.

Sohel Reja

A pen and a test tube

Kolkata, India

What better way can one draft a dream other than grabbing a pen and a paper?

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The Day My Professor Retired

Jul 31, 2020 9 months ago

‘crink crink' a pink Ladybird zoomed past the Renault Duster. “That's the fifth… no…sixth bicycle that overtook me today” told himself the sexagenarian who considered himself the soundest driver in the whole mortal realm as his car's speedometer never read a two-digit number starting with five. As he took the sharp turn near the placard that read “Faculty Parking Only”, a genuine frustration started clouding his face. A maroon Toyota had occupied the last parking slot. He muttered…probably cast some wicked spell. A crow from nowhere popped up and caricatured the Toyota's misfortune on its bonnet. As he ushered through the iron gate covered with Bougainvillea, like a wig on a carcass, he noticed an array of pink-violet-yellow shrubs lined along the corridor. He knew what it meant. The dark passage with faint yellow glows at the ends, like a prehistoric cave, occasionally got a flowery welcome like this. Today is a special day. Today is the day he retires. As he slowly turned his cabin key from 12 O'clock to 3 O'clock, a sudden gloom surged. For the last forty years, this archaic wooden door had been pushed open with a loud ‘thud'. But today it felt a bit too heavy. A sloppy hand swooped it open with a nudge. Resting his leather-satchel on the table, slowly, he walked up to the chair he held so dearly. He swiveled it around. The gold-plated Pierre Cardin was peeping through a pen stand. He reached for it. If only someone could endow this artifact with life, it would have written a story of its own. From signing the first pay-check to signing the last thesis, all those tender moments tucked inside this 6'inch metal body. He came out of his cabin and walked towards the lab. As he slid the heavy iron bolt and pushed the door, a gust of pungent stench hit his lungs. Ah! The smell of old books. He inhaled deeply. He recalled the day his first student stepped inside this room for the first time and how hard he tried to swallow the utter frustration. It was a mere storehouse then. He fondly remembered his last two students, probably because they were the age of his own two daughters. By the window, Aman had his desk. Done with updating his Facebook feed and editing the photos from his latest trip, which would shortly hit his WhatsApp status, Aman's cursor would hover over Amazon's latest shoe collection. Manoj was someone he could actually count on. He turned left. With circles around some dates, a 2018 calendar was fluttering. By its side, the chalk-board on the wall still had those scribbles by Aman. The board's frame was barely visible through the avalanche of sticky-notes glued to it. He picked up a green one. It read ‘Rajan Plumber' with a contact number. He grinned. An abrupt screech along the corridor alerted him. It reminded him of something. While bringing up two daughters rowing through adolescence to adulthood, he realized his students should also enjoy a fair share of privacy. So, one fine morning he came up with a radical solution. Instead of entering the lab like an unwelcome guest, he would stomp his boots while in the vicinity of the lab so that the students would get a message -'the terror is here, cover your misdeeds'. A fancy wall décor hung just over the entrance door. He remembered the day it came. 5th September 2017. His siesta being interrupted with a loud hammering, he peeped through the window. To his utmost surprise, Manoj was nailing a hook to hang this décor, and Aman was decorating a "Happy Teacher's Day" iced chocolate cake with candles. He was so lost down the memory lane, that a soft ‘Vasu' from Professor Samuel couldn't bring him back. ‘Vasu…Vasu? Let's go for a coffee' said his old friend, this time with a gentle tap on the shoulder. The clock struck one. As he turned the lunchbox lid slowly, his wife's earlier remarks this morning painted a broad smile on his lips. "Guess what's for the finale? The one I made you the very first day”. Condensed vapor from the lid dripped on the chapatis. As he reached for the second compartment, he already knew what it contained. Prawn-malai curry. And he was right. By the time he cast a final look at his empty cabin, the sun had long taken his farewell. A cool, soothing breeze passed by. He slowly marched towards the exit. A heavy leg and a heavier heart. Relaxing his back at the driving seat, he got lost once again. He had been around for forty years. So many things had changed and so many didn't. New faces, new bricks, old roads, old rocks. life went on. Like a cigarette. You light it up, and its journey to an inevitable end starts, burning slowly. Soon a layer of grey covers the top. You stroke it gently. The ashes get carried away with the wind. A new front comes up. Same with us. Time passes by. Slowly. Old days fade away, their memories lost in the deep. Comes a new beginning. Every day. You actually don't retire, you re-join. For a new cause, a new purpose.

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