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A Student's Life And a Teachers

A Student's Life And a Teachers

11 mins 233 11 mins 233

This is a true story. I am a Professor of Microbiology at a University Degree College and I love long-distance cycling. it was a hectic day. After all cycling 100 km, through a passion is no small effort in hot summer. If I count on one person, with whom I match pedal to pedal, it has to be Doctor Pawan. As we reached the corner of Shivaji College, and after biding a customary adieu, to my cycling partner, I sped along straight towards home. As I neared Shivaji statue, a man in police uniform, with a stick in his hand, grabbed a hold of my bicycle handle and suddenly brought my pedaling to an abrupt halt. It was a young police constable, who forced me to stop. Though my ethical and moral courage dominated the unanticipated stop, I must admit that a policeman stopping you randomly does give you goosebumps of fear. As I looked into his eyes and the things that followed, it took me into reminiscence a couple of years back.

It was summertime in the college, and working for the examination section brings oneself into such situations, where solutions are not found in the rule book. It is an experience outside the classroom, where you have to deal with those students who are not directly ‘your students’. You know them the least, and the teacher within you, provides an equal examination opportunity, to test what sort of a teacher you are. One of the most common practices by the students in our area is to bring chits for copying, and one of the most common tasks for a teacher is to be vigilant enough, do not allow them to copy. Still, we are eons behind, where we can inculcate the basic principles of education, and make the students understand and realize that copying is self-destructing. Though many of them dilute and get isolated into pure cultures, understanding this ‘education philosophy’ and succeed in their life, many of them fall into the shortcut trap. Thus ‘Invigilation’ program is one of the most dominated and practiced rituals by University Professors, in these exam times.

I was doing rounds in classrooms stuffed with students, resembling a pen stuffed with goats, except that they were obedient with their heads down, writing papers giving one of the most serene scenes ever for a teacher. But only mother Saraswati, knew what dwelt inside their racking brains, disturbed minds, and turbulent hearts. While I crossed them amidst a row of tables, a boy of age around eighteen was head down struggling to write, I checked, he was not copying, no nuisance, and dead silent. I stopped for a second, a strong repelling smell of alcohol remixed through the exhaled air of human lungs, finding a way out of an, what seemed to be a possible ‘alcoholics’ nostrils, rammed into mine, a total teetotaler. I gave a suspicious stare at the full row of students. I was taken aback, flabbergasted as it was not only due to an alien olfactory intrusion in that sanctum sanctorum but also due to the disbelief element, which I had for the first time in the 25 years of campus life. What followed was a novel experience.

I just moved on, for there was nothing to be taken care of. No commotion, no misbehavior, no copying, no nuisance. While I was returned to the custodian chamber, after completing the vigil rounds, my team members too undergoing the same drill, experienced the same emotions and went a step further. Rule books always have last pages left blank, for no one knows when a new one has to be written. They grabbed that young fellow of 18, who as drunk with the distilled solvent, to the Principal’s chamber. He was nevertheless completely in his senses, except for the smell which was revealed, by his antagonist breathe, he meant no harm neither to anybody nor to the system. He was trembling like a leaf, instantly begging for mercy, which the stakeholders of the disciplinary committee, were themselves scanty of, to provide. He was constantly asked why he did that act, in such a tone of argument and brawl, that the young confused and terrifying mind of the youth had long back gone blank. He was just begging for mercy. With no one showing compassion, or really trying to ‘Listen’ to his say, the period of ‘examination’ had reversed like a challenge on me. I was until now a mute spectator. With seniors in opposition to his act, the Principal retorted in sarcasm, “Speak out now, or I will ring the Police!” And he picked the phone from the cradle.”

Involuntarily, an inner voice gathered strength and found way out of my mouth. Maybe, just like that smell of alcohol, which came from the culprit's mouth. “Stop sir! Don’t do that! You will ruin a premature career or maybe a life”, I almost uncharacteristically yelled and continued, “What are we for, if the police had to be called? We can do what the police can’t and won’t!”, my voice had lost amplification at the end of the sentence, as I saw most experienced senior eyes glaring me, point-blank. The Principal was a man of principles who darted back, “Young man! Do you take his responsibility then? Do you take responsibility for his every action from here on? Will you be his guardian, so we can summon you next time and not him?” To avoid further questionnaires, I most confidently responded back “Yes! Sir, and tell me if I have to sign any papers for that, and I agree to that too.” The Principal proudly articulated the act of mine to his fellow contemporaries “I want more people like him! Yes! you can take him away with you, and do remember the responsibilities and consequences of your faith fails.” I responded “Yes! I do” sincerely knowing that I didn’t.

