Rivalry and Rebuff
that he had already started well by spreading the net of patronization over
Prithve, Sharda began pondering over how fresher strategy of winning over the
favors of the new boss, may be, perhaps by using Prithve also as a tool. It took
him sometime keeping a close watch on the activities and movements of his
friends, adversaries, the British boss and Prithve alike. This afforded an
opportunity to plan and execute his plans.
ticks off. One fine summer day Sharda invited the new British boss to a
reception dinner in his honor at his home along with Prithve and his hostel
colleagues. A few minutes earlier, the British boss and hostel staff left the
hostel premises for the venue of reception which happened to be at a stone's
throw from there.
reaching Mr. Sharda's residence they were led into a spacious hall where quite a
good number of respectable towns folk. VIPs were already seated according to the
Kashimiri style in that dinner hall. The party was guided to take their assigned
seats. Self introductions by the guests over, followed by general discussions
and free chats over a pre-dinner cup of tea, ranging from the history and
geography of the town to the progress of allies in world-war II.
sheets were spread. Thalies (plates) were ready to be placed in front of each
one of the guests. The chief guest of honor seemed to smell the rat. He shouted
out," Mr. Sharda haven't we to wash our hands before we begin eating our
food? Have the hon'ble guests already done so? Please show me where to wash my
hand. My hostel boss will not permit me to eat food without cleaning my hands
were quickly removed. Hands washed and thalies replaced. A beeline of
service-boys began their job of distributing the delicious preparations. Meals
were heftily devoured. Appreciative remarks passed. Dinner was over, followed by
Kashmiri Kahva. The guests began trickling out. The assembly dispersed, some
hissing, some talking in low tones while others talking aloud.
seems to be quick-witted intelligent and a brave man of integrity". Say
principal must be really true and tolerant Christian and a democrat",
yet others sadly expressed their forebodings about Prithve's hard times ahead.
seems that the chief guest has inadvertently sown seeds of thorns for Prithve!"
and so on and so forth.
Sharda accompanied the chief guest and party back to the hostel.
few days later, a staff meeting was held in the assembly hall of the
institution. The agenda of the meeting having been discussed threadbare one by
one; the assembly felt itself relaxed to engage themselves in free-informal
talks before dispersal.
you know what I have done in the hostel? I have raised it by four inches above
the ground level." Said the Principal.
did you do so, sir?" asked a member surprisingly. "You know that the
hostel staff used to dine on dirty chadars before I had become a hosteller. Now
we dine on 4" high wooden chowkies (small individual tables)" replied
provided Mr. Sharda an opportunity to strike the nail on the head.
quick-witted and clever, retorted he, "This is sheer degradation and
against the principles and traditions of the school. This is a fundamentalist
way of eroding cosmopolitanism. Couldn’t they have built a common dining table
for the purpose?"
hush of silence was followed by gazing eyes some with
raised eyebrows, some with pity on Prithve, while others casting angry looks on
boss who had by now openly displayed some regard for Prithve felt embarrassed.
He looked down with a sense of self-introspection regarding his judgment of Pirthve
low tones verging on whispers he said to Prithve, Mr. Prithve you have belied my
faith in you. What reply have you to give to "Mr. Sharda's remarks?"
before my reply to Mr. Sharda's remarks, may I need to assure you that I'm a
firm believer in and upholder of school principles and of its
honor and torchbearer of its traditions to the very core of my heart. As
regards Mr. Sharda's remarks, may I just remind your good self about the small,
cell-like space which your honor knows, we use as our office, our
drawing-cum-bedroom as well as our dining room-cum-store room all in one. Mr.
Sharda, more than anybody else has had very intimate knowledge of this
fact. It's incomprehensible how my venerable friend and honored colleague has
knowingly chosen to make such a derogatory remark in the very face of the
being a widely respected, socially popular and highly knowledgeable and
intelligent person, who can believe that he doesn't know the small amount we
spent on these small chokies. As a chief guiding figure of the school
programs, he certainly knows how many times more expenditure for a common
cosmopolitan type of a dining table would cost, not to speak of the
additions of chairs as also the store where to keep them", meekly replied
Mr. Sharda, my science master can never be wrong”: retorted the Principal