neelwrites/maya:littlemorethanillusion/fiction/shortstory/reena’sexplorationchallengeweek#16/14/12/2017

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Here is a character narrating different episodes from her life. You get an idea of the overall personality. Pick just one sentence from the story, and develop further on that.

why

MAYA: LITTLE MORE THAN ILLUSION

By Neel Anil Panicker

I see the rage in my boss’s eyes and know that is time to quit. Or, more appropriately, that is time for me to be asked to quit.

There he is, sitting opposite me, in that favourite swivel chair of his, the chair, the specific make and colour that I helped him to chose, staring down at me, those limpid blue eyes now a raging red, its pupils trebly enlarged, the nerves threatening any moment to burst out.

I bravely refuse to give in and like a fool who rushes in where angels fear to tread, I lock eyes with him.

I see his head, bald as an eagle’s, the strobe lights streaking in through the translucent windows doodling all over his six foot gym toned frame, the hands, large and hairy, like a grizzly bear’s fiercely clutching onto a palm sized paper weight, furiously rotating it over the oblong sun mica topped teak wood table.

I see a melange of emotions, predominantly distaste, written all over his usually placid face, now a bundle of bumbling emotions.

I see a lot that I haven’t seen in the past six years, the years that I have known him since, the years that I have worked  under him, the years that he has been my boss, also the years that we have been lovers.

I know it is time for me to leave, allow for him to be alone so as to be able to process all that has happened.

I get up and calmly hand over an envelope. It contains my resignation letter addressed to Shiv Kumar Sharma, Director, COACHING TIME, New Delhi from Maya Talreja, General Manager- Planning.

‘I shall see you in the evening’, I say, and walk out of the cabin. I know he’s my man and I know together we’ll battle our way out of this storm too.

***

My name is Maya. Maya Mirchandani. I am a 30-year-old Sindhi, a divorced Gujarati born Sindhi to be precise. I stress on the divorced part because that’s was defined me, at least for the first five years since my marriage with Kunal, a regular parochial wife beating male chauvinist pig fell apart. Wait, fell apart did I say?

Shred to pieces, smashed to smithereens__these would be better descriptors of the hellish times I spent with Kunal whose favourite form of abuse was to strip me naked,   chain me to the window sill, and then beat me black and blue with a steel belt for hours together.

Of course, he did take power breaks in between, replenishing himself with whisky on the rocks and snorting cocaine, just one among many of his addictions.

One night soon after when he and the entire world were in deep slumber, I climbed down the bathroom pipe, walked barefoot upto to the nearest railway station, and took the first available train to my hometown.

My parents, saddled with typical middle class mores thought I had committed a crime  and did everything possible right from weeping and begging to cajoling and threatening to somehow force me to go back to Kunal, to give my marriage yet another try.

But I had resolved that enough was enough and would under no circumstances go back to marriage which I know equated with hell for short of a milder word.

That broke their dam of patience and I was subjected to another round of torture.

This time it was mental, and especially so by own parents, who feared that a daughter, beautiful and educated as she may be, had no life outside of marriage.

Things deteriorated from bad to worse and then one day, when unable to bear their near non-stop rebukes and emotional blackmails, I packed my bags and left home.

In less than 100 days I had hit road again, the only difference being this I had burnt all my bridges and there was no going back, anywhere whatsoever.

I decided to hit a new town and landed up in Delhi. The first few months were sheer hell, as armed with nothing more than a college degree I walked in and out of countless interviews without any luck.

It went like this for a month or so and soon things reached a point when I had no money to even pay the rent for my single room Paying Guest accommodation.

It was then that the landlord offered me a life a line: He would forfeit my dues if I agreed to sleep with him.

Disgusted I slammed the phone down and was about to smash it to the wall when it began to ring.

I picked it up and was about to hurl my choicest abuses when I heard a woman’s voice, soft though business-like over the phone, “Am I speaking to Miss Maya?”

“Yes, this is Maya”, I somehow managed to mumble.

“Congratulations,” the voice continued, “You have been selected. Please kindly collect your offer letter from Coaching Time”.

A melange of emotions swirled through my mind. One moment I was down and out and the other I was on top of the world. I was over, my ordeal, my quest, my struggle for survival. I had finally bagged a job.

The next day, my heart full of joy, I walked into my new office, and fell straight into the arms of my boss.

Well, it so happened that I had just left the HR Manager’s cabin, clutching in my hand an appointment letter that said my designation was Executive Secretary, Director, Coaching Time.

“Walk straight and turn left. Extreme corner is Kumar Sir’s cabin.”

I did as she had guided me, and found myself standing outside an impressive oak panelled cabin door that sported a gold embellished capital lettered name plate ‘DIRECTOR’.

I was wondering whether to knock or to simply step in, when the door opened all of a sudden and out stumbled a man and almost fell into my arms.  In fact if he hadn’t held himself against the wall, both of us would have come tumbling down like nine pins.

“I…I am sorry. ‘Am in a hurry.” was all he managed to blurt out as we pulled ourselves together.

I looked at him, half fearful, half embarrassed.

Pushing the wrong side of forty, the man had a shock of curly grey hair the sides of which fell over a square face that reeked of a childlike naughtiness.

