In my second year of engineering, I encountered the most feared lecturer that roamed the corridors of my college. Our seniors hailed him as a genius, and he looked the part too, with wisps of curly hair springing forth from a shiny bald patch in the centre. His moustache and dark-edged spectacles rounded off the impression of a fearsome teacher.
His ruthlessness and sarcasm sent most of us into spasms of anxiety. If you missed the mark in his class, you were in for it. Really sharp criticism, coupled with generous helpings of sarcastic remarks, triggered panic attacks in even the calmest of students. It came to a point where we quaked in our boots in fear of his lectures. Even his name required a minor twist to turn into the Hindi word for frightening. We survived the tirades, but our juniors, less endowed in terms of grey cells, suffered his wrath.
Like all geniuses, our professor nurtured his own idiosyncrasies. He expected each student to complete assignments on his own without any external help, however inaccurate the end result. For engineering students, this amounted to bungee-jumping into the Grand Canyon sans a harness.
Our juniors paid little heed to his dictum. When the time rolled around for their first assignment set by the Scary One, they resorted to their usual methods – mass plagiarism. The upshot was that one fine Monday morning, our unsuspecting teacher lifted up sixty rubber-bound pages of exactly identical content, and carried them home to review. The next day, he confronted the class. One of the students succumbed to the questioning and revealed the truth. The good Professor poured out his wrath.
His anger didn’t end with that lecture. From that moment on, he gathered his curly wisps into a ponytail on his already balding head, and conducted all his lectures in silence. He simply strolled into the class every day, dropped his books on the table with a thump, and proceeded to write all his lessons on the blackboard. After filling up most of the blackboard with his notes in a minuscule handwriting, he circled the class repeatedly. When he finally halted in front of the blackboard, he drew a rectangle in the centre of the board, and wrote on it ‘Any Questions?’
One student, immune to the sensitive nature of the situation, took the foolhardy step of actually asking a problem. No doubt he followed Miss Elizabeth Bennett’s policy of being impertinent before growing afraid.
The teacher, in response to his doubt, circled the class several times more. When everyone thought he was on the verge of collapse, he wrote “Stupid Question”.
A few weeks later however, he went too far. We, in collaboration with our juniors, organized teacher’s day celebrations jointly. All the staff members from our department and our principal were invited.
One dim bulb from among our juniors conducted the ceremony of presenting bouquets to the teachers. He invited the principal to speak a word or two on the occasion.
The principal, an amiable gentleman who resembled the Mahatma, honoured us with the standard speech issued on such occasions – how very nice of us to celebrate Teachers Day with so much pomp and splendour, the Teachers were one of the most important members of our society, and other such cliché-filled phrases.
On the conclusion of his speech, our compeer very graciously invited the Scary One also to orate, despite being given several hints to the contrary, in sign language and otherwise.
The consequence was a foregone conclusion.
The pony-tailed professor tore the remarks of the principal to shreds, saying that he wanted no part of the teacher’s day celebration, and if he really had to celebrate he would have done so by teaching us something useful instead.
As you might expect he doesn’t teach in our college anymore. The last we heard of him was that he was writing technical books, with mock dedications to our principal.