Short Story (Blogprint): The Teacher and the Student

Dev Kumar Vasudevan
Dev Kumar Vasudevan / 7 yrs ago /

                                       Short Story: The Teacher and the Student


“Never judge a person by his words,” said Mr. Deshmukh the other day. We were sitting and enjoying a cup of tea and the famous kachoris of Mhow one evening when the talk turned to how people say one thing and mean something else. What struck me was the emphasis that Mr. Deshmukh placed on each word of the sentence. I was sure he had something to share with us. So I asked him whether there was a real life incident he wanted to share with us. Something which reinforced what he had said. Mr. Deshmukh smiled. “Let me tell you something which happened more than twenty years ago,” he said.

”I had just finished college,” he told us, “And I had not yet got my job in Bombay. I was living in a small rented room in Indore. The old part of Indore. Not far from Rajwada.” I knew the area he was talking of. I asked him if it was the Ram Bagh area. “Yes,” he said with a smile, “you seem to know Indore quite well.” I was slightly taken aback at this compliment because my knowledge of Indore was quite rudimentary. But I had once visited the Ram Bagh area with my father.

”Well,” said Mr. Deshmukh, “one day a friend’s cousin came to me and asked for some help with some concepts of accountancy. While studying for my bachelor’s degree in commerce accountancy had been my favourite subject. So I did not have any difficulty in helping him.” I knew where this was leading to. “Did he start coming every day?” I asked Mr. Deshmukh. “Yes,” said Mr. Deshmukh with a hearty laugh,  “He liked my clarity of thought and the soundness of my knowledge so he started coming every day at 6 p.m. Soon some of his friends had also joined us. And it was quite a lively group which used to collect every evening.”

 “Did you charge them any fee?” I asked him, “Or was it all social service?” Mr Deshmukh paused and said, “These students were willing to pay me a small sum every month. As I was not earning I could do with some pocket money so that I was not a burden to my parents. But my house owner did not like the presence of so many young men in his house every evening.” I was taken aback. “Where did this villain spring from?” I asked. Mr. Deshmukh smiled again and said, “I do not blame him. He had three pretty daughters.” All of us started laughing loudly when he said this. “And then what happened?” we asked him.  “He told me that he wouldn’t allow any commercial activity in the house. And I would have to search out some other venue for my teaching activities,” said Mr. Deshmukh.

”Did you wish to continue teaching your small group,” we asked him, “or did you decide to stop teaching?” Mr. Deshmukh gestured with his hand. He wanted us to stop speaking so that he could continue with his story. “I realised that I was loving every moment of it.  I liked the respect these youngsters were treating me with.” He told us how he searched for a small room where he could continue his teaching without worrying about house owners who were concerned about the safety of their daughters.  ”The main problem I  faced was that most people I contacted for letting out space would ask me for huge amounts as rent once they came to know that I intended to teach accountancy in the rented premises. I was at my wits end. I did not want my students to go to somewhere else. I was sure that if I continued like this I could be the owner of a flourishing coaching institute within a few years and then I wouldn’t have to search for a job or employment,” said Mr. Deshmukh.

”Then what happened?” I asked him, “it looks like you were an innocent young man lost in the cruel world of commerce and rents and agreements.” Mr. Deshmukh looked at me sternly. He was right. I was speaking too much. I promised myself that I would keep quiet and listen to his story. “Well to cut a long story short,” said Mr. Deshmukh, “a  cousin came my rescue. He told me about Baba – an old man – who lived not far from where I lived. Baba lived in a huge hall. He would allow me to take my classes in one corner of the hall. But he had a condition.” “What was that?” I asked, forgetting my promise to myself to keep quiet. Mr. Deshmukh smiled. He knew that it was impossible for me to keep silent. “Well, he said that he would be lying on his cot in one corner of the hall while I taught. He wouldn’t disturb my class but he would make an occasional cup of tea for himself or cook his dinner. I should not have any objections to that.”

”That was indeed a stroke of luck,” I said, “I am sure that you had no objections to his condition. Am I right?” Mr. Deshmukh nodded his head in assent and smiled, “Yes, I was ready to teach on the railway platform. This hall was a god send for me.” I asked him whether the Baba had told him how much rent he wanted. “Ah, the Baba was very firm that he wanted a hundred rupees as rent every month. And he told me that he would like it in advance every month. Well a hundred rupees was a large amount in the mid eighties. But I managed to take a loan and pay him the rent for the first month. My old students returned. And a few new ones also came and I started my teaching with renewed vigour.”


