First the children were not afraid, but when they saw him so afraid – just see how children are being impressed by stupid and wrong people. When they had seen me coming in with the snake, they were just joy, “Allelujah!” But when they saw the teacher standing on his chair…for a moment there was complete silence, only the teacher was jumping and shouting, “Help!”
I said, “I don’t see the point. The snake is in my hands. I am in danger, you are not. You are standing on your chair. You are too far away for the poor snake to reach. I would like him to reach, and have a little talk with you.”
I can still see that man and his face. He met me only once after that experience. By that time I had renounced my professorship and become a beggar…although I never begged. But the truth is I am a beggar; but a special type of beggar who does not beg.
You will have to find a word for it. I don’t think a word exists in any language that can explain my situation, simply because I have not been here before – in this way, this style. Neither has anybody else been this way, with this style: having nothing and living as if you own the whole universe.
I remember him saying, “I cannot forget when you brought that snake into my class. It still comes into my dreams, and I cannot believe that that kind of boy has become a buddha, impossible!”
I said, “You are right. ‘That kind of boy has died, and what is after the death of that boy, you may call buddha, or you may choose something else, or you may choose not to call it anything. I simply don’t exist the way you knew me. I would have loved to, but what can I do? I died.”
He said, “See? I’m talking seriously and you are making a joke out of it.”
“I am doing my best, but,” I told him, “it is not only you who remembers. Whenever I have a bad day or the weather is not good, or something – the tea was not hot enough, the food was as if prepared for food poisoning – then I remember you jumping on your chair and calling for help. And that cheers me up again – although I am dead, it still helps. I am tremendously grateful to you.”
I used to go to school only for such moments. There were certainly only a few…“occasions” I should call them. It was necessary for everybody’s happiness that I should not be present there regularly every day. You will be surprised that the peon, the man whose duty was…. What do you call him? Peon? – or don’t you have any word for it: p-e-o-n, peon? But we in India call him peon. Whatsoever the word is, it is the lowest servant in every office.
Devaraj, what is it?
No, that is a different thing, but comes close to it. I thought peon must be an English word; it is not of Hindi origin. I may not be pronouncing it rightly. We will find out, but it is spelled “peon.”