Last Friday we celebrated Varalakshmi Puja. My mind raced back to the same day five years back. The memory was not a pleasant one but then one cannot always hope to see only good things in life. This was an experience that caused a lot of anguish but it also served as an eye opener to me.
I had just finished my lunch when the telephone rang. It was my good friend Rajam, the librarian, calling me immediately after getting home. It must have been around two in the afternoon. Those days we worked from 7.30 in the morning till 1.30 in the afternoon. She knew that I was busy but the news must have been urgent and so it was.
“ Two of our bahadurs have been transferred.” She said, “One to Dhurva and the other to Daltonganj. They have been asked to vacate their quarters immediately. They’ve left the college and no one knows where they have gone.”
The news came as a shock to me. The Principal had victimized both of them for reasons that cannot be elaborated here. In an earlier post I had made a passing mention that our founder Principal treated us like family and the spirit continued even after her death. The two gatekeepers were mild mannered, even-tempered, polite and respectful. Every morning we’d be greeted with a warm smile and a ‘namaste didi’. The new principal, who chose to believe that peons and the like should not have a mind of their own, had tormented them ever since she took charge. She cut off their water supply and expected them to come begging for water. They opted to fetch water from a common tap rather than feel obliged to her. They were not the only ones to be tortured. She troubled all staff-members, teachers included, and had managed to terrify most of them. By transferring these two she was only warning the rest of us and saying ‘Beware! You will meet a similar fate if only you dare to defy me!’
Now that the transfer orders had been dispatched from the Vice Chancellor’s office the two gatemen had no option but to join duty at the assigned colleges and approach the university authorities for reconsideration. I sat wondering what could be done to help the two men. It was a Friday and they had time till Monday to join. I tried contacting a few of my colleagues but as luck would have it my phone was dead. The colleges assigned to them were in remote areas and one of the gatemen had children studying in school. His wife was working in a private college as a peon. Where had the two bahadurs vanished and why did they vacate their quarters I wondered. And why was the joining time so short? I did not have to be a genius to figure out that the principal had used her clout and influenced the authorities to hasten the process.
My husband came home form office. I told him of our bahadur’s transfer. He assured me of his support in whatever I chose to do. I was in a safe position. My daughters were already married and had settled down abroad. My son was in his final year at college. I had a supportive husband. In the worst case the principal could get me also transferred to some god forsaken place and show to the world that she was the boss. Why not? I thought. A new place and a new environment was not a bad idea. My dilemma reached its logical end. I decided to stand up for our gatemen and face the consequence. But heart of hearts I knew that nothing would happen to me. She had already bitten more than she could chew in my case, when she tried to withhold an arrear payment. Moreover, I was not alone. There was a group that played safe and another that took risks. I belonged to the second group. My experience told me that she troubled the ‘yes ma’am’ group more than us. We for our part took care not to break rules or give a chance to fingers being pointed at us.
During the weekend we drafted a letter to the Hon’able Chancellor who was none other than the Governor of Jharkhand. We got as many as possible to sign a petition, favoring the victims, addressed to the Vice Chancellor. Three of us went to Ranchi on Monday morning along with the two bahadurs. We spoke to the officer in charge at the Chancellor’s office and met the VC, pro VC and the Registrar of the university. We made the two gatemen convey their point of view and requested them to reconsider the case. We had tears in our eyes when we left them at Ranchi to join their respective colleges. But we also felt a satisfaction of having done our bit.
When we went to college the next day there was excitement in the air. The principal was trying hard to find out who went with those two. She remained ignorant till the end.
The Chancellor’s office ordered a probe and within two months the two gatemen were back. The principal was transferred to a better and bigger college so we could not make out if she was punished or rewarded. Some times it pays to see such people rewarded. They set higher goals and leave us in peace. May be she asked for a transfer since she was unable to face the possibility of having the gatemen back in the college. Anyway it did not matter to me whether she went or stayed. Varalakshmi had granted me a boon and enabled me to help a fellow human being when he needed me most!
In the meantime I had learnt a lesson or two. Justice still prevailed. We only need to pursue it. We accept defeat far too soon. Not all can stand up to fight for what they feel is right. They have their own reasons for not doing so. But actors on the stage need prompters behind. They are equally important and those behind the screen also have a role to play. The episode strengthened my belief in goodness that still prevailed in the human mind.