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The name plate at the door reads,
Prof. Sundar, PhD
And the door bell is awaiting Neha to reach at 7 a.m. and to press it.
But let us see what is happening inside the house.
‘Where from did the Sun rise this morning? How come the Professor is awake so early today, on a Sunday?’ enquired the wife seeing Prof Sundar emerging from the bedroom.
‘Where am I early? In fact I am running behind schedule…’
‘That is not new, It is your daily routine. Very cleverly you have used your position of being HOD, not to have the first period in the morning for yourself..’
‘Don’t cut me off like that and don’t start taunting me early in the morning. Prepare some nice spicy Upama for Neha quickly. She likes it, so, as soon as she comes, hand it over to her. As long as her mouth is busy eating, she will not talk. Otherwise she is unstoppable. And she keeps asking very awkward questions. Like father, like daughter. Amit, during our college days, would bring some funny ideas, and even act on them! One day he came to my room when we were all playing cards and he spotted some library books on my table I had borrowed the year before. He said he had attended a talk by some people from Moral Re-Armament the previous evening, and since then was doing self search to find out wrongs he had committed so far in life. And seeing my old library books he said he too had not returned the books for the past two years. The next thing we heard was that not only he returned the books paying fine, but also went to the principal and apologized..’
‘Now you stop talking. Leave me alone in my kitchen, and go, start getting ready first. It is almost 7 and Neha must be reaching soon.’
‘Yeah, this is one girl who always keeps up her timing, unfortunately. …I think let me start with shaving..’
‘Think of the devil, and there she is.. It must be Neha, on the dot. I don’t know how her husband will tolerate her when she gets married..’
‘Ding-dong..Ding-dong….Uncle!..Prof Sundar.. Open the door..’
‘Yes, yes, I am coming..’, and Prof opens the door.
‘Oh, Neha…, please come, what a pleasure to see you early in the morning. One thing you have learnt from your dad- always be punctual’
‘Yes, uncle, but aren’t you ready? We…’
‘O! come on Neha.. I will get ready.., what’s the hurry? In fact I was about to start shaving, but first have some breakfast. Your aunty has prepared Upama for you.’ And Prof brings a plate of Upama for Neha.
He starts humming in front of the mirror at the wash basin, ‘sub se pyara Hindostan hamara hai…..’, and in between strikes some small conversation with Neha as he applies foam on his face.
‘So, Neha, how is Jamshedpur? You just came back last week from there, no? How is your dad? Does he still return the library books…ha,ha,ha,ha..’
‘Uncle, Jamshedpur is fine. Yes, I was in Jamshedpur for the Pooja holidays… and you know what? My dad has become a CEO of a company now and he gets all his work done without paying any bribe at the Govt departments… Perhaps some connection with his returning the library books back then?...But what did you throw out of the window?’
‘Oh, nothing, it was just the old blade.’
‘Will it not hurt somebody? You should not litter places like that..’
‘Neha, giving lectures is my job. And how will that piece of blade hurt somebody? We have ordered our watchman to sweep the area three times a day, daily. Otherwise what work does he do?
‘Uncle, that tap is on for a long time.. a..,lot of water is being wasted..’
‘I am shaving, can’t you see? And you are getting me into long conversations…so..’
‘I know, I know.. you will start quoting Prof Rajagopalan on environmental crisis and..’
‘No, no uncle, I just wanted to tell you we must save water.’
‘Ah, don’t worry Neha, in these flats we have no problem. We have two bore wells, a large sump, and I have also installed a loft here. We get 24 hours water. No problem!’
‘But uncle we are getting late. We must move soon..’
‘OK, I will save water for you today. Program of taking bath cancelled, happy?’
‘No uncle, you will s..s..smell..’, said Neha making a face and gesturing closing of the nose.
‘Oh, don’t worry Neha, I have also learnt to use de-odorants and a perfume.., isn’t it called chemical bath? It saves time too,’ and Prof Sundar sprays lavishly his torso from some tin at the dressing table.
‘Let’s move,’ says he, showing urgency. Neha tries to take her plate to the kitchen, but Prof stops her saying what for does one get married, if wife cannot take up such small chores.
Reluctantly Neha starts moving towards the door, but not without pointing out that the lights, TV and the fan in his room were all on.
‘Neha,’ Prof starts explaining, ‘your aunty will switch off the lights when she comes out of her kitchen. Let her do some more small chores, otherwise she will put on some more weight. The TV is her connection to the world. She may not understand anything, but if TV is on, she knows the world is on. Whenever you come home, and if you find the TV switched off, it would mean your aunty is not home!’
‘..And the fan?’
‘Neha, this is something interesting. You know, Bangalore has become very warm now days. Even Jamshedpur must be hot, no? This is where I acknowledge your Prof Rajagopalan about what they all say..’
‘Yes, yes, Global warming. I don’t understand it much, but I have found out my solution..’
‘What? Local solution to the global problem?’
‘Yes. And you can also adopt it. Very simple- keep your fan on when you go out. When you come back, it is cool…In fact I am going to install an air-conditioner too, soon..’
