“Sarada, I’m leaving.”
Bhaskaran set out for the university. He brushed off the dust of his bicycle-seat, mumbling to himself that he must clean it this Sunday, and rode off.
Bhaskaran was professor of biochemistry at Alagappa University. It was a small town he lived in, and a small town he taught in. Nevertheless, he had an international reputation; he was invited to address conferences around the globe, and had several scientific breakthroughs to his credit.
Today he had to take B.Sc. Biochemistry lecture at 11 A.M., and then the M.Sc. Metabolomics lecture at 2:00 P.M. His PhD student was to meet him sometime in the middle. “Hm, the phosphatase mis-expression was coming on well”, he said to himself as he parked his bicycle opposite his department. But what he looked forward to most was the movie at 6:00 P.M. He had promised he would take Sarada out. He looked at his gold-plated watch, a wedding gift from Father-in-law. 10:30 A.M. Time enough for a quick coffee and a glance at the newspapers.
He was an indifferent teacher, but the depth of his scholarship more than made up for it. Having done his PhD at Caltech, he had nevertheless chosen to return to his hometown and University. This alone gained him the awe of his peers.
He wound up his lecture and went into the faculty club for lunch. The students hadn’t proved as stubborn as last time, and had managed to absorb the notion of allosteric regulation. He looked forward to his lunch: sambar, rice and curry. Some things should never change, he reflected, as he hailed a colleague.
Students nicknamed him Prof. ‘Respectability’. Dressed in white cotton shirts, black trousers, thick, and hair well-oiled, he was the very picture of the unworldly academic. His fogged, square-rimmed glasses, which he refused to trade in for a swankier pair, lent him that philosophical air that is supposedly required of every professor’s being. That, and his Golden Pen, which he won as university topper, were his proudest possessions.
The Metabolomics lecture was over. Teaching M.Sc.s was easy: make them look up some papers and turn in assignments, which he could correct at leisure. And sneak a few laughs. And his student had exuberantly reported that the phosphatase experiment was giving publishable data. It was to be a perfect day.
He cycled home. “You’re late”, said Sarada. He dashed in, washed his face, quickly combed his hair, and they set out. A Rajnikanth movie was playing. Luckily, they had booked a month in advance.
As the movie progressed, Sarada gaped at her husband. Prof. Respectability was now whistling and hooting with the others. He matched the superstar’s ‘styles’ and sleights-of-hand with his own. He mouthed the ‘signature’ dialogues with the same accentuation as the actor.
Sarada tugged at his elbow. “Enna, sit down properly. What will people think? The famous professor hooting vulgarly like this!”
“I am a professor in the university only. In the theatre, everyone is just a Rajni fan.”