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“It’s eclipse!” He heard his father’s voice. The moon was shrouded in a mysterious shadow and was visible only a little, and the leaves of coconut palms were caressing this picturesque moment endlessly in the slow breeze.
It was December and the chill had increased considerably in the past three days. The smell of dust wafted from the nearby dust road and a new Malayalam song made its delusional presence from a distance in the dark.
“Take your cell phone too, and click away some pictures,” mother’s voice intervened.
He forced himself to focus, but felt himself confined in his room, outside his world. There was no going back and the room had no possibility of sending him into the future either. The future was a trap, a place from where he could never get back. He found no choice other than to go there and to undo the snares.
“What are you doing in there?” Mother again.
“It’s harmful for naked eyes,” He called back at her, trying to drown his frustration in the sound of his voice as natural as possible, hard. But somewhere it might have left edges; she went quiet for some time.
“O, Mother!” He sighed; then took his cell phone, the only camera at home, running out.
Victor Immanuel thought of the possible reactions from the Dean of the College. He was sure he hadn’t committed a mistake. But what others talked about him was something close to that. Will there be times when our convictions rank higher than the tangible reality?
The answer he found was, yes.
He worked as an English teacher.
He sat numb in his room, at his humble house, which badly needed a renovation. The thoughts that passed through his mind were mostly about the outcome of the informal meeting with the student-teacher coordinator. Victor had been warned of teaching things out of the course structure, like what is like to be a teacher, and how less can one teach and the abundance of knowledge one can assemble through learning. That was his masterpiece lecture; he remembered:
The class is packed. Each student has a stunned face at the first day of their Graduation course. The first teacher arrives; it is the Dean. “This is the route to greatness. Follow the rules, be disciplined, and attend the classes regularly,” the Dean says.
Just after the first hour of introductory class by the Dean, the students face the next teacher. The teacher is a young man, who looks mid twenties. “Learning requires the courage to go beyond the rules. Discipline is the force one should use to bring the courage required. Enjoy life, live each moment to the fullest.”
He knew something went wrong with his approach with the students; but what? The words he had spoken, the lessons he had taught, nothing, none of them was wrong, nor were they a mistake. His plan was to gradually transform the confusion in the students into the surprise of learning.
“The previous teacher was not like this.” Most of the students’ feedbacks included same statement. The criterion for staying on teaching the course was entirely dependent upon the coordinator’s personal whim, the side he took.
The coordinator might have made that up just to put me in trouble, he thought. “I am here to enjoy life, learn and never to teach,” he had said this to the coordinator, a traditionalist who used his primitive touch stone to asses everything happening around him.
Another day. “It’s….not the……….aesthetic appreciation ….Matthew
Arnold aims…in ….” The young teacher says the first sentence. Dover Beach
He heard it. But the students are quiet. Then who made the sound?
He rewound the incident in his mind, and then he was sure it was inside his mind; the sound that humiliated him.
“What’s a mistake? Not to lemming someone else, like the Dean or the coordinator?” he asked himself.
Victor Immanuel, the very next day, went to the university library. He took a large volume on teaching. It said ‘Teaching is an art.’ He smiled, which took a rather sarcastic twist.
A scrap from future suddenly slipped into his mind without his notice, “You know it would have cost you your job, don’t you?” Future and present seemed irrevocably antagonistic with each other and he knew his past is the only place he could rest and is safe. But the past had crumbled down with the quakes of the ticking clock.
He heard a question from behind, unexpectedly, giving a tremor through his body. He turned round, irritated. It was the assistant director of the library, a lady in her middle age.
“Are you writing? By the way, Victor, do you have any published materials? I think your colleagues have, I had a chance to talk to one of them,” she said with the air of an all-knowing.
Victor pondered hard on what she had just said, trying to make sense.
“What do you mean?” He mumbled with an effort.
“Don’t you people need published articles for promotion in job?” she asked. As if she is the final word in academic prospects, as if writing an article can make someone a better teacher…, he thought.
There was nothing that was said. Victor walked out of the library. The lady kept staring at his way.
At his office, he took his cell phone out. Opened the folder with the pictures of the eclipse; just a blurred white spot in a dark background. His cell phone camera was just 640x480 pixels, one with a weaker eye for details and distance. He could never afford a digital camera with a better resolution; he never had the money. How easy it is to round up the causes of much of the human woes into money, he thought.
He went into the classroom and started teaching.
The staff coordinator asked for him in the afternoon. Inside the well furnished room of the coordinator Victor felt the heat of a battlefield.
“I have been monitoring your class for a long time now, Victor,” he said. “What you have been doing all these days is something contrary to what we had requested you to do…”He stopped abruptly and looked straight into his eyes. There was a smile on his smile. It was difficult to understand the meaning of that piece of smile, just like a modern poem.
“You knew it would have cost you your job, didn’t you?” Silence again.
“However, I would like to add something, Victor, you did it well,” he said. “You can continue with your job.” He said and laid himself back to his chair.
Victor sat in front of him without a word. Then he excused himself and came out.
There was no monitoring system in the classroom and whatever the coordinator had monitored would just be the opinions of some students or some gossips spreading among his colleagues. Perhaps the coordinator had made it all up.
“You knew it would have cost you your job, didn’t you?”
Victor turned back to the closed door. He raised his middle finger.