The Nice Lecturer
The Nice Lecturer
“Ramesh! Does this watch belong to you?” came the shrill voice of Shoba Ma’am which broke the ominous silence of the class, “If it does belong to you, you had left it behind when you went swimming. I found it, and seeing your name engraved on it, decided to give it back to you.” So saying, Shoba Ma’am, as the “Good Samaritan” Gynaecology lecturer was called, returned the watch to Ramesh, one of the medical college students.
One cannot imagine the 25-year-old Ramesh’s sigh of relief! He looked positively relieved and happy for he thought that he had misplaced the watch and that it was lost for good. And being a M.D. postgraduate medical student of strict time management strategies, this could have been “the unkindest cut of all”!
So, with his eyes brimming with tears of gratitude, he said, “Shoba Ma’am, thank you sooooooooo much. When I realized it was missing, I searched for it everywhere. You really are a gem of a person to return it to me for, additionally, it is not only a very expensive watch, but it also has much sentimental value to me as it is a gift from my father on my last birthday. Anyone finding it could have easily just kept it without telling me or even bothering to look at my name engraved on it. But, Shoba Ma’am, you did take so much of trouble. You are simply the best! You rock!”
“That’s O.K., what are we lecturers here for, except to be a boon to our students?” replied Shoba Ma’am, who seemed extremely unassuming and grounded despite being a Senior Lecturer at this awesome medical college which attracted all the brilliant minds of Mysuru.
“Yes, Shoba Ma’am, you are not only such a wonderful lecturer, you also have a heart of gold and you’re proving to be a one-of-a-kind person who is genuinely interested and concerned about us. Thank you once again! You nailed the fact that teachers and lecturers can be extremely accommodating and kind.” exclaimed the grateful overwhelmed Ramesh. He then proceeded to strap the diamond-encrusted watch to his wrist, as if it was his most prized and most sentimental possession!
Shoba Ma’am looked pleased as Punch, her lips breaking into a pleasant smile which spread across her countenance. She said, “Students, now let’s get down to brass tacks. Your specialization examinations will commence next week. So, I do hope all of you have started studying in real earnest. Here’s wishing you all, all the very best. You all can do it!” she said, giving the students a `Thumbs up!’ sign, as the bell rang and the medical students slowly filed past her. They were to avail of their tea break after the strenuous lecture.
The students gathered in groups, as they sipped their cups of piping hot tea. Suraj, one of the students, who was also a topper and also 25 years of age, said to Ramesh, “Ramesh, today is your lucky day to get back your watch. Shoba Ma’am is really a very nice person to return it to you.”
“Most people who have done Medicine usually opt for becoming practical doctors. Very few who are really brainy become lecturers partly because practicing doctors can earn so much more moolah than medical lecturers can. Besides, if one doesn’t have the talent for teaching, classes can be reduced to dull monotonous banal diatribe,” said Suraj.
“I have noticed that Shoba Ma’am is also interested in us, personally. Maybe she treats us like the sons she never had!” said Ramesh, as they tossed their paper cups in to the bin and bid each other adieu for the day.
The Hippocrates Postgraduate Medical College in Mysuru had a reputation for excellence. There was a strength of about 250 postgraduate medical students, all vying with each other to do well in their degrees for it would make a difference in their getting jobs as practicing interns. The majority of students were boys, but there was a good sprinkling of girls as well. It is not a secret that girls who are good in studies usually prefer Medicine to Engineering!
As it is well known, in any medical college, the priority is on studies, with the students studying almost all the time since they have to master `Grey’s Anatomy’, a thick encyclopaedic kind of book that medical students are only too familiar with. The only breaks they take are not more than half an hour a day break for pursuing physical exercises. Most of them chose the following ways of exercising physically: swimming, yoga, and “gymming”, as they called it.
On one such afternoon, to take the much needed temporary break or respite from grueling studies where complex and complicated body systems had to be mastered, Suraj decided to go to the gymnasium. He was pleasantly surprised to find out that Shoba Ma’am was the supervisor of the gym for that slot for that day as lecturers are given duties and schedules for overseeing different activities of the students.
“Hi Ma’am!” exclaimed Suraj to the ever popular Shoba Ma’am.
“Hi Suraj, it’s good to see that you have the right spirit towards physical fitness and that you are exercising your way to good health. Keep it up! For you must realize that, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and Jill a dull girl”. Indeed, any form of exertion produces `feel good’ endorphins that helps in making one resistant to diseases,” said the ever knowledgeable Shoba Ma’am, who was an expert in trying to make the students make their studies on health viable and practical in their day-to-day lives. And why not? The medical students will be tomorrow’s repositories of health knowledge and concerns. If they don’t realize that now, when would they? Suraj then gravitated towards the gym in front of which there was a small cafeteria selling health drinks and fruits. Subsequently, Shoba Ma’am resumed her in-charge duties.