“Sir, I am Maya…your new secr…”

“Sorry, got to go. Shall meet you in the evening. Make yourself comfortable” was all he said before he vanished down the corridor.

I shrugged off the awkwardness and stepped inside to find the room, a mid sized hall rather, a picture of disarray. Half opened books, files, stationery, even Coke cans were littered all over the place__ on the work table, under the chairs, on the mosaic floor, a few even near the attached washroom.

My womanly instincts came to fore and I set about putting everything in order, even at one point picking up the intercom and requisitioning the House Keeping Department.

And when Mr Kumar walked in through the door in the evening all he did was stand and stare in wonderment at the metamorphosis his cabin had undergone.

He rewarded me with a hesitant half smile.

In turn I extracted a cup of hot Nescafe from the Coffee Machine and placing it on his desk, said, “ Sir, I am Maya, your new Executive Secretary”.

He motioned me to the chair opposite him and apprised me of the tasks at hand.

I was to take care of his appointments, attend all his meetings, take down their minutes, prepare notes, and help him with the general functioning of his office.

The next few months I immersed myself fully in my job, voraciously lapping up each day and new experience as part of my learning curve, ever learning, at times faltering, at times making mistakes but never repeating them.

At the end of six months, I had learnt enough to make myself an indispensable part of the office, befriending one and all, helping all and sundry, ensuring the smooth and efficient running of the organisation.

The wheels of time spun and soon a year passed by and another and  then yet another.

I was happy, at peace with myself, had a job, a great one at that, one that I loved to the hilt, and most importantly was independent in all senses of the term.

By now I was promoted as General Manager-Operations and my salary was ten times over what I had started with.

And then I fell in love. Or, we fell in love. Shiv and I.

It was not one of those Slam, Bam, Thank You Ma’m kind of puerile, lust filled entanglements that you hear of but quite on the contrary, a slow brewing, deep stirring, meaningful heart enriching, life affirming love between two mature fully responsible consenting adults.

As such we resolved that our love, romance, relationship, affection or whatever one may choose to call it, would in no way interfere with our official duties. We turned increasingly discreet, making sure that not one soul got a whiff of it.

But then as they say such things have a dirty habit of leaking out and soon someone somehow poisoned the ears of the powers that be at the Head Office.

Soon enough Shiv received a terse one line note from the head honchos asking for my scalp.

And that’s where things stand now as I sit in my cabin wondering over the dilemma that stares Shiv, my boss cum lover.

***

The intercom buzzes; I pick up the phone.

“Maya. We’re in this together. I’ve put in my papers. Now, either we swim or sink.

Are you with me?”

“Forever, my sweetheart”.

I kiss him over the phone.

I am happy, elated, over the moon.
I have finally found love.

I have a man, a man who’s man enough to take on the world.

For me, for him, for us.

©neelanilpanciker2017 #fiction #shortstory #CATolgy #BSchool #MBA

#reena’sexplorationchallengeweek#16 #1670words

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neelwrites/training/flashfiction/performance/09/12/2017

December 7: Flash Fiction Challenge

December 7 Flash Fiction Challenge at Carrot Ranch @Charli_Mills

In 99 words (no more, no less) write that features a performance. You can interpret what is a performance any way the prompt leads you.

Hosted by https://carrotranch.com/2017/12/07/december-7-flash-fiction-challenge/

TRAINING, IT’S DRAINING

By Neel Anil Panicker

Two days, seven hours, thirty-one minutes and still counting. There’s no signs of the torture  ever coming to an end. From his secluded perch in the far right hand corner, I watch with eyes as dead as of a dodo’s at the ‘actors’ and their ‘performances’.

The powers that be had even thought out a name for this form of extreme sadism, grandly christening it as ‘ANNUAL SKILL UPLIFTMENT SESSION’.

My foot! The only skill upliftment was that the hapless trainees had by now learnt how to fall into deep slumber with their eyes split wide open.

©neelanilpanicker2017 #fiction #flashfiction #99words #training

neelwrites/thewall/shorstory/reena’sexplorationchallenge/1582words/fiction/16/112017

Hosted by the superb Reena at https://reinventionsreena.wordpress.com/2017/11/10/reenas-exploration-challenge-week-12/

Here’s the prompt

If you were asked to share one experience you had with someone you knew which was experienced as a gift or transmission, what memory would that be? Close your eyes and see what arises. Which gift will you pass on?

 

Exploration Challenge 12.jpg

THE WALL

By Neel Anil Panicker

There are two types of educators: those who do what they are tasked to do out of love and those who don’t do what they are tasked to do out of hate.

Now doing something out of love is entirely different from doing something because it needs to be done.

And the needs could be any and varied. It could be commanded by the every elemental need for survival. I mean people teach for the money that it provides, necessary money that helps feed  themselves and their families.

But then that would apply to any profession, one may argue.

True but then not necessarily. There are those in this category who teach because they know nothing else or because they are no good at anything else.

Not for them the rigours of the corporate world, the daily grind of struggling to meet and outdo targets and KRAs. Not for them also the admonitions, demotions, insults, and humiliations that follow the non-performance or under performance of a task.

Ratnesh Karmakar was one such person. I first met him in the staff Faculty Room. It was on a Monday morning, a little after 11. I had just walked into the Faculty Room after finishing my first class of the day.

