Note 1: This is the official sequel to The Mail that Launched a Thousand Spams.
Note 2: To those who received the drafts – The reference to Robert Kolker was incorrect, which I discovered after going painstalkingly through his mammoth book again in an effort to quote him exactly (it contains the whole of GRE word list many times over). That would explain the delay. He said some nice insightful things though.
Note 3: This story, and its prequel, are officially declared to be ficticious accounts incorporating no characters inspired by anyone living or dead.
The Interview with the Professor
I didn’t understand the conclusion of the movie Micky One when I saw it for the first time. In fact, I didn’t understand it till I had seen almost all of Arthur Penn‘s defining works, till it occurred to me that violence was the underlining theme in his movies, violence overcoming a distance of some kind â€“ distance created by blindness in The Miracle Worker (this is one reason I considered Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black plagiarised, he lifted this motif from Penn’s movie), impotence in Bonnie and Clyde (the doggerel was the immediate cue), paranoia in Mickey One (if you never understood the movie’s ending, this is the clue), the list goes on.
If one were to look at the underlining theme behind my fateful interview with Professor SS the next day, he would have discovered Mad Max, women, dope, James Bond, gang rape and Professor KV, all in that order.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me begin at the beginning.
To put it without much ado, I have never been the man for the bright sunny mornings, partly because I have never been an early riser, but that was a day well worth making an exception for.
I was up early for a consecutive second day. There was sunshine in my heart and there was sunshine on my face, and it made the world outside look more than it was worth. My heart swelled with the scent of the early morning breeze, cold and generously sprinkled with the dust from the construction sites around C**, and when my heart could hold it no more, it spilled out and became music for my soul. I joined it and sang with gay abandon, though my hostel mates later gave a different description of the events, but that might have been due to the quality of my singing. Nothing could get me down that day. Well, almost nothing, till I remembered my appointment later on that day with Professor SS.
That was my mood when I proceeded to the breakfast table. In retrospect, I think Ni(ved)ita and Pad(mav)ati might have been giving me murderous stares on that occasion, which, I am sad to report, were completely lost on me. An(irb)it did cast the hostile glares in my direction as usual, but that he did always anyway; except when he was mad with anger at me, in which case he took extra pains to be friendly with me and flashed all of his white set of teeth at me at every opportunity. Every time he did that, I would grab someone nearby and ask him to take our photographs together. Two old friends dining amiably. Two old friends looking at each other amiably. Two old friends smiling at each other amiably.
But this is not about that.
I took my usual place next to An(shu)l, Sou(men)dra and Riya on the breakfast table. After some moments of uncertain silence, Sou(men)dra spoke.
“You know what, I have a solution that will solve all your problems at one stroke.”
An(shu)l observed nonchalantly that the last time someone had said that, he came up with the nuclear bomb.
This made all of us contemplative for some time, at the end of which I asked Sou(men)dra about his solution, which turned out to be a bunch of excuses, brilliant and intricate but convoluted excuses, to evade the responsibility for my mail. I like to face the consequences of my actions, however, mostly because they are funny, and Riya supported me in this.
“You realise what you have done, right?”, she asked.
I was going to answer that yes I did, but then I remembered the last time I had said that. I asked what had I missed, and was made devastated in return.
To cut a long story short, SS had thought that my remark was intended for the girls, who also happened to be a minority (only three in the entire undergrad program). It wasn’t until much later that Shree[vat]sa remembered what was to us the only known abuse of Rolypoly, and it was a boy who had been the victim. Had this information come out in time, I could have been saved, but the smart chap who observed that comedy is all about timing forgot to notice that tragedy is all about mistiming irrespective of its Greek or Shakespearean or modern origins. Such is life!
I finished my breakfast and started for SS’ office with a heavy heart dragging my heavier feet.
When I coughed and said my slurred “ess-use me” to SS in his office, he was busy checking his e-mail. He looked back with a questioning glance and I introduced myself. He turned off the monitor, wheeled his chair towards me and rolled his sleeves.
“So you are that Mad Max character, eh? What the hell do you think you are?”
I couldn’t say that I was not pleased by that comparison, but etiquette demanded that I look guilty and sorry.
“You think you are smart huh? You think you can get away with this? What did you mean by that letter?”
I thought it was an invitation to explain myself. I am perpetually in the habit of committing this error. I mistake rhetorical speculations for literal questions and proceed to answer them.
“Sir, I think there has been a misunderstanding, I wasn’t thinking of the girls at all when…”
“Shut up,” he roared, “enough,” he paused for breath, “I thought what anyone in his right mind will think reading that disgusting mail, and you have no excuses to defend yourself. You have behaved very very irresponsibly, and you better be ashamed of it.”
He softened a bit at this point, “You see, women are a minority here, and we have to make them feel safe. What you have done is not only demeaning and insulting, it might also scare them,” his temper seemed to rise at the thought. “What are you, an egomaniac bastard? Do you think you are James Bond or something? Do you think you are so sexy that you can insult any of these girls?”
Again, I was flattered by the comparison and the compliment, but couldn’t thank him for it. He went on bellowing at me. Inspired by the excitement of the moment, he even stood up from his chair and started moving towards me little by little as he continued shouting at me. I thought it might be safer to stay close to the door and started inching towards it as he tried to corner me. At the end of ten minutes, we had both moved on to the corridor, and he had moved on to the gang rape part of my mail.
“And how, how could you write about such a sensitive issue like that? You think joking about rape is funny? Do you think gang rape is funny?” From there on, he went on to talk about something related to Dalits and Gang Rapes and the social problem that it is. He must have yelled “sex,” “dope,” “rape” and “gang rape” at least a dozen times within a span of a minute, at the end of which Professor KV, whose room was next to that of Professor SS, came out of his office to take active part in the discussion.
He listened silently for the next five minutes as Prof SS cruised through me. And then came the conclusion, “One should never do such irresponsible things. I think an apology mail should be sent.”
Finally seeing his chance to participate, Prof KV intervened timely, “Yes yes, I think that will be appropriate. You should immediately send a mail apologising.”
Except that he said it to Prof SS.
I was stunned for a moment. So was Prof SS. Then he recovered his speech and started yelling at Prof KV. “What do you mean I should send a mail? Why should I be sorry? What are you talking about?”
As the explanations and arguments grew in length and intensity, I decided that it was time I gave them a slip.
Everyone lived happily ever after.