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I always felt the presence of a voice, like a creature inside me that I knew never would exist, which puzzled me enough to think of fleeing.
The reason why I was alone was strange too, especially for those who live in houses and other close relatives of human abodes. Mostly our enemies come in the form of strange poisonous sprays or birds, none of which appeared in the place I live in, however, most of my family and friends never came here. Those who lived fled from the Department, because they said they all felt a suffocation that cannot be explained.
I didn’t run away, though. When I was about to make off, I realized the voice was coming from my head. It said; ‘if you ran, you would find no roof ever to crawl under’.
That was it; it was this same voice that puzzled me about things in life as well as the world around me; it was thought.
The legitimate reason for thinking was life itself. One alive would think, must think. From the moment I learnt I possess this mysterious inner sound, I was happy and at peace with myself. There was a certain pleasure in knowing the presence of something mysterious by one’s side. Therefore, even though, this sound told me conflicting things, I never lost my peace.
I could see two eyes staring at me; sure they were not looking at me, but were helping the mind focus to think.
It was the teacher who taught British Prose and Drama. Most of those classes, in which he taught prose, I slept. I could hear him later, struggling in his cabin to make sense of the useless information the course taught. His face would be scaled with concerns of an unprintable sort.
Another day, the young teacher came in, his face lit with a unique light; it was clear he was not the person on the previous days. And just before speaking to his class, he did the same thing; staring at the wall, but I was watching him from behind this time.
He asked the students to write a play in two acts.
I wished I could meet his staring eyes, since each time it reminded me of the happiness I felt when I first realized what the voice inside my head was.
When I thought about this happiness, I was reminded of seeing other people around too; people who never looked at me or the wall, who never thought anything, whose thinking never bloomed into life.
One such person who taught students once in a while in that same class room, summoned the younger teacher, the next day. He was an older person, who called himself Dr. A. Bhasan, and he would stand up and chant his name all the time as if it’s a mantra along with his importance in the University, though his mannerisms betrayed the truth of the absence of anything remarkable in his mind.
The young teacher whose name was Manu Paul, surly deserved admiration; I looked for a proper place to watch them. He always thought something new for the students, and practiced it in his classes.
Dr. A. Bhasan sat in a room with a banner hanging from its door on which these words were written: “The Head of the Department”.
Bhasan was checking through some of his piles of papers when Manu came in. There was one more person in the room, apart from Bhasan and the young teacher, a young woman who worked with Manu, one with whom I found the same problem as Bhasan, the complete absence of thoughts.
“Please sit down,” Dr. A. Bhasan said.
Manu sat down with a pleasant face.
Bhasan asked him, “You have seven plays to finish, Manu Paul?”
“Yes sir, and I have more than one and a half months’ time left, it’s just two months since the semester started,” Manu replied.
Bhasan asked, “What if you were on leave for one month? Would you be able to finish it then?”
I didn’t hear Manu saying anything in return. Bhasan’s voice rose again,
“Did you give them a writing excise?”
“Yes, I made them write a mock play in two acts, just two pages, sir. The theme was ‘Godot in Search’, an attempt to imitate the famous play Waiting for--,”
“But the students have a negative opinion about it!” Bhasan cut in.
“What sir…? I couldn’t get you.” Manu fumbled for words, and I could see his face drying off colors, I could see the season was never what I had expected.
Bhasan looked determined, “I took the feed back from students. They said you gave them a useless writing assignment. It was a creative writing assignment, right?”
I heard Manu saying, “Yes.”
“We have a literature course to run here, there is no point in creative writing exercise. You are a creative person, I know, and that is your problem too. The students told me they could not understand the relevance of the writing exercise and they also think it was a waste of time,” Bhasan said with a grave expression.
There was something that I knew existed in my memory. However, I could not remember what it was. It might have been a thought, an idea, or a thing. Someone of my friends had told me about that long back; unfortunately I could not remember it now.
Manu turned to the woman co-worker and I could see his pale face. “I tell you, you must apply some techniques to improve your class room dynamics,” Bhasan was saying. He had changed the topic.
Bhasan’s face again put on a falsehood; it was a fake all-knowing look. He did not think genuinely, for I knew the way eyes move when one thought, I knew what thoughts are.
Under his mask of expressions Bhasan said, “I do it in the best way possible; my class room dynamics is the best. I don’t just teach the course materials. I give them works to do in the class room. I play some drama and keep the attention of the students. I even sang them one of the folk songs of the tribal people!” I could see his face exploding with ripples of gaudiness.
Manu smiled at Bhasan, but that smile carried a question, I could feel it on my skin like how I felt when a thunderbolt hit the air. I didn’t hear him asking it though.
“OK, then; that is all,” said Dr. A. Bhasan and I saw both the teachers leaving the room. I had the same sensation of forgetting a thought, an idea, or a thing, again.
I went inside the cupboard and found my usual comfy room between the wall and a dusty tome with hard bind, with two words—one was ‘Holy’, which was familiar to me as the happiness at the moment of finding food or a great companion—written on it. The second word puzzled me; it started with the letter ‘B’. However, ‘Holy’ pacified me, as it meant something good, for sure.
I took a long nap there, hoping that the waves of uncertainty about that lost thought would be abated.
Just before falling into sleep, I felt I remembered what I had forgotten and I dreamt of lemmings.
Truth and lie confused me, but the happiness of having thoughts was more than the confusion of conflicting ideas. Some times what happened in front of our eyes would be truth, but sometimes, it’s both. I was there when students came to Bhasan to give feedback, inside the roof between the book and the wall.
Bhasan himself invited some of the students into his office. I heard him ask about Manu’s class, and they all started telling him about the writing exercise and how excited they all were on doing it.
But suddenly Bhasan got up and asked them, “Creative writing? What is the use for that? Why do you need it?” His face looked hurt and jealous.
I saw the students standing around him nodding with their minds all gone flabbergasted at this open confrontation.
I didn’t think about Manu Paul or those students any more, but lemmings. They all followed the one that believed in a lifeless conviction and drowned.
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