Our Principal had passed away peacefully in sleep last night. He had loved peace, of course. Everything he had done pointed to the contrary. He, in his own quiet way, believed only war led to peace. There was a lot of activity while he was around. Now that he is gone (May God rest his soul in peace!), I don’t know what would happen to us, teachers (lecturers?). He was a highly irritable man, easily excited and easily subdued. Suddenly I remembered. I started looking for the piece of paper on which my wife had me write down this morning this evening’s shopping list. I have a weakness for forgetting things, she believes. I had kept it in my shirt pocket; it wasn’t there. I grew panicky. Just then I caught the Vice Principal’s eye. He was a bull. He was known for fist fights. I was neither in the mood for it nor was the place right. He wouldn’t have minded the place, had I been willing. He was a simple man. He simply loved his fists and fights. I checked my movements and closed my eyes solemnly (how does one do it?) and began not to think of anything and observe silence mentally and thus pay my last respects to the departed soul. But it just wouldn’t work. Could my son have removed it? I like his pranks. As a parent, I must, I suppose. Not this one. No, not this one. After this blessed silence, I must look for the list. The hell with the next lecture! My students would understand. I know they know. They know I know. I’m not a very communicative teacher. I have such a rapport with them. Right now, the VP didn’t matter. But what could I tell my wife? The thought was frightening. What were the items on the list? A recent incident came to my mind. The Principal—how do I call him now?—had given me a list of SC/ST students for scholarship or was it another list? Oh, yes, the list. I tried to restructure the list. I beamed with delight. I’m not such a bad husband after all. She had asked me to buy a kilo of ‘lady’s finger’ (‘okro’, that is) after checking for the tenderness. For this, she had taught me a trick or two. Here I score over other husbands, yes. Yes, she had cautioned me about the price, too. I’m of the firm opinion that unless we paid what the vendor quoted, how would he survive? She had different ideas, though. Right. What was the next item? Success eluded my grasp. Was it coconut oil or groundnut? I knew it was some oil. What oil? Oh God! What better occasion could you get to help!
Someone shook me by the shoulders. The peon was visibly exasperated. All had left and I was alone.