Saturday, September 7, 2013

Tribute to the Professor

He struggled to sit down, and with a groan of pain, managed to finally do so, his slumped shoulders, shrunken with age and resignation, settling into the back cushion of the couch. He stretched out his aching long legs, indicative of the tall, broad-set man he once used to be. A man of the frontier, defeated by more than half a century of betrayal and shattered feelings, but too proud, like his ancestors, to admit it, he loved to reminisce about the brighter days. His still-twinkly eyes lit up with memories of the formidable Professor the world once knew, of the brother who swung a bat or two alongside his brothers in defense of honor, of the son who defied his family of businessmen and brought forth knowledge, protection and love to hundreds of students. As quickly as they lit up, however, his eyes would lower in the heaviness of debt he felt he owed the world with the slightest mention of his son. And then the sunken man was quiet, seeking temporary relief in the comfort of the couch, repenting silently on his own.


Ram pulled up his rickety scooter alongside the comparatively enormous Tata Safari and I got off. I loved the bustling market area of the Cantt. As I took in the familiar cosmetic shops, chaatwalas and the oddly placed Levis showroom, I followed my wobbly nanaji through the narrow streets he knew blindfolded to the small photo studio where we had been earlier in the day to get a passport photo of me done. He walked in and was attended to without having said a word. I mistook it for the lovable small-town hospitality I adored. He received the tiny envelope from the owner and handed it to me without a second glance. I looked at the neat hand-writing on the envelope. "Professor Bhatia", it read. I smiled. Decades later, this humble old man was still the grand Professor to the Cantt.

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