It was an English Vocabulary class and as what happens after most such classes I was surrounded by a couple of very eager students too intrigued by the fascinating world of words; words which hitherto were new to them. They were badgering me with questions as to the scientific originations of these new fanciful words.

I decided to give them a very patient hearing and walked them through the various etymologies and root word methodologies to help decode the words and their subtle undertexts.

All this while I barely noticed that the Faculty Room was inhabited by another person. After I was done with the students I turned around and found to my utter surprise and shock a man, barely under 35, half sprawled on the leather couch, his eyes shut and snoring away to glory.

Feeling slightly discomfited by what I saw, I stepped out of the Room and when I came back after grabbing a cup of coffee from the kitchen I saw that the man, whoever it was no longer there. Whoof! Vanished into thin air.

That day, in the evening, I met him again, but this time in passing. He was inside the classroom adjacent to mine. I spotted through the glass door; he was there, seated on the chair, his legs all laid out on the floor like some heavily pregnant woman’s minutes before delivery, ostensibly teaching a a classfull of students, his eyes half shut, sheer boredom plastered all over his swarthy, unshaven face.

Disgusted by this wanton display of insouciance I turned around and walked into my own class, my respect for this man, whoever he may be, definitely hitting rock bottom in the few hours that I had encountered him.

It was only the next day that I came to know that this person was a new recruit, a Mathematics teacher to boot.

Now, was I shocked? Well, not one bit. For in my over a decade and half years spent in and around a classroom I have encountered many such teachers who bring disgrace to the noble profession by not just diluting it of its true worth but by also revealing themselves as very poor role models for the impressionable students that they vouch to teach and thereby to the society at large.

Such laidback people with a damn care attitude and without an iota of commitment towards the world of books and the pious business of teaching are dime a dozen in all educational institutions, be they schools, colleges, coaching institutions et al.

I avoid them like the plague but feel sorry for the hapless students who are at the receiving end of such ‘learning’ for what is education and its efficacy if delivered half heartedly and sans all passion.
And speaking of passion, my thoughts travel to the other side of the  spectrum for every such deadwoods of the world there are also inhabit the tireless, sincere warriors who go about their tasks with a dedication and honesty that is almost saintly in nature.

Rahul Joshi was his name. but we called him simply ‘The Wall’. Quite like the venerated Indian cricketer he was, to all who were fortunate to have interacted with him and partaken of his goodness, Mr Dependable,  always to be trusted upon, reliable to the core.

No, he wasn’t Mr No All, one of those who profess to know every little thing on this planet and then struts about with an air of superciliousness.

No, absolutely not, Far from it, Rahul was the epitome of humility, dedication, discipline and simplicity.

Clad in a starch white or light blue shirt and matching trousers, his hair, neatly trimmed and gelled,

He would be found either in the class, teaching English, explaining the finer nuances of the English syntax to a bevy of eager beaver students who would lap up every single utterance of his with an eagerness and devotion that would any Hindu god to shame.

A fact validated by the huge crowd of students who would swarm him once the class got over and bombard with umpteen questions.

Very assiduously, Rahul would give each one of them a patient hearing, listening, and then clearing, clarifying, correcting, suggesting, counselling all of them in a manner that was nothing short of heights of dedication and sincerity.

I mean here was a faculty who had just taught for a whole two hours a class choc-a-block with students, all the while remaining standing, and then to continue like that and take individual doubt sessions with a dozen or more students without batting an eyelid or revealing a whiff of discomfort, his perpetual smile never flagging a wee bit__all this was more than admirable. My respect for this man, as I sat and watched him over the following days and weeks, grew in geometric progression until one day I resolved to know or better still understand what made him so special, so grounded, when everyone around him walked around with a jaunt and a forced swag as if they owned the world and its backyard.

I came to know few things which increased my respect for this remarkable person.

Here is his story as I gathered over the course of the next few days.

Rahul was the only child of educationists who very tragically died in a ghastly train accident some ten year ago.

After their death, and in deference to their lifelong wish, which they had made known much earlier to him on several occasions, Rahul decided to follow in their footsteps and become an educator himself.

So, immediately after acquiring an IIM degree from Kolkata, he joined Coaching Time, first in its Pune centre and then at its New Delhi branch.

Here, he found as few things that riled him no end. First, the teachers, at least a few of them, were not so dedicated and wedded to the noble task of imparting knowledge.

They would simply come, take their classes half heartedly, and then while away the rest of their time unnecessarily indulging in talks and activities that could very mildly be termed as ‘undesirable’.

He found that all this went antithetical to what his parents had taught him. From them he had learnt that mere possession of knowledge is of no use unless it serves to benefit mankind.

And here that meant the teeming multitude of students who had left behind their homes and comforts, traversing thousands of kilometres, putting up in alien jam packed rooms and subsisting on outside food, living and surviving with just one solitary hope and dream in mind__ that of  cracking CAT, one of the toughest of all competitive examinations in the country, an achievement that would open the doors of the much sought after big, wide managerial world around them.

And so Rahul had decided to dedicate his life to the cause of these students. He not only began to lend a helping hand to every student who came to him for help, but also went back home and studied a multitude of diverse books and resource material and passed on all that extra knowledge to his students to equip them with that extra edge.

