Every once in a while, I’m invited – and compelled to go – to a gathering full of academics. It’s my worst nightmare. Second only to being in the front row of a performance poetry session.
I was at one a couple of days ago. The former, not the latter. It had scientists, mathematicians, sociologists, anthropologists, professors of literature, and my wife, Dr. V. Not to forget, me, someone, who till a couple days ago, thought ‘PhD’ stood for ‘Professional Higher Degree’ with the ‘h’ being in lower case on account of an ancient typo that no one rectified.
At this point, it might be good to share with my readers that I achieved my academic pinnacle with a Bachelor of Arts degree in something called Corporate Secretaryship. And I got it ‘studying’ at a college which I visited as a guest-student on three full occasions in a corresponding number of years. Mainly to bribe the peon for my hall ticket.
At the elegant soiree, as Western classical music played in the background, the scintillating conversation ranged from the God Particle to Pavlov’s dogs, from Srinivasa Ramanujan to A K Ramanujan, from G H Hardy to Thomas Hardy while my own oeuvre, as you know, is limited to dissemination of body fluids and Kangana Ranaut’s wooden horse.
For a bit, I walked about with a fixed smile on my face not unlike a trainee flight attendant’s, nodding my head as if I understood the proceedings, my grey hair and glasses temporarily camouflaging my lowbrow proclivities. But I couldn’t help feeling like Mr Bean in a Swarovski showroom.
It was only a matter of time before the giant crash I figured. Followed by glass shards everywhere, bleeding feet and screaming women – and my being whisked away to evade the constabulary.
Thankfully, my old friend John Walker came to my rescue as always. One down, and my fears disappeared. As I tossed the second large down the hatch, I was ready to arm wrestle Noam Chomsky.
I approached a renowned mathematician first. Memories of my Class 12 maths teacher, Selvaganapathi, giving me -1 in my quarterlies were still fresh in my mind.
“Do you like Rachmaninoff?’ said the PhD in Maths conversationally.
“Not much of a vodka man,” I said, shaking my head. “But when I have it, I prefer Absolut with paneer soda.”
Another small J Walker led me to the lit prof. She was talking passionately about Chaucer.
“I think you’ve had enough to drink, Prof,” I said. “Because you’re slurring. The correct pronunciation is ‘saucer’. Not Chaucer. Chup and Chaucer, lol!’
No one laughed but me. So I turned my telephoto lens towards the wildlife guy. A fourth JW had found its way into me by then. He was deep in conversation about the plight of the Kori bustard.
I tapped him on his shoulder.
“That’s pretty rude, sir,” I said. “Such words in polite company! The correct term would be illegitimate offspring of a Kori.”
His wife, the anthropologist, gave me a look, and changed the subject hoping to get rid of me.
“You know why the youth of our country are so filled with anomie…” she began.
“Yes, I too use an anomie when I’m feeling a bit backed up. No shame in that,” I said.
Actually, it turned out to be a fun evening.
I’m waiting for the next party with academics. I’m hoping it will have a certain historian who specializes in heritage buildings. I’ve got a couple of good ones for him.
Krishna Shastri Devulapalli is a satirist. He has written four books and edited an anthology.