The year was 2000-01. I clearly remember that it was my final year of graduation. I was in K J Somaiya College of Science and Commerce, and was the Cultural Secretary at the time. I was living my dream of being famous in my college. This was the first time in the history of our science-dominated college that the commerce students were in power; responsible for all the events in our college. We had named our Cultural Program as ‘Dynamo’ (Explosion of Fun). We were on a mission. We wanted to prove something.
We decided to start the cultural event by celebrating “Teachers’ Day” in a unique style.
In the era of the 2000s, there was a show which resurrected the fading career of Big B (Amitabh Bachchan). This show was none other than ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’– a desi version of ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire’. We thought of using the same concept with our teachers, with some changes, of course. The show was named ‘Kaun Banega Rosepati’ (Who wants to be King/ Queen of Roses). For every right answer, the teacher would be given a rose, which would increase with every correct answer. For the final answer, we had a rose bouquet. The invitations were sent out to all the teachers and many of the teachers came. I was ready to ask questions in my anchor seat, impersonating Big B. Suddenly I saw her. Oh, I missed my heart beat not once but twice! It was almost three years since I had seen her last. Her eyes were sparkling; her smile, wow it was so infectious... I had a huge crush on her. She was still the same though, unlike me. I had more facial hair now, and even my voice had changed a lot. She was busy talking to someone; she never knew that I had a huge crush on her. She was none other than our English teacher in 11th and 12th— Mrs. Mallika Shenoy. Her name was as graceful as she was; she was so perfect.
She was at least 20 years older than us. I knew this because she had a son who was our age. But she could give competition to any leading heroine of that era and the way she carried herself was as graceful as a queen. The lipstick, the eye liner, the mascara— everything was perfect about her. Her soft voice suited her personality. I had never bunked a single lecture of hers during my 11th and 12th. I just used to sit and gaze at her during the lectures. None of my friends knew about it. However, after our 12th, we graduated to senior college and due to our time difference in the college, I hadn’t seen her in the past three years. But that day, as I was sitting as an anchor, everything was coming as a flashback in front of my eyes.
I had never ever interacted with her during the lectures. Hence, I wanted to interact with her. I felt if I lost that opportunity, I would never be able to talk to her. Then came the announcements of the game to be started. Instead of fastest finger first, we took some chits, wrote numbers on them and gave a number to each teacher. The same number chits were given to me and I was supposed to pick the chit. I prayed very much that it should be her. But it was not. The game was simple. Only five questions regarding the college would be asked, with four options and whoever gave all the right answers would be handed the bouquet. There were no lifelines. There were two or three teachers who came on stage and lost after two questions. I was just praying for her number but yet again, the number of another professor came. Now this professor was really very smart. He had spent around 20 years in the college. Now he gave the answers to the starting four questions very comfortably, making me uncomfortable. In fact, I still remember he gave one answer even before I gave the options. Now I was very tensed. But we had just kept a very difficult question to ask to someone whom we didn’t like, and if he or she was winning. The question was really stupid and senseless. But back then it was funny and made sense to us. The question that we had framed was– “How many stairs do you need to climb from the ground floor to the fourth floor of the college from the main entrance?”
Now we had counted it not once, but thrice. This professor was a genius gentleman. We didn't have any problem with him. Hence everyone thought the game would be over and the Bouquet was being brought near the stage.
But suddenly I shot this question to him, and no one from my team knew what was happening as I’d broken the protocol. But no one said anything, as this was my first time in four years that I’d done something against the agenda. I told them I did it because we had enough time and the crowd was really enjoying. They were satisfied with my reasoning as I had never manipulated over the years with my friends. How would they come to know what was on my agenda? I myself was enlightened just five minutes before the game. But wait, the game was not yet over for the professor, as he could still win, if he guessed the right answer. I was just praying that he’d pick the wrong option. My prayers were answered, as he gave the wrong answer. I was elated as if I’d won something. But I had to show disappointment on my face. That day I also discovered one more quality about me. I was not only a good impersonator, but also a good actor! The professor immediately went and verified it after the program. Fortunately, we were right.
Then, the next number that I picked was of none other than my dear Mallika ma’am. When her name was announced there was a loud cheer. I immediately sensed that there were many like me in the crowd who were happy to see the professor fail in the last question, and wanted ma’am to win it. That helped me in reducing my guilt. Finally, after so many years, here she was, in front of me! As I said, we had not even spoken once in our lectures. She came up to her seat and as I offered the seat to her, she said “Hello”—to me! I felt as if my penance had been answered and flowers were showering from the heavens above on me. Here I was, talking to her, in front of the whole crowd. I took more time to go through all the four simple questions, than I had with the others. She comfortably answered the questions. Now I had to ask a difficult question to her. I still remember that I asked a question regarding our college Dean. She was confused, I could see it. That's when my street smartness came in handy. I tactfully switched off her mic which no one (including her) knew. She selected option B. Before she could complete the answer, I yelled loudly over my mic— “Yes! D is the right answer!”
She was puzzled, since she thought I hadn't heard her properly. I had very clearly heard that she said B, but, after all I wanted her to win. She also obviously wanted to win or else she would have corrected me. Or she might have thought against spoiling the fun or whatever it was.
I was elated to give the heart-shaped bouquet of roses to her in front of the entire crowd. Remember, it is always the host who gives away the prize. After that day, I have never seen her, nor do I have any contact of her. But this incident is clearly etched in my memory, and I am sure she would also have a memory of the event, although she may have forgotten me...
Was it wrong?
My mind says yes, but my heart says No.
After all, the heart is crazy!
Author : Anand Subramanian
Anand Subramanian is from Dombivli. He is a Professor by profession and a Stand-up Comedian, Mimicry artist and a Story Teller by Passion.