18420

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Mr Das was lonely man outside his bio lab. But within the window-lit brilliance of his lab he was king. He drank tea from a glass beaker and smoked filter-less Panama cigarettes seated on a high stool at the long table of the bio lab. He smoked and drank as if the place was bar and he, its lone customer and king. Other teachers went to the PT Room to smoke.

For human company Mr Das had a skeleton in a glass cupboard. Lower animals, there were plenty. But they were mostly bottled in formaldehyde. Mr Das was a tough nut. Only the thinnest slice of plant stem and only the cleanest excision of cockroach gut would satisfy him. But in our world of ‘strict teachers’ and ‘soft teachers’ Mr Das was unclassifiable.

Mr Das rarely smiled. Laughter was even rarer. The other teachers treated Mr Das like one of his bottled specimens. An object of awe and pity. He had few friends. And fewer enemies.

Into the ears of every fresh senior school student was whispered the story of Mr Das’s one great love. It was almost a rite of passage. The telling of his cautionary tale of love and loss. But even though Mr Das stood out like a staggering example of doomed love, it was difficult to imagine him in love. It was said that she—a she who was variously identified as a cousin, a student and a colleague in different versions—scoffed at Mr Das’s confession of love because he was too dark and too ugly.

Everyday Mr Das would ride his black Atlas bicycle to school and back without really ‘mingling’ with his students and colleagues. Mr Das never lost his cool with the students. His voice carried with it the exhaustion of effort, having traversed the light years between mind and mouth. Back-benchers, like me, had to strain hard to listen to Mr Das’s lectures on life and beginnings.

Despite his reclusive ways Mr Das was given responsibilities that tested the limits of human touch. Like giving out board mark-sheets. What more could you tell a bad student about his badness. Or explain to a disbelieving genius the stupidity of an examiner. I remember the day I had to go and collect my mark-sheet from Mr Das. I was one of the brave few in my class. In the sense I knew that the black numbers on my mark-sheet couldn’t kill me despite their extreme modesty.

But Mr Das surprised me.
“What’s your roll number boy?” he asked me.
“18420, sir!”
“You’re one wicked boy,” said Mr Das smiling.
“Yes sir, no sir.”
“You’re 18 times 420. You know what that means?”
“Yes sir, no sir…. Umm, I don’t know sir.”
“It means you have to change and get better.”

That was the last time I saw Mr Das. Years later, when school had slipped out of my mind and school friends had scattered to claim their bits in the world, Mr Das came back to me, packed in the wool of school gossip. Mr Das had died of throat cancer, alone in his one-room flat. His neighbours found him on his bed a day or so after he shut the door on the world outside. As for me, I smiled at the memory ofthe man who had taught me to think, differently.


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2 comments:

  1. It was great to remember Mr. Das. He really loved teaching biology and was at peace with nature.

    How wonderful to keep on exploring Biology - the study of life and to get a glimpse of the Creator who created life in the first place.

    Standing in the presence of that Creator, transforms us and we no longer are insecure about other creations of his.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It was great to remember Mr. Das. He really loved teaching biology and was at peace with nature.

    How wonderful to keep on exploring Biology - the study of life and to get a glimpse of the Creator who created life in the first place.

    Standing in the presence of that Creator, transforms us and we no longer are insecure about other creations of his.

    ReplyDelete

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As an art practitioner I work in a variety of mediums, what you see here are glimpses of my many creative projects. If you like or feel strongly something here please don't forget to comment

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