst for knowledge, genuineness, appeal, and goodness. Seen from K’s angle, we can easily see how Sudhi frustrated him. She could not be punished like SDP because she had not done anything wrong. What could be done with her? Just one thing could finish the problem called Sudhi - she must be corrupted; she must be made like others.
DK, Ramaiya and Lala lobby provided their support purely on financial grounds. They must make money. Nothing else made sense to them. They must be part of every committee. They must be in-charge of all examination cells like, valuation cell, examination superintendence cell, coding of answer sheets cell, decoding of answer sheets cell, flying squads against cheating and the like. If any important dignitary were to arrive, they must be in all committees- wash committee, stage decoration committee, sitting arrangement committee, refreshment committee, and even car parking committee! All these assignments yielded money. Note-sheets would fly around corners of the administrative block, money would be sanctioned and money would be eaten. One shawl with which the chief guest would be honored would cost ten times more than its actual cost. Flowers, coconuts, red powder, glossy papers, mineral water bottles - everything would come and come at a price. University teachers love organizing functions in honor of high dignitaries. You can actually see their tails wagging!
So, the plan was to finish boundaries. The plan was to unite people at a deeper level of understanding. K knew only too well that people united in sin remain united. He believed that unity in crimes went much deeper than unity in good deeds. Everyone would be related to everyone else physically. It would be like one big clan of K. MM would be his Beelzebub, his deputy. He would pass on instructions on behalf of K. He would receive subjugation. Receiving subjugation is different from subjugating someone. The act of surrender is complete when one receives subjugation. K did not force slavery; he received it. After all, his method was ‘love’. He would go on brutally butchering mythology and say that even Lord Krishna had sixteen thousand, eight hundred and one queens. K simply relished using noble tales, genuine symbols for his cell-pool activities. He would never graduate to meeting of ‘atman’ to ‘param-atman’ in the ‘raasleela’ of Krishna. Such talk depressed him. He would discuss at length the legend of Krishna, twisting, and turning the tale to suit his purpose. Later, I realized that the story of Sri Krishna was perhaps the most ill-treated, the most violated, the most misinterpreted story of India. All lecherous worms at some point or the other would hint at Krishna. The divine, pure, transcendental love of Sri Krishna towards gopis (the creatures of the world) did not have takers. I decided to write something about ‘The Twisted Tale of Sri Krishna’ at some later stage.
K had, in fact, impersonated himself in MM. He had many such clones. People like MM would humiliate themselves for adoring and worshipping K. MM had lost his reason. Long after, K was thrown out of my varsity, MM would sit endlessly working his way into the mental mines of justifying the deeds of K, hiding the ‘actual’ deeds of K, arousing support for K. Looking at MM I wondered how people can dwarf themselves. Poor fellow, he had no personality of his own. He would go on supporting K till his death.
MM, poor MM was such an insecure soul. Strong women, in particular, unsettled him. Once, one committee was looking after the seniority list of university teachers. MM had managed to be part of that panel which was preparing the list. MM’s name came directly after a lady professor. He hated the seniority list. Why should his name come just after a lady? A lady? Shameful! He somehow tried some manipulation. The lady came to know of it. She banged the door where the panel members were sitting. She straight away said, Mr. MM, remember you’re junior to me.’ MM could no longer bear the insult. The man within him at last burst out. He publically shouted at the woman, ‘ Senior? Char din pehle join kya kar liya, badi senior ho gayi. ( joined just four days before me and became senior).’ He gave full vent to his inner inferiority complex. The woman tried to retort but of course, could not match the male shout. MM had insulted the woman. Everybody laughed as to how a woman was insulted. Other lady professors also joined the chorus and laughed.
The short, ugly man, wretched soul, MM had ultimate power in our varsity when K was the VC. He used to summon his seniors to his room. He had recruited a number of helpless souls at temporary posts such as typing assistant, computer assistant, and library assistant. He was made whole-sole in charge of his department. His seniors were surpassed in order to arm him with powers. He was shifted out of his earlier small room at the first floor of the department. He had been given a very spacious room situated at the center of the ground floor itself. His room was renovated. Linen flooring, silken paints on walls, costly curtains, rolling chairs, an attached small office room, ACs, a number of computers, printers, photocopiers and assistants to run the show - MM was the king, or only next to the king. His fortunes had changed. Everyone knew without verbally articulating that the road to K’s heart went though MM. Everybody spoke to him politely. His wishes were fulfilled within minutes. Things that took a life time in the varsity without bribe, things like getting migration certificate, degree, or getting your thesis evaluated in a fast manner – all such things became MM’s left hand job. He was given to manage media. Every now and then, journalists would be invited, at university’s expenditure, of course; they would be treated with good food, leather bags, writing pads, costly pens. There would be ‘lecturebaji’. MM would stand and introduce the occasion of inviting the learned gathering – some foundation day or some anniversary. MM would be full of self-importance. He used to be a sight during those moments.
Twisting, turning, soaking himself with the spot light, he could not fathom up what to do, what to do with so much power! Thus, Mistri became the tragic-comic figure of our varsity. Whenever I think of Mistri, the word ‘miserable’ automatically comes to my mind. His twisting, turning ways, his bursting from within, his covering from outside, his planned moves, his knack to harm others, insult others, his natural lobbying - all these things come to my mind. A subjugated life, a hungry, unfulfilled life, a life of posturing, a life of perpetual conspiracy and moves and counter-moves- such was the life of our Miserable Mistri.
NOTE: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real situation/s, institution/s or individual/s is a coincidence.
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