Half an hour passed. The phone at the gym reception rang. Knowing that the receptionist was not there, Shoba ma’am, who had been passing by, took the call.
She spoke in her usual polite, suave and polished manner. Then suddenly her whole demeanor and manner changed! In a muffled tone, she said rather roughly, “Oh, it’s you, Vikram, I told you not to call here at the college gym. I told you that I would be giving you my salary cheque for this month two days late because of a small error in it as a result of which it had to be corrected. Don’t call me here again,” said Shoba Ma’am, angrily putting down the phone in a huff. This was obviously not the nice and sweet Shoba Ma’am that everyone knew! She was obviously a good actress, who was almost playing a double role, like in a movie!
Shoba Ma’am then cautiously went to the locker name without realizing that Suraj was passing by and had heard her whole rude conversation. Then, to add fuel to the fire, he saw Shoba Ma’am opening his locker, taking his jacket and stuffing it in her leather bag! Just as she was about to make a clear getaway, Suraj exclaimed loudly, “Ma’am, why are you taking my jacket? You know it’s mine!”
If there was any doubt that she was not at fault, that thought was quickly erased, for Shoba Ma’am’s face looked ashen and clearly guilty. She realized that she had been caught red-handed, and that the cat was out of the bag. There was no way of getting out of this, and she knew being a middle-aged mature staff member, she could give no flimsy excuses. The verdict would be out: Shoba Ma’am, the kind `Good Samaritan’ ever-respected postgraduate medical lecturer had been caught taking a student’s jacket deliberately.
Shoba Ma’am’s face turned grey. She said, in a trembling voice, “Listen, Suraj, I can explain. Will you come to my flat next Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m.?” She then wrote her address on a piece of paper and handed it over to Suraj, saying, “I’ll explain everything to you. But, meanwhile, for heaven’s sake, keep this to yourself and do not tell anyone, please,” she pleaded.
It was 3 o’clock on the dot on a bright balmy spring day. Reliance Apartment was an apartment for middle-class citizens, but it exuded an olden day charm. It was not in a happening or fashionable suburb of Mysuru but on the other hand looked like an apartment for those who live frugally. Shoba Ma’am was washing and drying her hair on the balcony and was pleased to see that Suraj had just got off his Hero Honda bike and was proceeding to the apartment driveway.
Within a few minutes, the doorbell rang and Shoba Ma’am opened the door. “Good to see you, Suraj,” Shoba Ma’am said, “Come in and sit down.” Suddenly a male voice from inside shouted brusquely, “Why are you wasting time? Remember, you have no time for socializing. Get back to work!”
At that point of time, Suraj could see that Shoba Ma’am was highly embarrassed and had turned crimson in colour. “It’s just one of my students. It’ll take only half an hour!” she shouted back, looking very flustered.
Shoba Ma’am then said, “Suraj, where do I start? It’s a long story, but I’ll try to make it brief. I hope that you will keep it confidential for if you don’t, my reputation, which I have been guarding with my life, will go for a toss and I will be torn to smithereens.”
Suraj looked intently at her and said, “I won’t tell anyone, I promise. But I must tell you that I overheard the conversation at the gym reception and I was shocked, to put it mildly. It’s very difficult for us to imagine that you can even get angry.”
Shoba Ma’am spilled the beans by revealing nuggets of her past. It appeared that she was married after her medical studies to a fine man by whom she had a beautiful daughter, now 21 years of age. She was madly in love with her husband, but as bad luck would have it, after only 3 years of marriage, she lost him in a car accident, when the car he was driving skidded out of control. After that, life had indeed been cruel for the young widow, who additionally had a small daughter to take care of. She decided to become a lecturer in the nearby medical college in order to make her and her daughter financially independent.
It was at this point of time due to unwelcome male attention, she and her daughter had decided to move into her niece’s apartment. Her niece, Gayathri and her niece’s husband, Vikram, along with their two children were on first glance a nice family, but now had begun taking advantage of Shoba Ma’am and her daughter. It being a `man’s world’, Vikram would take the full salary from Shoba Ma’am besides expecting her to do all the household chores around the house. This was exploitation!
At this Suraj intervened, “Is that why you stole my jacket? Were you planning to sell it for financial reasons?”
At this point, Shoba ma’am looked straight into Suraj’s eyes and said, “I know that what I am going to say now will seem strange, but out with it – once and for all. Due to the extreme verbal and mental torture I was undergoing in this flat, I developed an inferiority complex coupled with low self-esteem. Everyday my niece and her family would scold me so badly telling me to leave the flat. Since I was unhappy, I wanted to create a mask or hide my acquired inferiority complex with a put-on superiority complex, which I wanted to get by being the quintessentially well-liked lecturer. I wanted my students to love me and admire me as a teacher and lecturer. I wanted to be the kind of lecturer who would be able to make students fall in love with knowledge. I also wanted to be known as a “nice” person although now I know it’s usually better to be yourself. This may sound strange to you but I thought that by taking things without the owners’ knowledge and then returning it to them would make me a well-liked person. That is why I stealthily “stole” Ramesh’s watch and in front of everyone returned it to him. You heard how much he thanked me for that. I realized that by doing this, I was generating a lot of goodwill with my students, but I now realize that it’s all wrong. Indeed, I wanted to take your jacket just so that I could return it to you later in front of everyone, and you of course would probably feel relief and gratitude on getting back your belongings.”