‘What an idea sirji,’ said Neha sarcastically.
As soon as they reached the car park, Neha screamed with excitement, ‘new car?’
With air of superiority Prof Sundar shook his head in affirmation. ‘Has your father bought a new car in the last five years? This is my third one.’
‘But, how do you manage it, uncle?’
‘Oh, there are many ways to get extra cash. Admissions, tuitions, favouring in examinations.., but you and your dad will not understand it. You are all ethical people, where as my motto is-live, and let live.’
As soon as they settled down in the car, the Prof switched on the music system loudly. Neha just switched it off saying, ‘why would you disturb your neighbours now?’
‘Oh, it is not a disturbance Neha, it is an announcement to them all that the Professor has got a new car, yet again! Neighbours envy is my pride…, something like that was an advertisement years ago, no?’
‘Uncle, now let us move quickly. Put on your seatbelt and switch on the engine.’
‘Heh,heh.. Why seat belt? No one can tie me down, not even your aunty.., and for whose safety? We are safe inside here, people on the road are not safe..’
‘Professor, now MOVE! We have to reach The School of Ancient Wisdom,’ quipped Neha.
‘What? It is near Devanahalli.. Beyond the new airport! 50 kms from the city!’
‘Yes, Yes, Yes..That is why I had asked you to be ready in time. The program begins at 9.00 a.m. sharp, and we will not reach.’
‘Oh! Don’t be upset Neha. In our country, if they say it is at 9.00 a.m., it means any time after 9.00 a.m. Check every office, every function, every event… it’s an Indian Stretchable Time my dear. You have not seen much of the world yet.. You start working and you will fall in line… And this is my new car, I will reach you, don’t worry. Just let me fill up some diesel.’
Neha quipped,’reach me to the School of Ancient Wisdom, not up there’, gesturing the point finger heavenwards.
And the journey to the destination continued to be eventful for Neha. Professor filled up the diesel for Rs.1000/- but took the bill for Rs.1500/- saying he gets it reimbursed by the college on actual basis, whenever he attends a seminar, workshop or a talk. He jumped the signal twice under the pretext that every one does it, and they had a genuine reason- they were late! And he reasoned that if at all a police man catches; just palm him off with a few tens of Rupees. Make a win-win solution. Professor freely used his mobile phone while driving, explaining to Neha the true meaning of the word mobile. He criss- crossed the lanes cursing the vehicles ahead of him saying they do not know how to drive. Prof even embarrassed Neha by stopping the car on one side on the way to ease himself saying he drinks a liter of water in the mornings for health improvement!
His verdict was, when they reached the School, ‘ Neha, India will never improve. How much ever we desire. You saw all the mad people on the road, no? It was my driving skill and this new car’s capability that brought you here. We are only 10 minutes late, and I bet, people are yet to come for the program.’
‘Uncleji, people must be already in the Agastya hall, and Swamiji must have started his talk after the inaugural formalities. You know uncle, he is speaking today on the topic- “India I Care”..’
‘What? Swamiji? He should restrict himself to the religious discourses, and leave all other such topics/ subjects to people like us! He must be insane if he thinks he can change the country! Anyway, let us go in and see what is going on..’
The hall was full to the brim and Neha and Professor had to stand at the periphery. White, flowing bearded Swamiji seemed to have spoken something just before their entry, and wondering why there was a pin drop silence.
Swamiji stroked his beard and gave a deliberate glance in slow motion to the people across the hall and spoke-‘Let me repeat my question. Have you seen any insane people in your life?’ and paused to get response.
Professor whispered in Neha’s ears-‘ shall I tell him how many mad people we encountered on road while reaching here?’
Neha stopped him saying that the Swamijis talks will have deeper meaning.
One elderly gentleman hesitatingly showed his hand and every eye in the hall got glued to him. He narrated his child hood story as to how an old lady with unkempt hair in old, torn saari, sitting on the parapet on the way to the market would keep screaming at the passersby, and frighten the children. ‘Perhaps she was a mad person I have seen’, he concluded.
Encouraged by the Swamiji’s appreciative glance, a few more people shared their encounters with people who dressed up in funny ways, and got into the acts of regulating traffic where there was none, or laughing or crying out loudly in public, or who spoke incoherently, threatened people without any provocations and so on and so forth..
Swamiji gave another appreciative glance across, and said,’ I am glad, you are at least acknowledging the presence of insane people in our society. Now let me give you a definition of an insane person-
An insane person is one who has many great desires, but he does very little, or nothing about it, and yet expects his desires to get fulfilled.
Swamiji repeated his definition, and then asked another question,
‘How many of you love this country, and would desire that it becomes corruption free, disciplined, punctual, healthy and law abiding one?’
Instantly all the hands went up.
Swamiji gave a pause, and said, ‘once again answer my first question- have you seen any insane person in your life?
Neha looked at the Professor, and Professor whispered,
‘Ofcourse, I am one, among all!’
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