This fiction of our times has an ‘anti-national’ school teacher, a hostile principal and an undermined PM

Your Power, Our Rules
Book Excerpt 

The only surprise Dhanuka threw in near the end of her tirade was the additional charge of being ‘anti-national’! Apparently, she’d been planning to haul me in ‘even before this morning’, because of ‘the number of unhappy parents’ who’d emailed her about some of the content of our class conversations, in which, instead of ‘sticking to the syllabus’, I supposedly spent a great deal of time ‘undermining our present Prime Minister’ and also — again, to use Dhanuka’s words — ‘devaluing the heritage of our Hindu myths and epics by repeatedly insisting they couldn’t be seen as history or science’.

‘Mrs Dhanuka, I strongly dispute those charges. Not once have I said anything against any particular leader, and it’s the job of a history teacher to make connections as well as distinctions. I’ve equally spoken about the garden of Eden and creationism, for example . . .’

‘Save your breath, Jaya, that train has gone. Well done for also offending your Christian students, by the way, but we aren’t here to have that argument today. When someone is charged with being an accessory to a murder, it kind of eclipses their inability to keep their teaching free of political bias.’

‘Well, in that case let me remind you it’s a suicide, Mrs Dhanuka, not this murder you keep mentioning. That fact is not being disputed by anyone. And the young person in question was not a student of mine; I met her just once for half an hour. Also, the investigating officer, Inspector Somayya, has reassured me personally I’m not a suspect in any way . . .’

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‘Well, he can certainly help matters by taking the trouble to go public with his reassurances, in which case . . .’

‘Inspector Somayya is a woman, Ma’am.’

‘Kindly let me finish, Jaya,’ said the woman who’d talked at me non-stop for the first fifteen minutes of this meeting. ‘In which case, with her statement, we shall save some valuable time with our internal procedures, and can move straight to the lying and deception that is about to do such incalculable harm to the reputation of this school.’

I didn’t need any special powers to divine that in this woman’s mind I was already history (excuse the pun). A sudden flash of one letter that would (sorry, that might) appear this morning if the column ran as usual made me want to laugh, walk over to Dhanuka, give her a slap on the back and say, Okay, you old bat, I understand. You run a seventy-six-year-­old school for promoting service and obedience and how to always sit with your knees close together and ankles crossed, and I advise young men to make a habit of fingering their girlfriends. I see the incompatibility there.

Of course that remained unvoiced. Instead, I was about to say something a great deal more shocking, although at first I just meekly requested that someone be sent to check the back gate before I departed. I didn’t want any scenes outside the school. Perhaps I could wait in the reception area?

‘No, no waiting, I want you off the grounds as soon as possible. I’ll get Tamal in and he’ll make sure you leave without any fuss. Remember there’s a side gate as well, through the orphanage grounds. You can use that.’

‘That’s an excellent idea, Mrs Dhanuka. Thank you so much. You have always been such an outstanding principal. And I’m going to contact Inspector Somayya straight away to request her to issue a public statement in which she can repeat what she told me.’

‘Well and good if she does, Jaya, but that’s only part of your problem. Believe me, if this poor child hadn’t died, but someone had called to tell me that one of my teachers was the source of such filth spouted in public, we would be having much the same conversation.’

‘Mrs Dhanuka, of course you’re entitled to your opinion, but there are other ways to look at what the column is trying to achieve.’

‘Oh, are there? In that case, if “Chandra Sir’s” objectives are so noble, why the need for him in the first place? Why couldn’t you have come to me and said, Mrs Dhanuka, I have been invited by a prominent news outlet to offer counselling services to young people.

It will be something that will make the school proud.

‘Your lie reflects that you knew exactly what you were getting into. And today, look where it has led you. FMHS will recover its standing in people’s eyes, probably by the end of next week, especially because of the swift action I’m taking with respect to you. Seventy-six years of history aren’t overturned just like that, as I’m sure you of all people will appreciate. But what pains me is the child who will never return, because the person she turned to in her hour of need was far from being a qualified professional . . .’

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