I think, if I can make any sense out of it, the only word that comes to me, in spite of Beelzebub and his disciples doing great work – ex-disciples, I mean – the only word that comes to me is nonsense. Seventeen years! And I was eight or nine when I started this whole nonsense, so the day I left university I was twenty-six, and so happy – not because I was a gold medalist but because I was free at last. Free again.
I was in such a hurry that I told my professor, “Don’t waste my time. Nobody can convince me to enter these gates again. Even when I was nine years old my father had to drag me in, but now nobody can drag me. If anyone tries then I will drag him out.” And of course I was able to drag the poor old man who was trying to persuade me not to leave.
He said, “Listen to me: it is rare to receive a scholarship for a Ph.D. Do your Ph.D., and I promise you that you will one day be able to have a D.Litt.”
I said, “Don’t waste my time, because my bus is leaving.” The bus was standing there at the gate. I had to rush to catch it, and I am sorry that I could not even thank him. I had no time – the bus was leaving, and my luggage was already on it, and the driver – as drivers do – was honking like mad. I was the only passenger not yet on the bus, and my old professor was almost on his knees persuading me not to leave.
Shambhu Babu was well educated. I was uneducated when the friendship began. He had a glorious past; I had none. The whole town was shocked by our friendship, but he was not even embarrassed. I respect that quality. We used to walk hand in hand. He was my father’s age, and his children were older than me. He died ten years before my father. I think he must have been about fifty at that time. This would have been the right time for us to be friends. But he was the only man to recognize me. He was a man of authority in the village, and his recognition was of immense help to me.
Kantar Master was never seen at the school again. He was immediately sent on leave, because there was only one month before his retirement, and his application for an extension had been canceled. This created a great celebration in the village. Kantar Master had been a great man in that village, yet I had had him thrown out in just a single day. That was something. People started respecting me. I would say, “What nonsense is this? I have not done anything – I simply brought the man and his wrongdoing to the light.”
I am surprised how he continued torturing small children his whole life; but that is what was thought to be education. It was thought then, and many Indians still think, that unless you torture a child he cannot be taught – although they may not say so clearly.
So I said, “There is no question of respect, and as far as my friendship with Shambhu Babu is concerned, it is not a matter of age. He is my father’s friend really. Even my father is amazed.”
My father used to ask Shambhu Babu, “Why are you so friendly to that troublesome boy?”
And Shambhu Babu would laugh and say, “One day you will understand why. I cannot tell you now.”