Continued from “Daughters of The Nation are Becoming Doctors”
University Memoirs IX
‘Manage’ is a magical word. ‘Amidst adversity, she managed to hold things together’; here ‘manage’ is a compliment. But ‘He can manage everything; he can manage big favors’; here ‘manage’ is an abuse. To understand SDP’s management, and its failure, one has to understand the whole scene. SDP had come to the varsity because of his ancient warrior caste; otherwise he would have become Darogaji, a police town inspector. But the overgenerous stalwarts of the ancient warrior caste in their enthusiasm to promote their kith and clan had improved the fate of many a fool.
After entering the varsity, SDP immediately started playing politics – caste politics, regional politics, politics of all sorts. He wasted no time. He was a man on target. He started visiting big houses of ancient warrior caste people. He drank with them. He invited them to functions, provided them recognition, presented bouquets to them, honored them with shawl and ‘sriphal’, made them speak from the podium and soon became a don of sorts. Whatever he did, gave names of experts, registered students for research, favored students, and gave books and research material – he never forgot the principle of caste. Even when he violated the principle, he did so consciously in order to look impartial. He became the sole contractor of his caste in the varsity. Even leaders of the caste from the city consulted him before taking any decision pertaining to the academic world. Voices in Executive Council meetings, academic body meetings, teachers’ association meetings emanated from the caste pool.
It’s worth noting that using a woman is not enough for men; reporting it completes the job. What fun is there in fucking a woman unless people know about it? That’s an affirmation of masculinity.
SDP would not say much. Others would parrot his views. He had developed a dominion of his own. He had worked day and night for that. Naturally, he had developed an ego as well. Somewhere down within himself, he realized that any Vice-Chancellor could not actually work without his co-operation. Prior to K he had compelled many a VC to pack their bag and baggage and go.
To be precise, in my twenty five years of service, I had seen fifty odd Vice-Chancellors, including the ad hoc ones. There was a great tradition of ad hoc VCs. Any Dean or Professor of the varsity would get the charge of VC and months would roll on. He would not be able to work properly, lest he be ousted. The system would be in a coma. Everybody would be happy because the atmosphere would be carefree. As such regular VCs were never interested in any actual improvement. They did not want work; they wanted ‘credit’ for work they had not performed. So, ad hoc VC system would work very well in my varsity. At least no one would be humiliated; no one would be threatened; no one would be called during late hours. I loved ad hocism in VCship.
Anyway to come to the point, SDP was a prospective VC and so were DK and Ramaiya. The caste point was also very clear between them; while SDP held the ancient warrior caste to ransom, DK-Ramaiya combine safeguarded the Lala front. While DSP demanded respect, DK-Ramaiya combine floored themselves before K. You yourself decide whom K would have preferred. Of course he preferred DK-Ramaiya combine. But he was clever enough not to dump SDP altogether. K began his masterly strokes. He devastated all that was there previously. He formed thirty cells – four anti-cheating squads, two media response cells, one women welfare association, three publication activities cells, one examination control centre…The list was endless. Every day, Chatu Sir, PA to VC would sign tens of note-sheets, creating groups, regrouping groups, assigning tasks, providing time limits to tasks, and then, ask explanations for not doing what was to be done, admonishing professors in writing, bringing them to book, all in the name of ‘aadeshanusar’ (as per the orders of the VC). The university was shaken. It had never seen any such thing earlier. Everything had gone topsy-turvy. Everybody was writing explanations, begging for mercy, busy pleasing the new god of the campus. K’s methodology was to instill fear. He just wanted people to know that he could go to any extent. He could do just anything. Even the thought of K was scary.
One day, K called SDP. SDP went with all pretended politeness. K was in a mood to fix the irritant in the form of SDP. He said, ‘We’ve to work together. I know about your influence. You have to work with me.’ SDP listened with bowed head. What he wanted to listen had not come from K’s filthy mouth. He had not come for sermons in co-existence and co-operation. K realized the futility of beating about the bush. He finally said, ‘I’m making you the In-Charge of Examination Control Room.’ SDP’s eyes flashed with joy. All the cash from different private college-examination centers, the false expenses of false tours, the paid bills of never-hired taxies, and all such heavenly thoughts started swimming before SDP’s eyes. He rather felt guilty for not realizing the nobility of K. He immediately bent down and touched K’s feet. After all, K belonged to ancient worshipper caste and there was no harm in taking the dust of his feet.
‘Such a ‘malaidar’ (lucrative) position for a professor!’, SDP could not believe his destiny. Perhaps God wanted to make him VC that year only. He would have all the money, then he would give all the money and then all the money with interest would come back to him. Such recycling of money would even put recycling of energy or waste to shame. So efficient a system! So economical a process! SDP was tickled. SDP was thrilled. SDP was happy.
