“Welcome,” said Prof. Tripathi, with a smile but in a not- so- happy note, “now what’s the reason for delay today?”
Prof. Narayan Tripathi, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, a noted professor of the Department of Political Science and an ardent follower of Aristotle is a strict disciplinarian, believes in the principles of honesty, punctuality and obedience. The reply came late but in a subtle voice and seemed to be somewhat authentic, but not satisfactory to the professor.
“I am extremely sorry Sir, but there was lots of traffic due to Ganesh Visharjan and so I could not make a quick pass for my bicycle,” Anil tried his best to appease his most respected master.
“Now would you please be seated,” asked Prof. Tripathi, displeasure clearly showcased on his plump face and a frown could be noticed on his brows. For the rest of the time scheduled Prof. Tripathi gave valuable insights to his pupils on the powers and functions of the President of India. His eyes being fixed on Anil, Prof.Tripathi awarded a strict warning to all, “From tomorrow onwards I won’t allow late-comers to enter my class and I hope all of you will abide by my decision,” and left the room on the second storey of MG College for his chamber in the admin block.
Anil Sharma, a guy studying in the second year of the Three Year Degree course under Lucknow University took Political Science with a vision, no less than a dream. Anil, an anorexic and absolutely naive looking young man, as observed by his friends remains mostly pre-occupied and seldom shares his thoughts with them. He once disclosed among his friends that to pursue Political Science as a career was fuelled by an aspiration which he nurtured for long and his dream got impetus after Anil listened about the real-life story of a tea-vendor rising from nowhere to somewhere-that can only be dreamt of . After a busy Monday, Prof. Tripathi settled on his rocking armchair in his study taking a note of the ongoing election news in the Times. Newspapers coupled with a cup of Darjeeling tea is what most loved by Tripathi Sir after his values and ethics.
“Jahnvi,” called Prof.Tripathi, “did you get the newspaper bill for last month?”
Jahnvi, the only daughter of Mr. Narayan Tripathi or in other words his family, since after the death of his wife and parents in an accident, sixteen years back she was the one who gave him a reason to smile.
Jahnvi, engrossed in Gupta and Kapoor’s volume of statistics, took much pain to answer her daddy’s query, “No, daddy I haven’t got it, do you have it?”
Her father replied, “No dear, I haven’t seen it? But I’ll fetch from the newspaper guy tomorrow?”
The next morning, on the breakfast table, Jahnvi in her usual avatar requesting Ramu kaka not to offer her ‘karele ka juice’ in front of daddy and started to bribe Ramu kaka, “Oh, my sweet Ramu kaka, please tell daddy that I already had it, please. I’ll get movie tickets for you and a banarasi paan too.”
“Good morning beta , what is the first class today? Is Prof. Mukherjee visiting these days?” enquired a caring and concerned father.
Jahnvi, in a frightened tone as if caught red-handed replied, “Good morning daddy, Mukherjee Sir comes to our class whenever he visits the University”.
“Ramu, bring our Karele ka Juice, big kudos to you for helping us to keep fit”, ordered Prof. Tripathi with a few words of encouragement.
Ramu kaka returned with two glasses of bitter-gourd juice, ignoring Jahnvi’s bribes because he is a loyalist and faithful man, true to his master and takes care of the girl who lost her mother when she required her the most. Jahnvi, with utter displeasure started to take a sip of her most hated drink, saw the newspaper hawker entering their gate.
Jahnvi informed, “Daddy newspaper has come, I’ll take the bill,” and rose from her seat with the glass to search for an opportunity to lessen the quantity of the liquid but her plans faced failure when Prof. Tripathi stood up from his chair and instructed her to be remain seated. Prof. Tripathi went to the man, took the newspaper and enquired, “Did you give the bill for last month?”
The half-bearded man replied, “No Sir, my agency did not hand over to me. Whenever they do it, I’ll give you accordingly,” and he started to go back and was about to reach the gate when stopped by the professor.
