Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The English Teacher

Apex Information Services were closing down their offices in New Delhi, and all of us "abstract writers" were about to be out on the streets of Delhi. We were mostly scavengers and hangers on, moving from one city to another looking for some work. Most of us had come out of Calcutta, because Calcutta was dying. For us, New Delhi offered many dreams.
We were all busy looking out when one day I got a call from a government school in Taki, on the border of Bangladesh, to teach English. A government job! A job where you can actually get paid for not working all your life. What else could I ask for?

Back to Calcutta. In a bus to Taki.

If Taki Government School is famous for churning out the highest scoring students every year, it cannot be very far from Calcutta, I thought. My interview was at the Taki Ramakrishna Mission School, which I thought would be equally good. Such pleasant dreams should always come with a good day's sleep and I happily dozed off in the bus. When I woke up, the road had become narrower and there was this huge river I could get glimpses of through the trees. Taki turned out to be a village after all. Very green, with lotus ponds and a view of Bangladesh across the river that made me yearn for home. That is where home was.

As I walked toward the school through the rice fields, I thought how it would feel to work here, in this small village with tricycle vans and bullock carts being the only modes of transport. A stark contrast after the Mercs and Land Cruisers in Delhi, but what the hell, I don't drive one of those!

The wall around the school had a lot of political graffiti on it, but that is nothing new for any Calcuttan. The communists believe in voicing their opinions through political graffiti on walls, something that apparently started with Mao Tse Tung in China. He wanted an otherwise silenced generation to come out with their grievances on the walls. Bengalis being a very loud race incessantly voicing their unwarranted opinions at tea stalls and in buses, I could not see the reason behind writing on walls, but they were there anyway. Loudly announcing their obscene presence.

There were many candidates who had come for the same interview. Despite my English having a thick Bengali accent, I realized I was the only one who could speak any English! That boosted my confidence a few degrees. I will have a good time, I thought. Soon it was my turn and I had to enter a room where I first got a glimpse of my interviewers. One swamiji in saffron seemed to be the principal, and there were others here and there, watching me. That is when I realized I was the only candidate without a moustache too. And then came the questions.

"Can you tell me the difference between subjectivity and objectivity? With examples?"

This was a fat man with fat, black glasses. I pretended not to have seen him holding a chit of paper under the table from which he was reading out the questions. After each question he had this contented look, aah, one-question-well-put kinds.

"Tumi toe shohorer chheley, tumi ki thakbe ekhaney?" (You are from the city, will you at all stay here?)

I tried to convince them that I was fed up of life in the cities and that I wanted to settle down in a beautiful village like theirs. I guess I was even ready to worship their goddess Kali for the job, complete with her blood and gore and necklace of skulls.

When I came out, I knew I would never hear from them. I even had to teach a class of 30 odd students, for whom I had to translate each sentence I read out from an Oscar Wilde text. I had a good mind to tell them about Mr Wilde's sexual orientations, but controlled my devilish urges for the sake of my life.

Waiting for my bus back to Calcutta, I met this young lady who too had come for the interview. Probably a little late.

"Do you think you'll make it?"

"Don't think I want to," she smiled back.

The romantic dream of life in a laidback Bengali village was gone. I was busy looking for a ticket back to New Delhi, my city of my kinda dreams.


velvetgunther said...

yeah, romantic until reality hits you

Wriju said...

Did you try 'The Hungry Tide' yet? It is fantastic account of life in the tide country - and one of the characters is an idealist who leaves city life and starts a new life, that of a school teacher, in a small island called lusibari. More than being an account, Oreen, I find it a wonderful reflection on the vagaries of human nature, and the tides of our life.

Spider Girl said...

your post was really interesting to read.

I think what I like best about reading other people's blogs is seeing how different everybody's lives are from each other, and then realizing there are things we can all identify with, like crazy job interviews. :)

strunk&white said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
strunk&white said...

Why did you consider the 30 students to be odd? Did they look strange?