DK-Ramaiya combine was not happy. As K was a totally free man, everybody had entry into his house. ‘You compromise, you enter!’ That was the rule. DK-Ramaiya had already compromised. They had full access to K’s mind, body, soul and time. Their meeting began at twelve in the night. After usual greetings, and a joke or two about some woman, they came to business. DK said, ‘Sir, SDP was laughing at you in the canteen today. He said that you had bowed down to his pressure and that you were afraid of him in your heart.’ A part of K’s confused mind realized that they were playing games with him. He said, ‘Come on! I’ll give you better work, even more ‘malaidar’. What about revaluation of examination copies. One of you can have medical and the other, engineering.’
Everyone knew that revaluation work was damn so attractive, especially that of professional courses. Students of professional courses would pay any amount to clear examination. But DK-Ramaiya did not fall into the trap. Their jealousy and rivalry with SDP weighed greater than their common sense. Ramaiya, who wanted to finish SDP, said, ‘Sir, you don’t believe us. But what we are saying is true. SDP made fun of you publicly.’ K’s irritation grew. He was agitated. DK continued, ‘Sir, everybody wants money. We’re no exception. But we’re loyal to you, Sir. We don’t want to make money at the cost of your reputation.’ By then, K wanted to listen to the whole story.
DK-Ramaiya had come fully prepared, with a back-up plan. They rang Laxmi, the canteen owner, whom they had ‘managed’ during the day. Laxmi told VC Sir as to what the duo was saying was indeed the truth, that SDP not only laughed but also used foul language against K. Finally K was convinced that SDP had belittled him in public and at his back. K whole body twisted and itched with anger and revenge. The last thing he wanted was to be caught in his fear and weakness. His body stiffened at the thought. All the contours of his ugliness were highlighted. DK-Ramaiya relaxed. The rest of the tenure of K would be tension-free for them.
SDP, on his part, floated in the thin air. His future seemed bright. All his financial problems already seemed trivial. He arrived at his In-charge control room office on time. Reaching the room, he said to himself, ‘The place needs a redo. I’ll get Godrej furniture. Thick and rich curtains will adorn the doors. An AC will cool the air and here sitting in my heaven, I’ll do the deals.’ But, first things first; he was a meticulous man. There was a method in his working. He took a brand new note-sheet, called the clerk and started dictating,
‘The office of the in-charge, examination control room immediately needs a face-lift. Conducting examinations are the most important function of a university. The control room will monitor all the examination centers. Therefore, fax, phones, photocopiers, AC, proper furniture, scanners, computers, printers, video cameras etc are immediately required. Hon’ble Vice-Chancellor is requested to sanction the above items; the cost of which will be around one crore. The Hon’ble VC is requested to sanction the said items in view of his special power described in section 15(4) of the ordinance. The Executive Council will later approve the purchase. Since the work has to be started immediately and there is paucity of time, we have adopted this short-cut route of expenditure.’
The note-sheet was duly signed and entered in the peon delivery book. The work of the peon, however, was done by SDP only who carried his dear note-sheet to the VC by hand. He did not want the finances to be slipped out of his control.
K was in his real element that day. He believed in showing as to who was the boss. Stroking his beard, dancing his dirty, glaring eyes, he knew what was to happen that day. He had come prepared. SDP entered K’s room. K greeted him with cold warmth, ‘Aaiye, Aaiye!’ He ordered the peon to bring tea. SDP bowed down as much as he could without breaking his back or without falling down. SDP’s politeness was covered in a new meaning for K. He perceived everything as part of the cunning plot of SDP. SDP asked as to how Sir was feeling. K replied with extra grin that he was very fine indeed, ‘Bus aapki dua hai.’ SDP did not sense anything alarming or unusual. He slowly slipped the note-sheet before K.
K said, ‘Keep the sheet. I’ll look at it later.’ SDP tried once more, ‘But, Sir, with your blessings I’ve this important job at hand. These things are necessary to start my work.’ K only said, ‘You’ll get many more things with my blessings.’ SDP was confused. He didn’t want anything else at that moment. All that he wanted was the sanction of one crore. But finally something in the air told him not to pursue the matter further, ‘Perhaps I’ve come at the wrong moment. Perhaps he’s fought with his ‘mast’ wife at home. There must be some reason. It’ll be over in some time.’ He consoled himself.
