He was appointed to a women’s college in the state of Rajasthan during a time when being virtue-less was in vogue among the young and the old, and virtue- a quality which was accounted for only when someone remained happy without a boyfriend or a girlfriend. This happiness was ultimately the misfortune of a person though, and the sufferer was dumped in the category of an outcast, and slighted consequently.
Krishna had joined the college during such a time, in the month of November. He was still doing his research, and his interactions with girls were limited to his lectures. A highly educated man, he considered himself British (being a specialist in modern English translation theory and all that), though the girls in his class had already tagged him charcoal-black. Still, Krishna managed to ensure a fine balance between the two poles of virtue in his fleshy world.
Priya was one of his student who met him after every lecture to clarify her doubts. Her intentions were actually twofold: it was not only to clear her doubts but also to scout for a boyfriend. She needed to remove her weak spot- of being in the college without a boyfriend. Last Wednesday she became so embarrassed when her friend Shruti announced in front of the whole class: “Do you know that Priya has no boyfriend?”
Priya knew that she wouldn’t survive these pending three years without the cocktails of love. She was determined to become a beloved of ‘the lovable Professor’.
Twenty-eight year old Krishna was a six-foot tall, reasonable guy. He had an athletic body, and even though his skin was on the darker side, Priya found him to be a nice blend of lover-material.
Most of the time Priya’s eyes remained settled on Krishna’s face, particularly at the point where his cheek-bone and the chin met. This made her go -“Oh my gosh”.
That day, like any other, she followed Krishna after his lecture.
“Professor!” Priya called.
Due to the distance between the two, Krishna hardly heard her. He was walking without a care in the world, and stopped only when Dr. Suman gestured violently. He turned around and found Priya standing there.
“Oh Priya”-Krishna said, smiling.
Priya had a question ready: “Professor, who was Shakespeare’s dark lady?”
Krishna was not ready for this pop. He composed himself and then spoke, keeping his voice low. “It would be wrong to assume that she was female considering the fact that women did not participate in theater at the time. I hope you are getting me,” said Krishna. Priya nodded her head in affirmation.
“And the rest we will discuss in the class”, Krishna said and moved hastily towards the library.
He contemplated the idea of homosexuality for a while- about how the ancient idea of homosexuality was up long before the modern concept was born in cinema. But everything was fair in love, and anybody could love anybody. He shrugged it off.
Back home, Priya was regretting her query. In between her plan to captivate him with innocence had come the unattractive topic of homosexuality. She felt angry and betrayed because her intelligence had jettisoned her when she needed it the most. Further, she was rather frustrated by the thought that a God of Romanticism could be homosexual. She uttered unconsciously: “Tomorrow is another day.” She bit the corner of her lower lip and made herself smile.
Krishna got four books issued from the library and returned to his flat in the university premise. He did not go for lunch in the canteen as he was not hungry. As soon as he entered the flat he poured himself some milk and gulped it down. A message in his mobile inbox drew his attention; it was Priya’s message: “Professor, you are so sweet today to answer my query. Your way of dealing complex topics is good.”
Krishna read her name at the end of the message, and realized her ploy. Though he had witnessed many a love affair between student and teacher in his university days he did not know how it would play out in his case, and particularly when he had joined only two months back.
“This girl is getting crazy,” he thought for a moment and dropped the mobile on his bed. Then he plopped down on a chair in the balcony.
Next day at nine o’ clock Krishna went for his class and found Priya sitting in the first bench. He contemplated her last message for a moment, and then expelled it from his mind. He would talk to Priya after the lecture. That day’s lecture was based on Greek gods and homosexuality. Krishna narrated the famous love story of Apollo and Hyacinth, and then he focused his lecture on the importance of participating in the act of love, and then on gender roles. The ten minutes he spent dictating from the book titled ‘Greek Myth’. After one paragraph he stopped and started pondering over a point: “Whether you do right or wrong just take care of your references, and you are correct.”
The bell rang and he walked out of class in his usual stride. He expected Priya to badger him, and a call to follow him but nothing of sort happened today.
Krishna felt a familiar vibration in the pocket of his trousers. It was his mobile. He took it out to find that Priya had messaged him. “Sir, your lecture was impressive …but I don’t have any doubts today.” He turned around and looked at the direction of the lecture hall. Priya raised her hand and made her presence visible. Krishna, in reply, kept his lips pursed, and nodded his head a couple of times.
Priya was an averagely tall, thin girl. Her sort of a thin face does not usually get someone’s attention; but she had limpid shining eyes. Her long neck made her look taller than she really was. Her hair, graciously long, hung down her back till her narrow waist. She wore glasses that made her look more assiduous. And she was a regular in Krishna’s lecture.
The next lecture was at 11 o’ clock. Krishna had missed his breakfast and so he headed towards the canteen. The usual small groups of girls were already there. Dr. Suman and Dr. Mahsewari were also sitting in one of the corner tables. Dr. Suman was a senior professor and she had helped arrange his accommodation when he had joined.
