Manmohan returned home from the market with a bottle – among the usual things – that was totally unfamiliar to Meera, his wife.
“The tide is turning,” explained Manmohan, “and I’m going to celebrate it.”
Manmohan was a teacher in a residential school which was taken over by a new management a couple of months back. The new management was of the opinion that the old faculty was responsible for the “downfall” of the school.
“A school is its faculty,” asserted the new chairman. So most of the faculty was asked to leave. Manmohan was among the few who did not merit the axe yet. Yet!
That’s not what he was celebrating, however. “I won’t be able to meet you the whole day from tomorrow,” said Manmohan to his wife. “See, I work in a residential school where I’m not just a teacher. I am a parent to the students in the hostel, a guide to the students when they are in study, a tutor to the weak students, and a mentor to those in need...”
“What about your own children and me?” Meera gasped.
“Every job has its hazards, darling. We live in the age of the corporate rule. Perform or perish.” He did not repeat what the Princi had said, ‘You look after the children of the school and god will look after your family.’ Manmohan had more faith in work than in gods.
“But you have been performing wonderfully! Your work has always been appreciated...”
“I’m becoming too costly for them, darling. They can easily hire fresh hands for half my salary.” Or else take up more responsibilities to justify the salary, he muttered to himself.
He had been summoned by the Principal for taking up his new duties some of which were administrative in nature. He explained that he was a teacher who loved his job of teaching and was not interested in becoming an administrator.
“See, Man,” said the Princi. “You are too old to take up a post as a teacher in another school. If at all you want to survive you’ll have to learn some administration and apply for the vice principal’s if not principal’s post.”
“But,” Manmohan’s eyes dilated, “I have neither the appetite nor the inclination for administrative jobs. I love books and teaching.”
Administration is about dealing with people. Adults. Not adolescents whose pranks he loved as a teacher. He found people profoundly boring. That’s how books became his companions.
“Boss is trying to help me,” said Manmohan to his wife as he poured himself a second drink. “That’s what I’m celebrating.”
“What help?” She couldn’t understand. “You are being asked to do things which you don’t like and probably can’t do.”
“Don’t underestimate me so much, dear,” said Manmohan suppressing a sneer that was directed at himself. “Boss is saying in other words, ‘We want to sack you too. But we are giving you time to save yourself by learning a job that your age can probably secure.’ Isn’t that a reason for celebration?”
Meera tried to imagine her husband on the hostel warden’s chair after his regular classroom duties. She visualised him sitting with a bunch of files in the place of his beloved Dostoevsky and Kazantzakis, Kafka and Camus.
Manmohan felt elated after two drinks. He switched on his laptop, connected to Homeshop18 and ordered for Andrea Hirata’s book, The Rainbow Troops.
“For nostalgia’s sake,” he said though Meera had not asked anything.
Just outside the room, down the window, a tomato seed had sprouted and was trying to grow in a thin layer of soil that lay on the concrete lining.
Note: This is purely a work of fiction.