Highly impressed by this exemplary display of work ethics and fearsome dedication to the noble cause of teaching, I too decided to inculcate all this in my daily life.

Here was one person who was worthy of emulation, who through his actions and deeds had shown to one and all the right path, the path that led towards knowledge and enlightenment , not the one that Lord Buddha took, but one that was more grounded and rooted in real life, that allowed one to live a normal life while at the same time dedicating oneself to a far nobler cause, that of  guiding, teaching, educating, advising, and handholding a retinue of hesitant, struggling and fearful students, equipping and arming them but not just  the nuts and bolts of their course material but in the process making into better evolved persons and fine human beings.

Thanks to this wonderful person, in due course of time, he became the apple of everyone’s eyes including the initial naysayers and the slackers, and soon his values began to be embraced by one and all.

©neelanilpanciker2017 #shortstory #1582words #reena’s exploration challenge

neelwrites/trustmustneverbitedust/reena’sexplorationchallengeweek#09/fiction/shortstory/Catology/25/10/2017

exploration challenge #9

Hosted by the ever dependable Reena at https://reinventionsreena.wordpress.com/2017/10/20/reenas-exploration-challenge-week-9/

TRUST MUST NEVER BITE THE DUST

By Neel Anil Panicker

“No Mr Krishna, that’s not enough. You need to do more. Much more than what you have done?”

The Director of ‘Coaching First’ scratched his bald head, looked across the table at the girl sitting opposite to him and wondered what else could he do or have done.”

‘But what else is there to be done, Akshara. The guilty has been punished. In fact I have slapped him with a suspension order”. I have also…’

“Cut it, Mr Director. Slapped with a suspension order! What a joke! These are mere tokenisms. Jingoism, I would say. Playing to the gallery. What you did is nothing out of the ordinary though I admit even this much is beyond someone else. But believe me, I would have been more happy if you  had slapped that offender in front of everyone, the entire staff and students. So Mr Krishna, here is my resignation letter. I hate to work at an institution that does not respect its female staff, that turns a blind eye towards female sexual harassment, that allows bigoted, masochistic creeps and perverts access to students, that not just condones but as I can see now, subtly supports all such acts by brushing them under the carpet. It is a shame that you as the head of this couching institute, a temple of learning feels that enough has been done when we know, you, me, the entire staff and the students that nothing has been done except save your own goddamn asses.”

‘Wait, don’t be in a hurry. Whatever needed to be done has…’

Akshara pulled herself out of the chair, headed towards the door, and half opening it, turned around and replied, “It’s not just about me, one faculty member. It’s about the larger male mindset that is all pervasive and not just subtly encourages but also condones or at best turns a blind eye to harassment, whether in the office or outside. I haven’t said you have not done anything. But I need more. I need you to do things not in duress but to do them because you strongly believe in them. I want you to use your position of authority to take steps that would help restore my lost trust. Trust, yes, that’s the word. I am not upset that you didn’t do enough; I am simply upset that you didn’t do enough to restore my lost trust in you and your institution.”

Saying that she stepped out, the sound of her footsteps as it connected with the hard granite flooring in the hallway piercing into Mr Krishna’s ears. Long after she had left, the fifty-five-year old Director sat immobile in his chair, staring into the blank walls opposite him, totally oblivious of the ticking away of the wall clock hours.

After seemed an eternity, he got up and picked the extension phone.

‘Mr Murthy, could you come over now. And bring along Abhishek Awasthi’s file’.

 

‘Mr Murthy, tell me everything from the beginning. And mind you, no weather coating, no air brushing. I want the facts, stark and bare, the entire sordid saga.’

Murthy nodded his head and clearing his throat replied, “Sir, a week ago, October 13 to be precise I was in my chamber when Ms. Akshara Chauhan barged in. I could see that she was upset, her eyes were slightly swollen. It looked to me as if she were crying.

I sat her down, offered her a glass of water, and asked her what had occurred. To which she replied that …”

“Did she give a written reply? If so I want you to read out that”

‘Yes Sir. I asked her to write down a complaint and she wrote one then and there and handed me. Here it is verbatim, “To, Director, Coaching First… Sir, I wish to lodge an official complaint of sexual harassment against Mr Abhishek Awasthi, Maths Faculty Member. Today, that is October 13, 2017, at about fifteen minutes to eleven, I was in the Faculty Room, preparing notes for my first class of the day when Mr Awasthi walked in and sat beside me. Even before I could guess his intentions, he had placed his hands on my thigh. I looked up but before I could react he moved in and kissed me. I was…I was too shocked to react. It took me awhile to recover but by that time he had walked out of the room. I simply sat there and then began to cry. After some time, I composed myself and wrote out a complaint letter against Mr Awashthi.

I demand strict action against this person who has not just violated my dignity but has been constantly speaking ill of all women staff members, verbally abusing and revealing them in poor light.”

Mr Krishna got up from his chair and paced the room, his head bowed and in deep thought. After a few minutes, he turned around.

“Mr Murthy, please spell your role and position in our institution”.

A flabbergasted Murthy recovered quickly enough to utter, “ Sir, I am the HR Head and I take charge of all human relations issues”.

