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Chapter 20: Session 20

He was standing at the gate persuading me not to leave the university. He was saying, “You should not leave, particularly when the university has granted you a Ph.D. scholarship. You should not lose this opportunity.” He was trying in thousands of ways to tell me that I was his most loved student. He said, “I have had many students all over the world, particularly in America” - because he had been teaching in America most of the time - “but I can say,” he said to me, “I would not have bothered to convince any of them to remain. Why should I care? - it had nothing to do with me, it was their future. But as far as you are concerned” - and I remember his words with tears in my eyes - he said, “as far as you are concerned, it is my future.” I cannot forget those words. Let me repeat them. He said, “Those other students’ future was their own concern; your future is my future.”

I said to him, “Why? Why should my future be your future?”

He said, “That is something I would rather not talk about to you,” and he started crying.

I said, “I understand. Please don’t cry. But I cannot be persuaded to do anything against my own mind, and it is set in a totally different dimension. I am sorry to disappoint you. I know perfectly well how much you had hoped, how happy you were that I topped the whole university. I have seen you, just like a child, so joyous about the gold medal that was given not even to you, but to me.”

I didn’t care a bit about that gold medal. I threw it down a very deep well, so deep that I don’t think anybody is going to find it again; and I did it in front of Doctor Sri Krishna Saxena.

He said, “What are you doing? What have you done?” - because I had already thrown it down the well. And he had been so happy that I had been chosen for a scholarship. It was for an indefinite period, from two to five years.

He said, “Please reconsider again.”

The first gate was the “Elephant Gate,” and I was standing with my father not wanting to enter. And the last gate was also an “Elephant Gate,” and I was standing with my old professor, not wanting to enter again. Once was enough, twice would have been too much.

The argument that had begun at the first gate lasted up till the second gate. The no that I had said to my father was the same no that I had said to my professor, who was really a father to me. I can feel its quality. He cared for me as much as my own father had cared, or perhaps even more. When I was ill he would not sleep; he would sit at my bedside the whole night. I would say to him, “You are old, doctor,” I used to call him doctor, “please go to sleep.”

He used to say, “I’m not going to sleep unless you promise that by tomorrow you will be perfectly well.”

And I had to promise - as if being sick or not depended on my promise - but somehow, once I had promised him, it worked. That’s why I say there is something like magic in the world.

That “no” became my tone, the very stuff of my whole existence. I said to my father, “No, I don’t want to enter this gate. This is not a school, it’s a prison.” The very gate, and the color of the building.. It is strange, particularly in India, the jails and the schools are painted the same color, and they are both made of red brick. It is very difficult to know whether the building is a prison or a school. Perhaps once a practical joker had managed to play a joke, but he did it perfectly.

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