“I hate these kinds of unreal discussions, seminars, symposiums and so on, completely meaningless”, she thought. However, she cannot help it as her job itself demands doing such meaningless trivialities. She is working as a news reporter in a prominent 24*7 channel. But on this day, she was presenting a paper on ‘social media and the youth’ at the post graduate department of English department, Calicut University.
As she was coming back to the guest room after the presentation, she heard someone calling her, “Hello, Ms. Shanti Padmanabhan!”
She got irritated as she saw that mad professor who threw questions over questions during the presentation. She thought of avoiding him, but her friend Dr. Srikumar was also there with him. She gave a wry smile and greeted him back, “Hello, Sir.”
“The presentation was thought-provoking,” the professor said as a way to start a conversation.
“Thank you very much for your timely questions,” she replied with same courtesy.
“….. but you don’t have the right to criticize the social media”, he didn’t stop, “…. as even the traditional media are using social media to reach the youngsters.”
She was not at all in a mood to start everything all over again. She needed to go back to her flat and later on to the studio. But Dr. Srikumar invited her for a coffee, and along with the strange-looking professor, she had to spend some time. In order to avoid that strange feeling she had been facing since the beginning of the presentation, she talked freely with Dr. Srikumar and the professor. Along with many other subjects, she blurted out, “I hate the social interference and pressure on individual lives in the name of marriages. I won’t marry anyone; instead I would like to lead the life my own way.”
“You aren’t joking, are you?” the professor asked.
“Why should I, at least in front of a person like you.” She replied.
“So, are you saying that you can stand against social pressure so long and won’t change your decision?” He again asked.
“I don’t mind what the society thinks. Why should the society interferes in my personal life?”
“Hmm. If you are so courageous, nothing will happen.” He again said.
“Thanks!” She felt so relieved that after all now he is not challenging her.
“By the way, I would like to congratulate you again for such a mind-blowing session”, he said.
“Oh, no, don’t flatter me!”
“….and I would like to give you a small present.” He continued.
“No, no, no….. It isn’t needed.” She got confused at this complete change of situation.
“Never mind. It is a small one. Don’t say no.” He requested.
“Okay, then.” She said.
“Then, show me your hand.” He demanded.
When she showed her hand, he put a ring on her finger, as if in a wedding. She was shocked and rose to her feet. He was, on the other hand, very calm and was observing her in detail. When she demanded him to take back the ring, he explained:
“What’s wrong with the ring? The very moment you rejected the present, you proved that you are subservient to the society and are afraid of it.”
She was totally embarrassed: “But why should I accept the ring, to prove that I am not afraid of the society? I don’t want to prove or disprove anything.”
“I don’t mean that.” He continued. “The point here is, you are conditioned to think, to behave, to respond in certain way by the society. As long as you are under that social conditioning, you can’t resist the social pressure. If I gave you any other thing as a present, you wouldn’t have any problems, but the moment you saw the ring, the meaning changed. You cannot see it as a normal gift.”
“What you are trying to say?” She asked in a semi-furious way.
“It is very clear my friend. Every moment you are living, every situation that you are facing, and every conversation that you are making, we are following the rules of the society. There is no way out.”
This was the first time she encountered with that man. The memory of that meeting was present in her mind for a long time. Though she was a successful reporter, and had made several political leaders to stay dumb during the channel discussions, she never felt total failure as this. She didn’t give back the ring. After the incident, she never tried to contact him, nor did she know any contact details.
During one of the news reading sessions, she had seen the next-to-be-read news on the computer screen: “Dr. Satish Krishna, the famous literary critic and professor of post graduate department of English, Calicut University has been selected for ‘Dr. N.M. Ajayan Memorial Award’.” When she saw this, she asked the channel editor, ‘why don’t we just call Dr. Satish and congratulate him directly? We will be the first to do so.” The channel editor was reluctant at first as this was not a major lead. But then he accepted the suggestion and connected the line to the reporter.
“Hello, Dr. Satish.”
“Yes, Satish speaking.”
“I am Shanti, from Kerala Vision.”
“Oh, Shanti, what a surprise!!”
Before he could say anything, she said, “Congratulations, Dr. Satish.”
“You have won Dr. N.M. Ajayan Memorial Award.” She replied.
“Dr. N.M. Ajayan Memorial Award? By the way, who is this Dr. N.M. Ajayan?”
“Are you saying that you don’t know Dr. N.M.Ajayan? Unbelievable!”
“If he is such a great person, why giving a ‘memorial award’ in his name; do they think people will forget him unless there is an award in his name?”
His voice was weird, maybe he was drunk.
“So you are saying that Dr. N.M. Ajayan is an insignificant person, that you don’t know him at all, and so won’t accept an award in his name?”
“I don’t mean he is insignificant and all. The fact is I never followed him, never read his writings, nor will read them in future. The only time I noticed was, when a dog was got killed in front of its puppies, this critic said, ‘wolves and dogs will never go together. The wolves will attack dogs; that’s quiet natural.’ I am not condemning him because he justified a violent act, but he said a lie, ‘wolves and dogs will never go together.’ In fact, both are the same.”
With this he discontinued the phone. What seemed at first an insignificant news item became the hot news. It lit a controversy in the political and literary circle. Everybody lashed out against the professor, but he didn’t give any exclusives to any channels. So, his version of the events didn’t get broadcasted. Though Shanti herself tried to get him on line for a channel discussion, the phone was switched off.
Like any other news events, this was also short-lived. When another controversy came to light, everybody forgot the professor. One advantage this controversy has had is that, the professor’s works became best-sellers, and he was placed among the intelligentsia.
Weeks later, Shanti dialed in his number. The phone was ringing, but no response. In the morning came the news: At night, some wolves and dogs entered into professor’s apartment and attacked him. He died there bleeding.
At last, his conviction, the wolves and dogs are the same, proved correct.