The gang of twenty-five wannabe managers which had entered the not-so-hallowed portals of UBS* in the year 1974 had only one regret. Fate had not been kind to it. Gender diversity had taken a toss. None of the members were from the tribe of the delicately nurtured. The batch senior to them did boast of a few, but none who would put a Venus to shame. A sense of melancholy pervaded. The roving eye, having roved, could at best console itself with brief encounters with some of the lotus-eyed females of the species on the campus either while visiting the Student Centre or when loitering around the campus.
The gang was blissfully unaware of the fact that an alumnus of Panjab University could become a sagacious, albeit reluctant, Prime Minister of India some thirty years down the road. Some of its members had vaguely heard of a keen and bright elocutionist from the Law Faculty, little realizing that she could be heading the Ministry of External Affairs some forty years into the future. Almost all had heard and seen the exploits of a rising theatre artiste, though none could guess that she could become a celebrity Bollywood artist in the years to come, and even a Member of Parliament from the City Beautiful. And, not to forget her future husband, who was then honing his acting skills, eventually getting recognized as one of the finest actors in Bollywood.
A sense of gloom and despondency
Few months into the session, an underlying sense of gloom and despondency could be discerned. The hostel food would turn to ashes in the mouth. Evening saunters down the Sector 15 market brought some solace, by way of pleasing either the palette or the eye. Nocturnal visits to the road side vendors dishing out greasy omelets opposite the PGI gate brought the only rays of sunshine into their lives. Most of the architectural and natural attractions of the city had been explored ad nauseam.
The not-so-United Colours of Academicians
By then, the tribe of UBS educationists had been thoroughly observed, studied and classified. The dominating ones invariably knew their stuff, but also knew that they knew the stuff. A stiff-upper-lip approach to all affairs, academic or otherwise, came to them naturally. The outpourings of their knowledge had to be listened to in rapt attention. Their razor-sharp eyes would invariably cast a supercilious gaze upon the hapless students seated meekly in front of them. Nerves of chilled steel were required to deal with them. Not surprisingly, they earned a deep respect, duly laced with acidic scorn. These were the types who represented stark authority and were thus deeply resented.
Then there were those at the other extreme. They would walk into a lecture hall hiding behind a huge stack of text books, as if to prove their thoroughness in the subject concerned. These were the defensive kinds who would deliver their sermons of knowledge in a sheepish manner. The studious coves of the gang, like yours truly, were invariably driven to study the subject on their own. Visits to the Department or the Central Library were thus prompted by intentions of a pious nature. Most others would be on back-slapping terms with them, trying to use their sense of humour to gain assignment marks.
Bang in the middle of this normal distribution curve of professorial skills fell those who not only knew their stuff but were also good communicators. They were revered, liked and admired by a vast majority of the members of the gang.
Shaking off the gloom and despondency
Come Diwali and some brainy, dashing and enterprising coves of the gang decided to take the matter in their hands and shake off this feeling of gloom and despondency. The rebel spirit held sway and a ‘time bomb’ was concocted, using an ‘agarbatti’ (incense stick) and a large size cracker. Several trial runs later, an impromptu device was perfected, so as to burst some twenty minutes into the class. Understandably, the target was one of the stiff-upper-lip category professors.
On the appointed day, the scheme was put in motion. The device, kept just outside one of the class room windows, went off a wee bit earlier than planned, perhaps surprising even the planners and the executors. Its loud bang broke not only a few glass panes but also the envelope of gloom which had come to surround the gang. A beetroot-red-faced professor walked out of the class room in a huff, not before casting an acid-spewing eye on the assembly of students, most of whom were twiddling their thumbs, trying to make sense of what had transpired.
Masters Thos, Seabury and Edwin, of Wodehousean fame, would have heartily approved. So would have Stiffy Byng and Bobby Wickham, if they had happened to be around.
Summons from the Chairman were not late in coming. The entire class trooped into the corridor outside the seat of power. Few privileged ones were called in and given a sharp dressing down.
The nuclear fall-out
That is how it came about that the whole class of 1976 was suspended for a week. Much rejoicing took place. Revenue of some movie halls registered a quantum jump during the week. Restaurants in the vicinity and elsewhere registered brisker business.
Some members of the gang whose parents lived not too far away went off to gorge on their mother’s exotic dishes. Those who had stern and disapproving fathers decided to spend their time quietly on the campus itself. Some openly complained as to why the perpetrators of the ‘crime’ did not plan something more elaborate, something that would have merited a longer period of suspension!
In the course of your own academic career, you might have had quite a few juicy experiences which broke the spell of monotony which a regular classroom routine often entails. If so, how about sharing it here?!
*Note: The term UBS stands for University Business School of Panjab University, Chandigrah.