The Beggar and the Beggarly Sum

Meepura Campus has a staff canteen. To eat in that staff canteen, apparently, you have to get a form from the President of the Meepura Campus Staff Welfare Society (MCSWS), fill it up, make a copy of the whole thing, return it to the MCSWS President, get his/her signature, pay Rs. 100 in name of the MCSWS and go eat. Quite a procedure in order to gain the right of passage to go eat a roll. But, that’s protocol.

If you were born as a twin, you would know,  even in the mother’s womb there is hierarchy. Once you land on earth, you realize that “Infant Joy” is just a William Blake poem. Meepura Campus, as an academic entity, is jolly well filled with quite broadminded individuals. There are some individuals who candidly do away with Doctor-Proctor-Coolie divisions in their day-to-day interactions. There are those who, at least on the surface, do not distinguish between a PhD and a Temporary Lecturer — when chatting up people. In our belief the fundamental division between a PhD and a Temp is caused by the former’s parents fucking each other before the latter’s parents’ decided to do the same. And that really screws it for those who come in late.  One’s credentials should not form a mere tail at the end of one’s name, as it does in a comet; rather, they should define one’s character and adorn one’s personality in day-to-day discourses.

Coming back to the Meepura staff canteen — one of my friends who is a Temporary Instructor in Food Science at Meepura was having a snack at the canteen a few days ago. To her horror, the newly elected President of the MCSWS had stormed on her and interrupted her snack, accusing her of not having paid the due Rs. 100 to the MCSWS. Well, on my friend’s part — yes: she had not paid the dues. Yet, in my opinion, whether a person is right or wrong, whether she had paid a membership fee to a canteen or otherwise, there’s a means and a tone with which you can address the issue (a funny issue this is, to begin with — having to have a membership to use a canteen; but, hey — let that pass). In that sense, this paltry affair of Rs. 100 need not have been converted into a silly melodrama had the superior officer acted with a touch of tact.

But, NO — the point is, indeed, to humiliate and embaress the Temporary Instructor; because she is a Temporary. In spite of the broadminded majority of the Meepura staff, there are also those with complexes who try to have a side kick or two to assure themselves of their “masculinity”: the kind of “lions” who have to roar to show the stuff from which they are made. When one comes to a university setting, we do expect a degree of refinement, courtesy and humility. After all, we don’t even confront a dog when it is having its meal, do we?

The Meepura SWS, along with the form for the payment of Rs. 100,  has issued a set of guidelines to be adhered to by anyone who uses the canteen. The guidelines contain several articles, of which one amusing head specially caught my attention. This article demands that “Senior academics to be given priority” in the staff canteen. Now, as to what “priority” prioritizes is quite vague and uncertain. But, does it connote that when a Senior academic so-called walks in one has to stand up and give up his/her chair to the said academic? That one has to spit on his/her boot and polish it with one’s handkerchief? Or, is it that a senior academic — by virtue of seniority — should not stand in the lunch queue? Or, is it that you should submit with coyness and blemish to the uncanny and flirtatious remarks the senior academics make you? How academic, Teiresias asks me, is this article of privilege?

As someone asked someone else, what is the point of power if you would not use it to your advantage? In a country where you have to vacate the seat in a bus to facilitate a monk who’s 1/4 of your age, what the hell am I ranting about? I mean, it’s just a bloody 100 rupees. Even a decent lunch packet costs 110.

Socrates III


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