“Umm, was it me?”
Someone went back inside the room, tripped over a few chairs, cursed a bit, and electricity and normalcy were restored.
If I did the same thing at the Calcutta centre, I suppose people would have been somewhat irritated at this exhibition of over-enthusiasm and sheer stupidity. I might have got a few contemptuous looks, and soon enough people would have got back to their business. Not so in Bhubaneswar.
The other teachers and administrative people were more bemused than anything else. For the next fifteen minutes, we discussed nothing else. But what they found most surprising was that I, as a faculty member, thought it was my duty to turn out the lights.
“Are faculty members in Calcutta expected to switch off the lights at the end of a class?” they asked.
Mrunmayee told me that it is scandalous for girls in her town to get up on the front seat of an auto. Earlier she would never dream of doing so, but five years in Calcutta had wiped out the effects of her socialization. Just after college got over and she returned home, she was going somewhere with her mum, and they hailed an auto which had no space in the back. Without thinking, she got up on the front seat, and nearly gave her mum a heart attack.
I have not seen too much of Bhubaneswar, but I’ve seen enough to have a basic idea about the layout of the city and the names of the more important places. I would sometimes play a game with my students just to amuse myself. “Do you stay in Bhubaneswar?” If they answered yes, I’d ask, “Where do you stay? Kalpana? Vani Vihar? Rupali? Near the Railway Station? Acharya Vihar? Rajmahal?”
After four or five tries, I would generally hit upon the right answer. “Yes, I stay near Rupali,” they’d say. Or “Yeah, my place is not far from the station.” But it is possible that out of exasperation some of them randomly said yes to one of my guesses, just to get me to stop.