Suraj listened to the conversation, stunned. Immediately, he said, with tears in his eyes, “But Shoba Ma’am, we like you genuinely and sincerely just the way you are, without you doing all that. We do realize that you put your heart and soul into your teaching. You teach well, you are keenly and deeply interested in knowledge and you encourage extra reading on the topics discussed in class. How many medical lecturers do that? We also often discuss how lucky we are to have a medical lecturer like you to teach us, as most of the good medical graduates and postgraduates become practicing physicians with very few opting for teaching. In short, Shoba Ma’am, we love you, and we love your teaching. We really do.”
Shoba Ma’am’s huge eyes filled with tears, as she sobbed uncontrollably. Suraj couldn’t help feeling sorry for her, “Let’s clear this up. First of all, you have to leave your niece’s flat immediately because all they are doing is taking your hard earned money and exploiting you and making you develop complexes.”
“But where will I go?” asked Shoba Ma’am, “I’m a widow with a beautiful daughter of marriageable age. I have to stay in a relatively secure area for her safety and mine. Until she gets married, I have to stay here.”
Suraj looked at her and said rather practically and pointedly, “Then speed up her marriage plans.”
Shoba Ma’am liked the analytical way Suraj’s mind was working, but she had her side of the story, “Suraj, being a widow, I would find it difficult to negotiate marriage plans for my daughter. It is at times like these that I just wish my husband was alive. It’s a man’s world out there, our society is cruel, and people don’t really take widows’ daughters’ proposals too seriously.”
It was at this point of time that a tall, slim, fair and quintessentially beautiful young woman entered the room, “Mummy, there you are! I was looking all over for you.”
“Brinda, my beti, please meet my student, Suraj,” said Shoba Ma’am.
Suraj, however, appeared to be in a daze. His jaw dropped, and he was just staring at Brinda’s immaculate and unique beauty. She was good looking in an unusual way, had a personality of her own with a certain indefinable quality about her. Although she was simple, clad in a plain white salwar kameez with a pink hakoba design, she looked truly gorgeous and pretty in pink. Her huge luminous doe-like eyes were kohl lined and her pink lips were accentuated with a subtle lip gloss. Her dark brown thick lustrous hair was tied neatly in a plait. In short, she looked absolutely gorgeous and riveting and Suraj just couldn’t take his eyes off her.
“Ma’am, some beauties can get married without a Godfather, right, Brinda?” “Right, Suraj!” Brinda exclaimed confidently as she looked intensely into his dark brown brooding eyes, while both of them burst out laughing.
Shoba Ma’am looked at him and her daughter and realized what he was saying. They did indeed make a cute made-for-each-other couple and they both liked each other, too! It was a case of mutual love at first sight!
The truly smitten Suraj continued, “Shoba Ma’am, just because you’re a medical professional, you don’t have to use your reverse psychology of taking my jacket just to return it to me later. I like you just the way you are, keep the words, `BE YOURSELF’ engraved in your heart in letters of gold. There is nothing like being yourself. The true and proper people will discern and like you whether you do them favours or not. Plant where you are grown, and your branches will give shade, flowers and fruits to all. You will make a wonderful mother-in-law, and I don’t really care if you talk to me like the way you talked to Vikram at the gym reception! Once we settled, there is plenty you can do. You can have your own clinic or start a start-up, where you lead a more normal, natural life and not have to pretend and rehearse everyday like actresses do on stage. And for your big information, Shoba Ma’am, you don’t ever have to think that being a widow makes you a burden. Remember “Don’t stay in a place where you are tolerated. Instead, go to a place where you are celebrated.” And we will celebrate you for not every house has a genius at its head. You will have your freedom and independence and a loving couple who dote on you for who you really are – A beautiful woman with a heart of gold.”
At this, the “popular” lecturer, Shoba Ma’am, looked at both of them and through her exuberant and joyful tears, she smiled, not her artificial plastic smile, but a real smile that made her beautiful brown eyes light up. When Suraj was ready to leave, Shoba Ma’am looked visibly overwhelmed, as she gushed, “How can I thank you for straightening my life?”
“Shoba Ma’am, you were kind to all of us, and no act of kindness is ever wasted. God is repaying you for the years you have put in the teaching profession. You are childish, simple, idealistic and innocent –and really deserve to be happy. And you know, the unanimous verdict, we students think that you are the “Best Teacher in the World’ – not always being herself, but too innocent to even realize it!”