What emerged later with SDP and K is too horrible to describe. K was fast in his demolition. He, true to his true self, started the destruction pretty fast. He removed SDP from headship of the Department, appointed a junior teacher as the head, removed SDP from all important university committees, and took away all that SDP possessed, tried to win over SDP’s men to his side, and maligned him with a thousand tongues in and around the place. This was typical of K. he loved to snatch away the prey’s contacts. He firmly believed that network makes a man powerful; contacts matter; linkages elevate somebody’s position. That exactly was the treasure that K sought to steal from a person. Poor fellow, he did not know that there are certain treasures that lie within a person, his qualities, values, behavior etc that cannot be stolen unless the person himself does not do so. But this thought is not very relevant here because SDP had no such inner treasure. His super-duper caste was his only forte.
A full-fledged war broke out between SDP and K; an epic war that would touch epic heights or better, epic lows. I don’t know where to begin. There was a peepal tree in my university. The peepal tree existed beside the fly-infected canteen. Hot tea flew from the filthy place all the time. All idle babus, visiting students from nearby places, and all diverse lot gathered in the canteen. It was cheap. Tobacco-paan, cigarettes, tea, gutkha pouches, roadside candies, samosas, aloo-bundas- everything was available at very affordable cost. So, to the peepal tree did SDP go. He never had any interest in teaching. The best part was that he never pretended to be a teacher. He was very open. He was there for money, for ‘rutba’, for caste affiliations, for political backing, for ruling and governing. Teaching should go to lesser mortals like us.
Under the peepal tree, SDP began his discourse. As expected SDP showed no sophistication in his attack on K. He went after his disease, his family, his past, his knowledge or better lack of it, even his daughters and wife. SDP was so very sure of his caste contacts. He felt he had a solid rock behind him. If university cannot give him anything ‘extra’, then of course, it cannot take away anything as well. His dreams dashed, he felt he had nothing to lose. The fight between K and SDP became the talk of the university, talk of the town and talk of the whole region. People used to savor their sentences, ‘Is baar kaante ki takkar hai’ (This time the fight is evenly poised.)
Everyone knew what K or for that matter SDP was capable of. Both had contacts. Both had instinct to harm others. The only difference which generally people didn’t realize was that K was many, many times shrewder than SDP. And of course, K was VC and SDP was not. K kept his plan close to his chest. He brought all his ‘body’ contacts to the executive council. There was this mayor of adjoining city, Mamata Devi who was famously known for travelling with K, particularly to the capital of the state. The train would start at night. AC I would be booked. The adjoining city would come within an hour or so. The lady mayor would be seen off by her donkey-hubby at the railway station. ‘Madam is going to the capital for an important meeting’, he would say. The fat, fool figure would enter AC I and the important meeting would begin. People enjoyed these talks so hilariously. There were people so close to K that they would even refer to the meeting before K, ‘Sir and mayor madam jointly attend meetings’ and K would give his crooked smile.
It’s worth noting that using a woman is not enough for men; reporting it completes the job. What fun is there in fucking a woman unless people know about it? That’s an affirmation of masculinity.
But, oh My God, I’ve again deviated.
This mayor madam was made a member of the executive council. Then, one by one DK Sri and Ramaiya were brought to the council one by one as Chancellor’s nominees. In about four months, K had his ‘body’ family firmly rooted at the council. Then the office proposal began to be prepared. Delay in completing examination work, not taking classes, ‘kadachar’ (bad behavior), coming late for work and several other charges were leveled against SDP. Explanations were called from him. Notices were served to him. All the time his irritation kept growing, his tongue kept wagging; his efforts to bulldoze his power over K kept mounting. Kunwar Phalane, Kunwar Dhikane kept ringing K, cajoling him, threatening him, persuading him never to dream of harming SDP. K kept diverting them. There was no going back for him. He had smelled blood. The final day of EC meeting came. There was murmur all around the varsity. SDP would be suspended. SDP would be penalized. SDP’s case would be sent for further investigation and action to vigilance etc. There were all types of speculations. The EC meeting was going on. The air was deadly.
Well, to cut a long tale short, let me tell you the outcome of EC meeting. SDP was terminated from service. Plain, simple, cold, deadly, fatal, final! I cannot think of more adjectives. A sharp chill ran through the whole university. This was the first time any professor was terminated from service. That evening I saw SDP. His feet were falling apart. He’s not able to walk straight. Deep, deep lines on the forehead, broken, shattered face, kurta blowing on one side, he’s walking alone on the varsity roads. In his home, it appeared as though somebody had died. There was hush. His wife, children were whispering. They’re not speaking; they’re squeaking soundlessly. Oh, my God! Never give me such a scene again.
‘A friend in need is a friend indeed.’ Caste came with full force; it came even stronger than even SDP had anticipated. Criminals of the caste came. Politicians of the caste approached. Businessmen of the caste offered help. A caste council was going on during the dead of the night. A Brahmin had murdered a Thakur. Thakurs had been insulted. The sleeping, lulled honor of the caste had been touched. Lessons would be given. K would be taught a lesson. The world would know what it means to touch a Thakur, a Singh, a tiger, a lion, a king.
