That day the sky was not clear. There was a combination of weak sunlight and clouds. It was also raining now and then. The students, therefore, couldn’t scuttle and stay in the park and the field. They gathered in the class-rooms and the corridors of Banbhatt Block. Some students among them were also sitting on the steps of stairs near the railing and studying their course material; a few of them were memorizing the answers, while others were chit-chatting. Although the garrulous words of the students were not perceptible from a distance, yet their words created a kind of whining in the surroundings.
Near the corridor there was a teacher’s cabin. A plastic chair of blue colour and an old fashioned table made of wood, on which were systematically placed four or five pieces of chalk, a duster, some attendance registers, a helmet, a hand bag and a few books, were clearly visible from the outside of the window. Mr Active was sitting in that chair. He was pondering over the message from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad as quoted in the book Meditation on Swami Vivekananda – ‘A man becomes good by good action and bad by bad action.’ In the meantime, his cell phone vibrated; it was the call of his HOD, Dr Shiksha.
“Where are you Mr Active,” the HOD spoke in a hurry over the cell phone.
“In the cabin, Ma’m,” Mr Active said.
‘Why in the cabin; not in the Control Room,” the HOD spoke, barely concealing her displeasure at his absence.
“You don’t know? …You are assigned invigilation duty today. You didn’t report the Exam Controller,” the HOD exploded.
“But, Ma’m, I have no information. Please tell me what I should do now.”
“Go to the Seminar Hall. Meet Mr Vidhan. Move fast.”
The call cut off. Mr Active kept his cell phone into his pocket, instantly stood up from his chair, opened the door, and stepped down the stairs leading to the gallery of ground floor. On the way to the seminar hall he recalled the words of his teacher. When he was a student his teacher taught him how to perform duty– and the golden rule– ‘duty is duty.’ After becoming a teacher he broadcast the same message everywhere.
Crossing the gallery he reached the door of the Seminar Hall. He stepped in, stopped meditating and directly went to the table of Mr Vidhan. Mr Vidhan was turning the pages of the duty chart.
“Where are you?” Mr Vidhan shouted, without lifting his eyes up and proceeded in the same manner, “You don’t know how to work. You were absent in the morning. And too late for the evening shift.”
“But, Sir, I have no information,” Mr Active verbalized gently.
“You should have, Mas Saab,” he mocked.
“But, Sir, in the morning, before lunch, I teach the students of BCA I and III Semesters at MCA Block. Then…”
“I don’t know. Arrange the lectures. Inform your HOD. Request her. And don’t go missing.”
“But the HOD is helpless as the other members of the department are busy as usual.”
“It’s your problem, not mine. Do yourself. Now pick up the copies and question papers. Go to the Room No. 133 in the Civil Block and conduct the exam.”
“Ok, Sir,” submissively he said.
“What ok! You people must know the system. Ab aap bachche nahee rahe! (Now you are not little chaps),” first he spoke in English, then in Hindi.
“We know, Sir.”
“What do you know, Mas Saab?,” he reiterated and laughed.
“That…,” he faltered for a moment, then spoke baldly, “As a teacher I should teach my students sincerely…”
Mr Vidhan stopped him in the middle and articulated like a businessman– “You are wrong, Mas Saab. Teaching is not essential here. What we require most is admission and examination. Anyone can teach– you can teach– he can teach– even that sweeper can engage the students. Do you get my point? And always remember, my boss wants business; I too, and nothing else.”
Mr Active was speechless. He left the place and went to the room. There he distributed the copies and question papers to the students and performed other duties. No one came to help him that day. When the examination was over, he came back to the Seminar Hall, and submitted the copies and other papers. Then he went to the Exam Controller. The Director was also sitting there. He reported the problem to both of them. At this, they smiled at each other and told him that they would look into the matter. After that he left the room.
The next day Mr Active taught the students of BCA in the morning. In the post lunch he was assigned two separate duties. Again no one came to support him in the examination halls, whereas the other faculty members were sent in pair. He performed his duties and came out.
A cream-coloured car, perhaps of the Vice Chancellor, was parked just in front of the main gate of the Banbhatt Block. The colour of the car was looking very dim due to the sunset. When Mr Active walked past it, he turned his face to the fast disappearing sun. He watched it for a moment, then left the place for his cabin to pick up his belongings.