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Chapter 3: Unhitch the Universe

An old professor, who was from Pune, was the head of the philosophy department of Allahabad University, Professor R. D. Ranade. He was a world-famous authority on Indian philosophy, and he was also famous for not passing anybody. It was said that in his whole career he had passed only three persons. My professors were worried: “If Ranade fails you, it will be very difficult. Even if everybody else passes you, it will not make any difference. Because Ranade is such an authority, he carries more weight than the three other examiners.”

But he gave me a ninety-nine percent grade, and wrote a note to the vice-chancellor, “Convey to this student my message that I loved his answers. For the first time in my life I wanted to give a one hundred percent score, but that would have been a little too much. Not to look too favorable, I cut one percent. But I’m sorry, he deserved one hundred percent - I have always wanted answers so direct to the questions, not crammed from text books, and I have always wanted answers as condensed as possible.”

I had been warned that this was what he wanted.

I had said, “Don’t be worried.I can answer almost telegraphically - just one-liners.”

They said, “You are mad! We are not saying that you have to answer in one line.”

I said, “I will see.” And I answered with one-liners. Within fifteen minutes I was finished. The professor who was in charge in the examination hall tried to force me to stay seated.

I said, “This is strange. It is my right to get out now I’m finished giving answers.”

He looked at my answers and said, “My God, these are answers? You are giving maxims!”

I said, “I want to test Ranade. For his whole life, he has been wanting short, simple, direct and original answers. Let him enjoy to his heart’s content. It does not matter whether I fail or pass, anyway I’m going to be a vagabond. I’m not going to be in any government service, I’m not going to be doing any business. I’m going to remain in the ancient business of the buddhas.”

They said, “You are mad. That’s not a business.”

I said, “Anything that keeps you busy is business.”

Ranade was very happy, but his note shocked the vice-chancellor. And because of Ranade’s ninety-nine percent mark, I came first in the whole university. Life is very strange, it is a mystery.

Later on I met Ranade. He was retired, very old. I said to him, “Perhaps you will remember a man who deserved one hundred percent, but you gave him only ninety-nine percent.”

He said, “Of course I remember, because this happened only once in my life. I had never gone beyond thirty-three percent. Are you the person?”

I said, “Of course I am the person. And I have come to say to you that you did not prove your greatness. You should have given me one hundred and one percent. What was your fear? Were you afraid that people would think you were favoring me? You didn’t even know me.”

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