Chapter 15: This Is the Last Dance
He loved me immensely, because every year I used to go to that university for an inter-university debating competition; for four years continually I had been the winner. The very first year, he was one of the judges. He took me aside and told me, “I cannot say this to anybody else but I cannot keep it to myself either. I can only say it to you: I have given you a ninety-nine percent mark in the debate, and I am sorry, because I wanted to give you a hundred percent. But I could not gather the courage. Because people may think that I am prejudiced, I am favoring. I became afraid. But forgive me, because I have taken off one percent of the marks which were yours.”
Each year he was one of the judges, and the fourth year, when I graduated, he invited me to join the university for my post-graduation. I said, “I am coming here just because of you.”
He took me the very first day to the vice-chancellor, and on the way he told me, “Don’t get into any argument - because this man, the old vice-chancellor, is very stubborn, and one has to be very diplomatic with him.”
I said, “You can be diplomatic with him; I will be simply myself.”
He said, “What do you mean?”
I said, “To be diplomatic means to be somebody else, diplomacy is another name of hypocrisy. You be diplomatic - I will be simply myself. And if the worst comes to the worst, at the most he will not grant me the money for two years’ education, and he may not grant me other facilities - but just for those facilities, I cannot be dishonest to myself.”
He said, “At least can you remain silent? Don’t say anything; I will talk to him on your behalf.”
I said, “I cannot promise, because if he says something stupid, I cannot resist the temptation to tell him that it is stupid.”
He said, “I had never realized that you are such a tough person.”
I said, “It is good to know from the very beginning. This is the first day; there is still a chance: you can simply tell me and I will leave.”
“No,” he said, “we will try.” He took me to the vice-chancellor.
I always used to live in my own way, and the vice-chancellor had been a professor at Oxford, had lived almost his whole life in England, and had become almost a proper Englishman. He said something about my beard which I was just growing: “Why have you not shaved your beard?” My professor became afraid that this was the beginning of the end.
I said, “You are asking a wrong question; in fact, I should ask why you have shaved your beard - because I am not growing mine; it is growing itself. Your question is nonsensical - you could ask why have I not cut my fingers, you could ask anything. It is natural that a man should have a beard, you are being unnatural. You have to answer me - why have you been shaving your beard?”
My poor professor, who was sitting by my side, started nudging me. I had to tell him, “You stop nudging me. I don’t care about all the facilities for which you have brought me to the vice-chancellor. In this moment, my only concern is that he should accept that he has asked a wrong question.”
There was great silence for a moment, and the old man said, “In fact, you are logically right. And right now I don’t have any answer, because nobody has ever asked this in my life - I have never thought about it.”