Billimoria’s office overlooked the gate. Some of the faculty were already at the window, highly amused as they watched the clerk at the entrance. With the familiarity of old colleagues, they smiled Dr. Naakwaa a quick greeting and shuffled to make room before turning their attention back to the gate. Not wanting to miss out on the action, Dr. Naakwaa hurried across to join them.
Good old Jayaram. He had been with the college since its inception, almost thirty years ago. Thin, neat and small, with an ego inversely proportioned to his stature, he was their very efficient, one man admin department.
Jayaram disliked students, tolerating their very presence at the college with grim determination. He found their exuberance loud and brash, unless they were quiet, when he labelled them dumb. As expected, he was being perfectly disagreeable with the new comers. Seated on a hard chair just outside the gate, he watched crossly as a queue of sorts approached him. To get a better view of what was transpiring at his desk, each student moved slightly to the left of the one in front. After a point, having reached the furthest distance from which they could see his desk clearly, the sideways queue of students doubled back on itself. Soon they were standing two deep in front of him. As the second row slowly started snaking out rightward, Jayaram glared with irritation.
"Line, line," he yelled in his thin, reedy voice.
The youngsters shuffled obligingly, almost aligning them-selves behind each other. He ignored the young lady standing at the head of the queue for as long as possible. Assuming a grave expression he fussed with his list. With great deliberation he removed the doily from his glass of water and sipped it before carefully replacing it. Bent in concentration he polished his glasses with a large handkerchief. His eyes fell on his watch. “Tch,” he said with an accusing glance at the young woman who tried not to look ruffled or guilty about wasting his time. Running out of things to do he finally deigned to look at her, barking out in Hindi, "Which line?"
"What?" said the poor, baffled thing, darting a quick look at the line behind her and wondering if she ought to be in another one. "Arré Arts, Science, Commerce?" he said, enjoying himself hugely as he glowered at her. The four professors, safely out of sight behind the reflective glass couldn’t help laughing as the luckless sixteen-year-old mumbled, "Commerce".
Jayaram, unable to resist a final well-aimed jibe, raised a bushy eyebrow high above the rim of his thick glasses and wondered out loud how she would go through five years of college if she couldn’t understand a simple question like his. Having scored his victory, he pretended to lose interest. Glancing at the young man behind her, his next victim, he cleared the formalities with the young woman and dismissed her.
The hopelessly disintegrated queue took one step forward en masse.
And so it was for much of the next hour as Jayaram, eyebrows high, barked at the youth in his thin, high pitched voice. The new students shrugged off his mocking tones and disdainful superiority.
Chalta hai yaar, they seemed to say, never mind. There isn’t much we can do if the man wants to extract full mileage from his moment by being rude and obnoxious.
Within no time, at his insulting best, the impossible yet indispensible clerk had efficiently despatched six hundred new comers to their rightful classrooms. The faculty on the first floor breathed a sigh of relief.
For reviews and more about the book go here