The temperature gauge outside our back door that morning registered forty degrees Celsius and the heat was only beginning to crank up for the day. I was on my way to the office when I remembered an errand to attend to in the science block.
It was one of those pre-monsoon days when intense heat cast a blanket over one’s ability to think clearly. Certainly not the kind of day one would welcome insights into the world of science in a classroom setting. As I passed the first year students classroom I glanced in. The room was packed solid and I paused for a moment to watch the professor at work.
Usually student focus would be toward the front of the classroom where professor, board and equipment would be absorbing their attention. In some of the other disciplines students may have been tempted to goof off in class and take their chances at exam time, but science is an unforgiving master so those who were interested enough to attempt it would be focused on what was being taught. Not so with this classroom.
I paused in surprise and took a closer look. One of the student helpers was vainly trying to keep interest going by reading from prepared notes while bored students formed little knots discussing the latest events on campus, others were languidly focused on imaginary objects outside the windows and one was asleep. A few were listening intently to what the student helper was reading and making comments.
Students closest to the door watched me standing in the corridor disinterestedly. I beckoned to one and he came hopeful of a release from boredom.
“What’s going on?” I whispered.
There was a mass exodus from the classroom to find out what we were whispering about and I resumed normal speaking voice.
A chorus of answers soon brought me into the picture.
It appeared that soon after commencing lessons for the morning the professor had pointed to the student helper and requested he read from prepared materials while he stepped out to attend to some urgent business. He’d be back quickly to resume the lesson.
“Sir that was almost an hour ago and its time for the class to be over, we don’t know what happened to our professor?”
That was unusual. This was a professor who took his teaching seriously and it was unthinkable he’d be so irresponsible. Obviously it was something to look into.
So class was dismissed early much to their collective enjoyment and they went happily on their way while the student helper was conscripted to help us solve the mystery.
Asking around campus where everyone knew everyone’s business we were soon pointed in the direction of the professor’s home which happened to be a short walking distance from the science block. The small knot of students swelled in number as we made our way to the teacher’s home.
Loud knocks front and back doors drew no response and a hurried discussion took place. Was the teacher ill and unable to communicate, and if so should we venture inside to see if we could be of assistance? It was decided that should be the course of action and students looked for a way to accomplish this.
To our surprise the front door was not latched so students surged in looking for their professor. Passing along the corridor students stopped before a locked door and listened. Muffled groans were proceeding from that room and one student tried the door knob.
“Locked!” he whispered.
“Are you alright sir?” A chorus of loud voices was aimed at the locked door.
There was no response except for continuing groans from within.
So another hasty conference was called. A consensus was being arrived at which suggested breaking the door and rescuing their professor from whatever ailed him when the professor’s wife arrived on the scene extremely irritated at the invasion of her home privacy. She was quickly informed of the situation at hand and strode to the door demanding to be let in.
The groans continued.
So the door was broken and the assembled audience gasped in surprise!
There was the professor straddled on a broken pedestal with a jagged broken edge nailing him in place. It was obvious he couldn’t extricate himself from that javelin by himself and students surged forward to foolishly extract him from this gripping shaft. A horrified campus nurse arrived too late to carefully manage the situation but did her best to stem the blood flow. A vehicle was arranged for a quick trip to the hospital.
Word spreads quickly on a campus and by that time a considerable number of people joined those who’d originally invaded the house.
The professor’s wife had called maintenance to gain entry and maintenance workers joined the surging crowd. They were disappointed to learn students had already broken the door to save the professor.
A vehicle waited outside the house for nurse and professor but an argument ensured between professor and his wife. She wanted immediate replacement of her western style toilet, the professor loudly demanded a replacement Indian toilet which is one level with the floor. He’d had enough trouble with western toilets and never wanted to see one again. Standing on one obviously was not the right procedure for weight displacement involved or perhaps the quality of the product. But the professor’s wife won and maintenance ran to arrange a replacement to mollify this very angry woman. The professor sped to hospital glowering at his defeat and now smarting with embarrassment at his exposure to a significant part of the campus family.
The story was repeated over and over for several months after, and even today is considered a significant event in the history of the institution. In those days the movie “Jaws” was considered a must see and the irreverent among us suggested we make our own movie of this event calling it “Jaws 2.” Of course that movie was never made, but in the interests of preserving the memory I present this story to you today.
But for the professor it was an event that was permanently erased from his memory and those close to him considered it too sensitive to refer to in his presence.
I struggled with how to classify this story, so in order to remove any cause for embarrassment let’s just classify it as fiction with the usual disclaimer to cover my butt for being cheeky enough to remember it.
“The characters in this story are not meant in any way to refer to any person living or dead and are to be read as fictional characters.”
Copyright Ian Grice 2015 All rights reserved
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