“If that is so, Mr Murhy, I ask you, did you take rightful charge of this issue? Did you take the necessary steps in this case and address the concerns of the aggrieved person?”

Hot beads of sweat began to form around Murthy’s brow.

“Yes, yes Sir, I immediately assured her that I would look into the allegations. After she had left, I sat down and called Mr Awasthi over. I questioned him about his conduct and sought an explanation. He seemed  repentful and even apologized…”

“Called, sought, seemed,.. these are mere tokenisms. Did you constitute an inquiry, a proper one, the way it should have been conducted, Mr  Murthy?”

“No, I thought since he has apologized, the matter ends”

“And did it end, Mr Murthy?”

“Unfortunately, no. The very next day, Ms Akshara again came up to me and expressed her disapproval. I showed her his apology. She seemed unsatisfied. It was then that I ordered Mr Awashthi’s suspension.”

“A one week suspension. That’s what you ordered, Mr HR Head. Do you think by doing so the matter rests, that you have done your duty, Mr Murthy? I don’t think so. Have you heard of the Supreme Court mandated Vishakha Guidelines in such cases? Do you know the protocol that needs to be followed in all such cases of complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace? I don’t think so. You seem to be woefully unaware or even if you were unaware, you chose to take sides and by doing so you have revealed your narrow minded 8th century old male chauvinistic mindset that sanctifies all such barbaric behavior. No Mr Murthy, I pity you as you have miserably failed in safeguarding and protecting the interests of women in this organization. You are dismissed with immediate effect.”

+++

“Dear friends and colleagues,

The past week was a black spot for our organization as one of our dear colleagues was subject to what I can only term euphemistically as “inappropriate” conduct.

The shocking thing is that one of our own staff members was the culprit. Subsequent to this highly objectionable incident which I can only term as despicable and needs to be condemned in the harshest possible manner, I have not only dismissed the said person but also  ensured that a systems of checks and balances are in place so that there be no repeat of any such thing.

Today, standing before you all and as head of this institution,

I bow my head in shame and take full responsibility for this ugly insultful incident.

As the Director, on behalf of the entire organization and on a personal level, I formally and in writing apologise to Ms Akshara Gupta, Verbal Faculty, for the aforesaid incident.

Moreover, I assure her and each and every staff member of this organization that

your safety, welfare, and dignity is uppermost in our minds and all efforts will be made to ensure that such an event never ever occurs.

I have dismissed Mr Abhishek Awasthi, Mathematics Faculty, the guilty in this matter, with immediate effect. Besides, a police complaint too has been lodged against him. I have also removed Mr Satya Murthy, Human Relations Head from service for his gross mishandling of this case, his covert support of Mr Awasthi, and his blatant misuse of his powers.

Moreover, I have constituted a Sexual Harassment Complaints Redressal Cell to be headed by Ms Vandana Gehlot, our senior most female staff and comprising seven other members four of whom will be women.

Once again, on behalf of the entire staff and members of this institution I expressmy sincerest regrets and apologies to Ms. Akshara.”

The entire hall stood up and clapped as the Director wrapped up his speech.

Seated in the front row, amidst several colleagues and well wishers, Vishakha’s eyes welled up.

Inside, in her heart, she felt satisfied and deep sense of fulfillment.

The words of her favourite poet Pablo Neruda resounded in her mind: “None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, yet still we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have faith.”

***

©neelanilpanicker2017 #reena’sexplorationchallengeweek#09 #trust #fiction #shortstory #1538words #CATology

neelwrites/flymehigh/reena’sexplorationchallenge#week6#1884words/10/05/2017

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https://reinventionsreena.wordpress.com/2017/09/29/reenas-exploration-challenge-week-5-2/

What is it that makes you feel powerful? What is that strength which makes your time on this planet worthwhile?

REC 6

FLY ME HIGH UP THE SKY

By Neel Anil Panicker

MONDAY, 12 NOON,

FACULTY ROOM

‘Dammit, I have another class after this. Hate teaching a bunch of stupid students?

‘Bad luck, Arvind. Don’t forget it is idiots such as these who sponsor our salaries, who help make both our ends meet, who…’

‘Know it Rahul and cut the spiel, will you. These good for nothings, when they throw  cash on the table it helps bring us ‘food on the table  What do you say, Animesh?’.

At that instant the bell rang and Animesh thankfully extricated himself from the Faculty Room and strode purposefully down the corridor towards the corner classroom for what was his second class of the day.

Two hours later…

“Animesh, why don’t you check this video. It is the latest on Pappu”.

Animesh looked across at his colleague who was peering into his phone, a top end model IPhone and replied gently, “Thanks Rahul, I have an essay to complete”.

Racuous laughter erupted all around the comfy leather chairs on which snuggled a group of four other FMs, their eyes glued to their phones.

An unmindful Animesh checked his watch, decided he still had fifteen minutes before the start of his next class and opened his laptop.

At that instant a band of students came inside.

He recognised them as students from his just concluded class.

“Sir, we have a problem. Could you tell us the difference between “He came to the class” and “He has come to the class”?

Animesh looked up at the students who were now hovering around him.

Vinay, Prakash, Adil, Deepesh, and Anita. He knew them; their names and faces registered on his heart and mind from day one.