“Oh ma’am, you are here only,” said Krishna upon seeing her.
“Yes, join us,” replied Dr. Suman, smiling.
Krishna gestured that he would sit apart. He ordered one sandwich and a coffee. After a while Priya came in with a woman’s purposeful complicity, placing her books against her bosom. He tried to ignore her but she put her books down on the same table where he was sitting. When Krishna looked at her she started grinning. In a way this place was more comfortable for Krishna to have a talk with her. She ordered a samosa and a coffee too.
“I hope you are doing well in other subjects too,”Krishna started the conversation.
“Yes professor,” replied Priya.
“Nowadays you are sending me messages?”, enquired Krishna.
Priya was spinning her pen between her fingers, and hearing this she lost her grip and dropped it. The canteen boy delivered her order.
“Actually…,” Priya took a sip of coffee and said.
“Yes, I am listening, ” said Krishna.
“Ok,” Priya released a puff of air from her mouth.
“To be frank…I have a liking for you.” She cleared the matter in a single sentence.
Krishna was not surprised. He leaned back in his chair and stared at her. His two colleagues were leaving the canteen. He entertained himself with a thought: “the fever of love is like cold in winter.”
He was indecisive, and yet quite confident, not hesitating to think that she was following a line of thought that had no space for logic and reason. But he followed his experience and said, “But you are a good student and nothing more than that to me, and you should understand my point.”
Priya was not ready to accommodate this dismissal. She circled her finger over the cup and said, “Then the equation goes: I am your student and you are my boyfriend.”
Krishna nodded his disagreement. He looked at his mobile and said, “Look, I have a class now; I need to go.”
He got up, paid the bill for two, and moved to the class.
Priya took his mobile and typed him a message: “I will follow you, sweetheart…”
Krishna’s next lecture was on dialogue and meaning. He was moving towards the library after the lecture, and was ruminating over the wonderful faculty of arbitrariness in language- where what we say is not always what we mean.
Dr. Suman found him walking idly and waved at him. He smiled and looked at her.
“Hey! Krishna, why don’t you take your lunch with me today?,” Dr. Suman proposed an offer.
Krishna was fed up with the bland taste of canteen food, and moreover he had been planning to have a chat with her. He accepted her offer happily.
“We will make a move at 1:30 pm,” said Dr. Suman with an emphasis on the time.
“Ok,” said Krishna, and he softly whispered, “By the way you are wearing a wonderful perfume today.”
Dr. Suman smiled in reply.
She was forty-five years old, medium height, medium build, with a round pleasant face and short, black hair. Krishna always found her to a sharp-minded woman who made him feel pleasant. Her husband passed away a couple of years back, and her son and a daughter were studying in New Delhi.
Krishna looked at the mobile and found that there was a message from Priya. Language is like mathematics, he thought, where there are so many ways to reach a single solution. But in this case, between him and Priya, there needed to be a different equation.
After lunch, they prattled idly until he realized it was 4 pm. He bade her farewell, and hired an auto-rickshaw for his flat. Gradually, the conversation in the canteen started distracting his mind.
The next day was wintry. Krishna reached the college at ten as he had no class in the morning. He spent some time in the staff-room, and then stood outside. The sun was shining brightly, its rays lighting up the soft dust drifting in the air. He held his face up to the sun and took a deep breath. In the meantime he didn’t sense it when Priya came and stood close to him.
“Hi professor”, Priya said chirpily.
“Oh hi!”, Krishna shook his head, and said.
“How are you?” said Priya. “I am good,” Krishna said carefully.
“Why do you like me?,” he asked Krishna.
“Every girl wants a boyfriend; it is a cool thing, and you are so cute,” Priya made a sincere expression.
“I understand, ”said Krishna.
Sometimes an illusion becomes an essential part of life. The human act of loving is similar to a chimera, he thought. He remembered his university days, about how he turned down the various proposals of his girlfriends. For that he suffered an unjust accusation of being insensitive and cruel. Now those girls are happily married. He dithered for a moment, and said, “Priya, you are a wonderful person, but…”
“And I am mature and young too,”Priya said in a confident tone.
Krishna thought for a moment and said: “I am busy with my research and Shakespeare is not easy to grasp, I hope you understand.”
“Oh yes Shakespeare!”, Priya said playing with her hair.
“Yes, and Shakespeare is my first love, ” said Krishna.
Priya bit her lower lip and made a humming sound. She recalled his previous lectures, and things like Greek gods, homosexuality, Shakespeare- and now Krishna started coming involuntarily in her mind.
“I got your point, professor. I should not impose my love on you. Moreover, you are not my type,” said Priya.
“Exactly,” Krishna smiled.
After she left, Krishna wondered how she got his point so easily.
Amitabh Vikram Dwivedi is an assistant professor of linguistics in the School of Languages and Literature at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University, Jammu and Kashmir, India. His research interests include language documentation, writing descriptive grammars, and the preservation of rare and endangered languages in South Asia. He has contributed articles to many English journals.