The very foundations of our varsity had been shaken. The very next day after the EC meeting, K called a meeting of the teachers of the varsity. He smiled; he cajoled; he laughed; he watched; he talked; he enjoyed. K loved power, power to destroy people. Wide-eyed, terror-stricken teachers didn’t know as to what to do, whether to laugh or to weep. Everybody was thinking how precious was one’s family. What would happen to one’s family if such a catastrophe were to fall on one. Everybody was thinking about one’s children, the tasks that have to be completed, education of kids, marriage of kids, building a house, saving for old age etc. No one was present in the meeting. Only fear stricken ghosts hovered. The minds were roaming far into ‘real’ concerns of life. In a sense, K got many people to figure out priorities in life. After K’s regime, there was a spate of house-building activities undertaken by the faculty of my varsity.
Everybody wanted to secure family, if something were to happen tomorrow. K butchered all instant happiness, little sparks of life. He gave fear. He settled fear in our campus. From then on, teachers would work differently. Attitudes changed. ‘Why speak? Better not say anything. Even if something wrong is going on, it does not affect me directly. Let me mind my own business.’ Such attitudes prevailed. K tried to normalize things. He wanted to shift focus. He talked about appointments, his favorite bait to hook in teachers. ‘Help me in getting the panel of experts from the Governor House and I’ll go for appointment. I know that you people have been wronged. Your due has not been given to you. I’ll go for long-due promotions.’ He went on and on. There were no takers for his hollow talk this time. The face of SDP and his family hovered before everyone’s eyes. So much sympathy for SDP had generated. It’s K’s magic that generated huge compassion even for a figure like SDP. People from far and wide, near and close- everybody nodded in agreement, ‘Yeh to galat hua’. (‘This is wrong. This punishment is far too strong. SDP might have been at fault but what was the fault of his children. You cannot take morsel from some one’s mouth.’)
Our country is full of proverbs. Proverbs developed over centuries. Proverbs are reservoirs of collective wisdom of a society. ‘Muh se nivala chhinana’, ‘Marane wale se bachane wala bada hota hai, ‘Jaisi karni, vaisi bharni’ (‘to take away food from someone’s mouth’, ‘the one who helps is greater than one who destroys’, ‘As you sow, so you reap’). The discourse went on and on endlessly. First people shut their mouth. Then there came a stage when they opened their mouth. Even the devilishness of K could not match public anger, general abhorrence for what he had done. K became a despicable name, hated by the majority. His ‘body’ family stood by him. But even ‘body’ members found it hard to defend K publically. The fabric of my varsity had been broken. The society-varsity connect had been distorted.
SDP, on the other hand, had a Herculean task ahead of him. First of all, he had to get into the job. The Chancellor of the varsity, the Governor of the state was his one and only hope. Since VC, EC had done everything, since orders had been issued and pasted on SDP’s house, since salary had been frozen, since SDP had been barred from entering Department or class, since everything at the University level was fit and final, Governor Sahab was the only way out. Now, the fact of the matter was that our region was especially blessed by political talent. The old Durbar college of our area was the alma meter of a number of mantrijis and netajis. The fun was that everyone was related or tightly connected to some substantive political figure. Everyone had political clout. Everyone knew someone who mattered. So much so that if you wanted to change the shift of a watchman’s duty, netaji would be kind enough to ring you and tell you not to meddle with ‘his’ men. That’s why nothing happened in my varsity. Everybody was somebody. The point that I’m coming to is that for SDP it was ‘baye haath ka khel’ (left hand trick or very easy) to get a powerful netaji of the caste sitting right there in Delhi. The story needed no narration.
One line did the job, ‘A Brahmin has murdered a Thakur’. Netaji shivered in anger. The Governor was approached immediately on phone. The political elite of India are, of course, one. The Governor promised immediate revocation of the fatal order. Appropriate orders were issued by the Raj Bhavan, abode of the Governor. But K refused to budge. K refused to follow the order of the Raj Bhavan. K, by this time, was completely in the suicidal mode. OK, let me quickly give you an idea of the concluding notes of SDP melody in our varsity. K was called at Raj Bhavan. He was forced to submit resignation. SDP was reinstated into job. The caste netaji showered his unconditional love on SDP. He became a Vice-Chancellor. K became a fool. Someone who’d never have received any attention was made into an academic-administrator giant by K. His devilishness had robbed him of all brains. K ended up elevating his enemy above himself. K actually made SDP great.
Continued to "Chameleons of the Varsity"
NOTE: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real situation/s, institution/s or individual/s is a coincidence.