All of them were almost of the same colour, height, weight, and carried the same body language, conveying similar facial expressions. Pretty much indistinguishable much like the group of camera slinging, baggy clad monk like Chinese tourists that he often spotted strolling around Connaught Circus. They all looked the same but unlike the foreigners who were armed with large tourist guide maps and had cheer spread across their milky white visages,  the students who had come to Animesh stood half bent, holding half opened grammar books in their hands, anxiety writ large on their despondent faces, their reed thin bodies covered in pale yellow skin pigmentations__these graduate students, all pushing their twenties and staring into bleak uncertain futures, epitomised tenseness, quite eerily the subject they had severe doubts about.

Even in the cool October month, thick beads of sweat trickled through their pores and ran all over their workman style clothes, abominably pungent odours emanating from their bodies.

He sat them down beside him, and unmindful of the rambunctious sounds all around him and the sly remarks and innuendoes of his colleagues, proceeded to teach them the intricacies of the moving time as captured via the Verb, the ‘action’ Part of Speech, feeling a strange empathy and warmth towards them.

He knew that not very long ago he too was in the same boat, undergoing the same plight as these students were now experiencing, and resolved to help alleviate their sorrow as best as he could do.

***

There are two types of teachers in this world. The ones who are teachers because they have nothing better to do. The other, those who become teachers because they believe this is the best thing to do.

As far as the first category is concerned, I know I may have taken a very extremist view when I say “they have nothing better to do”.

Let me qualify that by saying that “they think they have nothing better to do or worse they want nothing better to do.”

It is this category of teachers who have ‘chanced’ upon the teaching profession

who belittle teachers and teaching, the noblest of all professions in the world.

And because they believe “they have nothing better to do” they inflict their inner negativity, despondency and lackadaisical attitude, allowing it slowly and dangerously percolate into the impressionable minds and hearts of ‘fresh as a daisy’ students who as the aphorism goes learn from their teachers.

These are the unfortunate souls, who after having stumbled in and out of a countless other professions, accidentally bump into the teaching profession, and discover it to be “cool’ and easy” and “laidback”, staying put there for ages, growing thick skins and even thicker work ethics that border on extreme forms of lassitude and nothingness.

So they amble in and out of classrooms, their weary feet dragging their lost souls and deadened minds, sowing seeds of negativity and despondency on one and all.

They are a pain, not only to themselves, but all those who are unfortunate enough to interact with them.

They are here not because of any great love for it, but because they have run out of choices. And as we all know, especially the American electorate who voted a most mismatched person for the most powerful job in the world, any decision that is taken out of compulsion and not of choice is a utterly stupid and downright false one, one that could lead to long term damaging consequences.

On the other end of the spectrum are those types of teachers who have become teachers because truly love the profession, who truly believe in the power of education in transforming lives, and who thereby take it as a very powerful tool, one that needs to be wielded with a lot of responsibility, acumen, sincerity and humility.

They are the ones who sprint in and out of classrooms, energising classrooms and its inhabitants with a searing intensity and vitality as reflected in the manner, style, depth, and deep passion that they bring into their teachings.

They are the true torchbearers of education, the upholders of right moral and intellectual values, and sadly a very rare breed.

Animesh Bhattarya is one such specimen.

A well respected English teacher, he is a senior Verbal Faculty at Coaching First, the number one institution in the country that helps graduate students prepare themselves for cracking the CAT, the Common Admissions Test, the ticket to the IIMs, the best B-schools in the country, and thereon to the most coveted positions in the corporate world.

Almost ten years into the teaching profession, everything about the forty something Animesh Sir,

as his students respectfully address him as, typified his attitude and aptitude towards and for the profession.

***

TWO PM,

LUNCH BREAK

Lunch breaks and Faculty Rooms are a highly combustible combination. There are discussions galore, sweet and sour titbits culled from the world wide web are gingerly extricated, passed around to be polished and refined, dissected and analysed threadbare, served piping hot along with samosas and hot tea.

Often, fireworks exploded.

Politics, religion, economy, education…these were some perennial hot topics, never running out of circulation, always finding eager and new audiences.

“The bastard. He should be sent to Pakistan”… “Bullet trains in a country  where daily train accidents are the norm. What a cruel 1 lakh crore joke on us is this?”…

”God only knows what these assholes were doing in school.” …”Wasting time, what else.”

The last two remarks sent Animesh’s thoughts racing back in time.

He closed his eyes and travelled back to his past, to a childhood steeped in povertqy, a childhood spent sowing seeds in a rich landlord’s fields, until one man’s benevolence saw him getting enrolled in the only school in the entire village, a village so poor that its denizens were deprived of even electricity and potable water, a sad commentary on a country that tomtoms itself as the world’s largest functional democracy. What democracy, what function?

Within the first few days of attending school, Animesh, quite early in life, resolved to lift himself out of the cesspool of poverty. It wasn’t an easy task, though. Besides his parents, who were both farm hands, available for long lease, ever ready to till the soil of the rich, doing backbreaking hard labour from dawn to dusk, he also had to contend with an alien subject English, besides mastering the intricacies of time, speed, and distance, and a host of other subjects.