“Listen, did we meet somewhere else? Do you deliver newspapers near MG College on Trunk Road?” enquired Tripathi Sir, to which the man just shook his head to and fro, got onto his bicycle and vanished within seconds. But a strange sense of suspicion began to haunt his mind and he became restless and disquieted after he caught a glimpse of the man with the newspaper. He came back to the breakfast table and as he munched on his favourite ‘gobi ke paranthe’ with curd, a sense of malaise began to linger in his mind. He baffled with his memory and tried hard to remember and recollect whether he had met that men somewhere else or he had seen another person, look-alike with negligible differences. Prof. Tripathi suddenly, noticed the Tissot tied on his left wrist, it was already half past nine and he asked Jahnvi, “Let’s go beta we are getting late, I’ll drop you.” The father-daughter duo of scholar and scholastic headed off to their destinations of learning.
“Good morning Sir”, greeted the students of the second year class as he entered the room near the busy road, where the din and bustle of the vehicles is a constant source of noise pollution for the collegians. Prof. Tripathi responded to his pupils, and began calling out the rolls and when he was about to wind up his register, entered ‘Mr. Latecomer’.
“May I come in Sir?” requested Anil in an absolutely polite and courteous fashion to which the philanthropist nodded in affirmation. Anil, quite taken aback and utterly stunned at such an unusual reaction of the professor took his seat near the window, facing the Science Block of the college. During the entire session, the pupils gazed at their educator, spell bound and stupefied at his capableness to impart lessons without the slightest of distraction but Anil noticed something else. Anil perceived that the eyes of his master were fixed at him and even while he was teaching, time and again Prof. Tripathi was observing him for reasons not known to him, he just hoped not for any wrong reason. The same scenario continued for the next two days and in the evening of Thursday, came to the conclusion, the triumph of a man over his limitations in order to achieve something big, something really worthy. The next morning, a cheery and bright Friday morning resembled the mind of the professor, overflowing with exuberance who headed off to his destination with renewed zest and vigour to unfold a secret which he want to cognise only with a wish to help the man involved in the secret.
As soon as he reached the college he ordered the office bearer, “Bhatia, please show me the database of the students of Second Year Batch of Humanities.” After going through the info his doubts found a concrete stratum and his clues pointed out to someone his mind was already pointing towards. He yet again requested Bhatia to take a print copy of the database of the younker whom he suspected to be the ‘warrior’ who is fighting a war, at his own terms , a war of its kind harming none, only to vanquish all adversities just to effectuate his dream, imitating a great achiever.
The next step was something which the professor has inherited from his love for detective novels and television series. He hurried back to his chamber only to take out his new Parker roller pen, obviously gifted by Jahnvi on last Fathers’ Day.
“What are you doing Sir? You don’t like this fellow I suppose,” asked Murali, the peon, seeing Prof.Tripathi scratching the photo on the database as he entered the Professor’s chamber with a cup of tea.
“No, Murali you have misunderstood, in fact I have started to revere and respect this young man. I have discovered something which is ought to be loved not to be hated,” replied the enlightened master in a fashion quite unfamiliar to his demeanour and disposure.
This Friday morning held a bundle of unusual things and the last in the series occurred when Anil entered the class, in his usual late-comer style. But to the surprise of all Prof.Tripathi neither rebuked him nor asked him for reasons and on the contrary just asked him to seat near the window, beside which a mighty neem tree stood upright. The benevolent master wearing a facade of rudeness and rigidity wears a strict and stern look only to maintain discipline and good conduct among his educates. The only way he could say ‘Great going, my boy’ was to make him sit near the window to breathe fresh and cool air because the Good Samaritan was none but the Late-Comer, who reaches college every day after a hard toil distributing newspapers at doorsteps under the scorching heat of the sun. The insights which Prof.Tripathi discovered from the database proved that Anil despite being an inmate of an orphanage managed to pass 12th boards by flying colours and when he made a beard over Anil’s photo the latter completely resembled the man delivering newspaper. Anil in order to earn a livelihood for supporting his studies, sold newspapers and which caused delay in reaching college in time. It was clear to the professor that Anil wanted to hide his identity while working and so Prof.Tripathi, a man who has great respect for work and education, neither called Anil to offer help or showed pity which could hamper his self-respect and dignity. When the period of Political Science ended and Prof.Tripathi was about to leave the class he called Anil by a hand expression and said in a tone filled with strictness as well as sympathy, “One should give monthly –bills by the 30th of every month, keep it in mind and try to reach class in time.” Anil a bit worried over Tripathi Sir’s comments, gave bills to all his customers along the edition of the 30th of every month and continued to paddle his bicycle while listening to the talk show of his hero on radio.