I took the boy by his hand, pulled him out of the commotion scene, from the Principal’s chamber and ordered him to follow me. The boy burst out into tears. I always believed tears are female ornaments and I was never moved by male tears shed out of disgust, agony or sympathy, nevertheless male tears of affection, love, and joy moved me the most. I was immune to his acts of crying and it was a long corridor to my Department. I ordered him to sit in front of me, where no student sits morally, till he becomes one of us, and that too after completing their degrees. I offered him a glass of water, which he gulped down and after emptying it, he showed no formalities, when I asked if he wanted more, two more glassed found way through his throat, which not only compensated the tears, which had stopped flowing now but also temporarily pushed back the smell of liquor. I asked his name. He said it was Raju.

He then narrated his story. In short, it was like this. He was the lone son of a farmer with four acres of Land. His father owned 25 acres, and 21 of it went down to liquor. Full bottles always needed in the house to keep him silent. His mother now worked in the 4 acres left. Two days back early morning, his mother went to farm alive but was bought dead, due to a viper bite. Today was his exam, he had to take a bus to Parbhani, 20kms ride from his village. Tension and depression, drove him to consume the quarter bottle country liquor, which was readily available in the house. He did this act for the first time in his life. He boarded the bus and came to the exam. He gave me a cell number and asked me to inquire in case I did not believe him, it was the phone number of the village Sarpanch. What followed was my firsthand experience. I was shell shocked. I composed myself and then I talked.

I preached for 30 minutes. All the things that I would have told if he was my son. I preached and discoursed and spoke. He listened, I thought, it was ‘alcohol’, which had made him a good listener, for he listened like an old sincere dog. Two times he interrupted and begged me not to give him to the police. I justified him, assured him. More than anything I wanted him to come for the rest of the exams, so his career won’t be ruined. He assured he will come, only if the college authorities didn’t hand him over to the police. I promised him that wouldn’t happen. Then I stopped. Took his cellphone number. I called my Postgraduate student Mukesh, who was working in the lab, besides and watching the proceedings. I gave some money and told him to feed Raju some lunch and buy him a ticket home, which Mukesh did, on the way he preached my teachings, which I had instilled in him for all these years, to Raju. Peer to peer education, you may say. Both disappeared from the scene. I remembered and called the Sarpanch, more shocks followed. The Sarpanch not only justified the truth of Raju’s claims but said, “Saheb! Toady while collecting his wife’s ashes and returning, Raju’s father in a drunken state, somehow managed to bring his leg in the moving wheel of bullock cart, and had it seriously fractured, we have admitted him to the civil hospital and Doctors have recommended an urgent operation, please send Raju urgently here. ” I sat in an abyss for next hour till Mukesh returned and academic routine followed.

Raju went to his village, never to return again. Daily I checked exam halls, praying and hoping to see Raju. But my efforts were in vain. I had his phone number, I called him. He responded once, begged again, that he feared we will hand him over to police, and he was in bad times. I offered every help, even financial if needed. He obliged, thanked me on the phone, said will meet me, but he didn’t. I called again, he had disowned the number. “Ha Phone Astitivaat naahi ~ was all I heard”. I thought I would go to this village and meet the Sarpanch. But it was a wild imaginary idea, which did not grow further.

Six months passed, one fine day as I came to college early for my morning Lecture and was about to open the Department, a young boy smiled at me and wished me in Marathi. I instantly recognized him, he was Raju. Happiness filled my heart. I escorted him in and asked about his whereabouts, more importantly, his education. He said, he is doing a correspondence course and he has come for the first time, since that incidence, and so early to meet me, fearing the college authorities. I assured him of his foolish fears, that nobody remembers you now. He wanted me to fill some forms which were in English. I did so. He thanked me and said I will never forget you, sir. You are a good man, a brother and a father to me, you saved me from bars. And also maybe I would have committed suicide, as that thought occurred to me a hundred times, but your words you said that day, always ringed in my mind and the idea of suicide was kicked away. No one had told me such good things about life sir. I will always remember that. I tried to recall what I said. I didn’t. He went away.

Today, the man in police uniform, with a stick in his hand, who grabbed a hold of my bicycle handle was that young police constable, RAJU, who had forced me to stop. As I looked into his eyes, I instantly recognized him, “Raju! How are you, brother?” He made an attention stance and saluted me in the midst of the road, and then bent down to touch my feet. I was embarrassed like a fool. I asked “Arre! But how did you recognize me, in this cyclist outfit?” Sir he said, “I will recognize you in any outfit. I will never forget you. I am what I am only due to, what you had said that day. I remember and will follow every word you said, that day. You pulled me out of a possible situation of life and death. I promise you, sir, to remain honest police and help people the way you do. I will meet you soon, sir!” He went and I cycled, both in opposite directions. I forgot the tiredness of that 100Km ride, eager to go home and narrate this incidence to my wife, hoping my son to be on the lunch table, passively hearing, the things I say. 

Truly, we never know which lives we influence, or when, or why. In learning one teaches, and in teaching one learns. As Galileo said “You cannot teach anybody anything, but only help him find it within himself”.

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