After passing himself from school with flying colours, he made his way to the big city, Patna, where he commenced a graduate programme in English Literature, his entire tuitions fees waived off in a benevolent gesture from the college authorities keeping in view his poor family background.

It was in college that he became exposed to a wider better informed world. It was here that he came to know that until now he was living the life of a frog in a well,  a closed, deprived lowly existence and that there was a whole big different world out there waiting to be explored and conquered.

And the only way one could ever do that is through English, its mastery is a prerequisite to growth in life.

He began to understood that English was the numero uno language of the classes if not the masses; that it bound the world together, and that it was English alone that was the lingua franca of the international world community.

The next few years he dedicated himself to learning the nuts and bolts of the Queen’s language with a fervour and passion that was truly admirable.

Every single free time would see him in the vast college library, poring over books, reading upon an eclectic range of diverse topics; be it philosophy, psuchology, religion, science, management, science fiction…every single genre was not spared…grammar books, thesauru, bi-lingiual dictionaries…name it and he had not only read but imbibed, ingrained, internalised their thoughts, teachings, right down to every single idiom, phrasal verb, comma and full stop.

The end result: the low caste poor child of not so long ago had by the age of twenty one, armed himself with a first class distinction honours degree in English but also become an expert in the English language, both written and spoken, a feat so unique and worthy of acknowledgement that he became the envy and  pride of his teachers who all reaped fulsome praise upon him and wished him the brightest of futures.

***

The class bell rang, putting a break to his thoughts.

Animesh Bhattarya gathered his books and strode sanguinely down the corridor to take his next class of the day.

There was a spring in his steps as supreme confidence emanated from his being.

It origined from the humbling realisation that he, the son of a poor farmer, through sheer hard work and a die-hard perseverance, had turned himself into a very rare breed, a fine exponent of the English language, one among the miniscule five per cent of Indians who could write and speak in perfect English.

It was this humbling thought that made him feel omnipotent, filled his heart and mind with great Herculean power, made him feel immensely worthwhile, and helped him to tackle headlong all of life’s problems.

He vowed to pass on this power to one and all, especially to students whose backgrounds were quite similar to his, who, though they hailed from impoverished households, had a fire in their bellies and big dreams in their hearts.

It was this audience that he craved for and dedicated his life towards.

He felt powerful, he felt worthy. Now he wanted others to feel so.

©neelanilpanicker2011 #fiction #shortstory #reena’sexplorationchallengeweeksix#powerful#1884words

neelwrites/firstdayfirstshow/#03shortstory/reena’schallenge/fiction/1576words/catfiles/19/09/2017

Hosted by the ever gracious Reena at https://reinventionsreena.wordpress.com/2017/09/15/reenas-exploration-challenge-week-4/

FIRST DAY, FIRST SHOW BLUES   (SHORT STORY) (GENRE:FICTION)

longing

By Neel Anil Panicker

First Day, First Class, First Hour: Twentyone-year-old Kishore Prasad Mahto wished the Earth below his feet would give way and he be sucked deep into its recesses.

He looked what he was: A person from the heartlands.

Clad in a pale blue workman’s half sleeved shirt, cheap cotton trousers worn out at the edges, thin lips pursed around a scraggy pockmarked face that looked dyed a permanent dirty yellow, and cracked feet half covered in shocking red slippers, the kind that you get in village fairs popularised by the cattle classes.

Cattle class, that’s what he was and that’s what he epitomised.

He was seated all alone in the farthest corner. The desk beside him was empty, so were the ones in front and back.    His segregation from the mainland populace was complete, the lines clearly drawn.

He was an island.

The message, loud and clear: the elite and the hoi poloi were poles apart and there was no meeting ground.

There he sat, his head bent, heart palpitating, hands firmly secured inside his trousers pockets, inwardly crying, cursing the day he decided to forego the cocooned comfort of his small town existence and headed for the big city.

Barely 24 hours into life in Delhi and he felt like a trapped animal, one brutally uplifted from his natural habitat and thrown into an utterly alien jungle, a world where everything was so unlike what he had ever seen, heard, or experienced in his two score years on terra firma.

The city was different, the people looked different, they dressed differently, they spoke differently. Damn’t it, even the water, the air, the sounds, the smells, the tastes…every single thing about Delhi was different.

‘Hey you, who’s your partner’?

The words were a wasp’s sting.

Thirty pairs of eyes turned around and looked in the direction of the pointed finger.

Despite the air conditioner buzzing at 20 degrees centigrade, Kishore found himself sweating like a pig.

‘Say something man, don’t you have a buddy’?

Kishore opened his mouth to answer but words failed him. The words simply refused to make contact with his vocal cords.

‘Ok, you come in last once the others have finished. Now we begin with the first row. So who’s coming”?

Officially termed THE INTRO CLASS, the class was meant to be an icebreaker, some sort of ‘Greet ‘n’ Meet’ event for the newly joinees, mostly fresh graduates, all eager faced and gung ho after enrolling themselves in the  premier coaching institute, THE COACH, in a bid to crack one of the most arduous entrance tests in the entire country, an examination that would open for them the doors of the best management schools of the country, the hallowed IIMs.

The Verbal Faculty, usually a very senior person, had the honour of conducting the Intro Class.

In the two hours that he took, he was expected to hand hold the students and run them through the rigours of the CAT, the class structure, the daily academic regime, the various protocols to be followed for students as far as faculty interactions were concerned, doubt clearing sessions, library usages, book requisitions, workshops et al.

But first things first.

The class was ordered to make pairs. They would then grill each another and then once ready with all the information needed, each person would walk up to the front and introduce his new ‘buddy’.

‘The idea is for you to first know your ‘buddy’ well enough and then ‘sell’ him or her to us, meaning the audience,’ Amit Poddar who was at the helm affairs explained to his pupils.

As each pair walked up and introduced themselves, Kishore watched in amazement that was quickly followed by acute embarrassment. He noticed the sheer confidence with which all of them spoke, the words, all solely in English, trotting out of their lips in a rat tat tat fashion, the vocabulary all Greek to him as they smiled and locked eyes with their fellow students.

Besides their obvious fluency in English, he also noticed their body language, confidently casual, their spick and span mannerisms, their chic and ultra uber overall dressing style, and even the minor details__the shine in their hairs, the gloss in their shoes, the sawg in their walks and talks.

“Now do you need a special invitation”?

The faculty’s voice bore through his ears rudely awakening him from his wayward ruminations.

Despite himself, despite his week knees that refused to budge from his seat, and despite his will, he found himself getting up and inching his way past the rows of chairs, his eyes downcast, careful not to lock horns with his fellow students.

“My name…my name…”

The words once again failed him. He stood there, his legs shaking, his lips trembling, his body shrivelling and shrinking with each passing moment.

As the students watched and Mr Poddar waited, his hands on his waist, Kishore felt like a small caged animal brought to a village circus, the kind he had been to a million times a as child; and the   students like his village folk, unruly and out to have fun, all gathered around him, laughing, deriding, cracking jokes, making fun, throwing barbs, a few even hurling invectives, throwing small pebbles, maybe a few peanuts as well.

An agonising three minutes passed in pin drop silence. It was longest three minutes of his life. Soon followed the sounds, albeit first muted, then slightly loud, and finally rambunctious,  as if the flood gates of patience had broken free.

The students were laughing, barely concealing their voyeuristic delight at discovering among a buffoon, an unkept shaggy, shabby, scraggy young person, one so out of tune with the modern world, one of a kind they thought had long gone extinct, as dead as a dodo.

In fact a voice from the back said exactly that, a bit loud and clear__’You dodo’.

The word bounced all over the four walls of the classroom, furiously ricocheting off them to finally escape through the open door to spread its message through the long corridors that led to other rooms and to be heard by others in the three storied building located in the heart of Delhi that housed the premier coaching institute of the country whose tagline, splashed prominently across billboards and newspaper pages read, ‘We make your dreams come true’.

Kishore felt like he had come under a ten tonne truck, his head crushed into tiny little pieces,  his heart smashed to pulp, his body hammered to pulp, his ego, self respect a lifeless mass of rotten flesh waiting to be trampled upon mercilessly by a million stomping feet.

He fell on the floor landing crashing head long on to the hard wooden bench in front of him.

His humiliation was complete.

When he woke up he found himself in his rented room, lying on the floor, a bedsheet wrapped around his frail body.

His head still felt slightly heavy and it took a while for his eyes to adjust to the dark. He dragged himself to the window and drew aide the dirty lungi that someone had loosely  fastened onto the grills, an improvised curtain to keep the sun and the sand, the dirt and the wind at bay.

His mind now clear, the events of the previous day came alive again, the laughter, the mockery, the derision, the sarcasm, the barbs…and then the fall.

All played out in ultra slow motion, unspooling in graphic details his loathsome humiliation.

He didn’t waste a second more to make his decision: He would leave the class, leave the coaching, leave the city; he would drop his plans to clear CAT, abandon his dreams to become an MBA; he would head home to his village, to the warmth and comfort of his people, his village, back to living the life he loved and had led all his wondrous life.

So determined Kishore got up and put on his shirt. He would go to the railway station to buy himself a ticket to Bihar.

It was then that he heard a faint sound.   His phone was ringing.

challenge 4 prompt

Nonplussed, he dipped his fingers inside his shirt pocket and extricated the instrument.

The caller ID read Mahto Sir.

It was his school headmaster, his guru, the man who taught him for the first sixteen years of his life, the person who had discovered the spark in him when he was a mere four year old and since then held his hand, guiding, teaching, inspiring, exhorting him to do better and better, to elevate his lot and aim for the skies.

Standing there, all alone in his room and staring into the phone, Kishore recalled the very last words that Mahto Sir had said before he boarded the train.

‘Remember Kishore, my boy, the world is your oyster. Go forth and clasp it with both hands. Nothing is impossible in this world. Failures are but the stepping stones of success. Whatever you earnestly wish for, is your goal in life. Step ahead and stop not until you fulfil it.”

Overwhelmed, Kishore picked up the phone. Instantly, the voice of his guru came alive over several thousand miles, “My blood is alive with many voices that tell me I am made of longing.”

That instant Kishore resolved that he would conquer the beast that was English, and more importantly rest not until he avenged his humiliation.

Clearing the CAT and entering the top B-school of the country would be a befitting reply.

©neelanilpanicker2017 #shortstory #fiction #theCATfiles #1576words