“And would the Baba be lying on his cot in one corner of the hall when you taught?” I asked. “Oh yes,” said Mr. Deshmukh with a smile, “he was my most regular student. I have a suspicion that he listened to every word I said. On rare occasions I saw him getting up and making himself a cup of tea. Generally something would be cooking on the wood fire when we were there. Luckily there was a good exit for the smoke so we did not find it difficult to sit there. I remember he patted me on my back on a few occasions and told me that I was a good teacher and that my students were lucky to have found me.”

”And what about the rent that he was so particular about?” I asked. “Yes, the rent,” said Mr.
Deshmukh, “He would often remind me on the 30th or the 31st of a month that the rent for the next month must be paid in the first week itself. In the beginning I used to be offended but I realised that such was his nature. He could be effusive in his praise for my teaching techniques but extremely curt when he wanted the rent. I would make it a point to collect the fees and pay him the rent in the first week itself. But I realised that this arrangement helped me too as the fees from the students would get collected during the first week itself.”

”Was the Baba a bachelor?” I asked Mr. Deshmukh. “No, he had a family but they lived in Pithampur where his son was working in a factory. His wife would visit him every Sunday along with a grandchild or two. His son would visit him once a month. But if he visited Indore on a working day on official duty he would drop in and spend a few minutes with his father. But for the fact that he was very particular about taking the rent from me every month in the first week itself I saw him as a mahatma. He lived a simple yet rich life. Well, at the end of one year I received an appointment letter from a Bombay based company and I had to close my classes and leave for Bombay. I would have loved to continue teaching but my family was aghast at my desire. They forced me to pack up and leave for Bombay.”

“And what did Baba say?” I asked him. “Oh, Baba was sad to see my classes closing.  I was sure that he would miss the money more than he would miss me. But I was surprised to see that he had tears in his eyes when I went to say goodbye. He blessed me when I bent to touch his feet. . When I was about to leave he called me back and gave me the hundred rupee note that I had given him. He said that as I had not even finished a week of the new month he didn’t want the money. And that I would need every penny in Bombay. I was very touched by this gesture of his.  Well, I left for Bombay and my career progressed.  A few years in Bombay and a few years in Pune and I was on my way up.”

”Did you not return to Indore to see your family and the Baba?” I asked Mr. Deshmukh. “Well, my family had shifted to Kodariya village on the outskirts of Mhow so there was no reason for me to visit Indore,” said Mr. Deshmukh, “but I was tempted to meet him and on one of my visits to Mhow I took some time off and caught the 1:40 pm local train to Indore. When I reached Baba’s abode I was shocked to learn that he was no more. His son had arrived to pack his belongings. And he told me that if I had arrived three days earlier I could have met Baba. He told me that Baba had asked for me when he was on his deathbed. I felt very sad because I missed my chance of seeing Baba for a last time. After consoling  his son I came back home. But then something happened. Something strange….”

All of us were fully alert now. “What happened? Please tell us,” we spoke in unison. Mr. Deshmukh paused and sipped some water. He had been speaking for quite some time now and we were sure that he must have become tired. “Well, a few days before my leave ended and I left for Bombay I received a letter from a charitable organisation which used to fund the education of poor children. They had sent me a receipt for one thousand two hundred rupees. I rang them up and told them that they had sent me a receipt wrongly because I had never donated any money to their organisation. They asked me what my father’s name was and when I told them they confirmed that the same name was given along with my name on the covering note they received with the money every month. I was trembling by this time. I asked them what the monthly contribution had been. They said that there were twelve payments of rupees hundred each. It was clear to me where the hundred rupees that the Baba took from me as rent every month had gone. I felt faint. I had to sit down. The phone dropped from my hand. I could hear the other person saying ‘Hello, hello’ loudly. But I could not say anything. I was mourning for Baba. It took five minutes for the tears to come. But when they came I cried my heart out. That is why I say that you must never judge a person by how he speaks. Understood?”  We could barely nod in assent. We were totally overwhelmed. We were silent for a long time.  Mr. Deshmukh got up and left quietly before any one of us could break the silence.



Copyright © Dev Kumar Vasudevan 2007.

Note: Based on a true life story.
Word Count: 1986; excluding title.

Dev Kumar Vasudevan / / 6 yrs ago
Dev Kumar Vasudevan

hi pf... thanks for the visit, the comment, the compliment and the wishes... it would indeed be thrilling if this gets selected in the final round of blogprint...  i had heard this story just a fortnight or so before i posted it from the person i have named as mr. deshmukh in this story... i wonder what i would have tried for blogprint if i hadn't heard this one...

pavementfreud / / 6 yrs ago

ahhh dev,

a gem of a story. loved it...absolutely!

really wish there were many more babas in this world...

i am sure to see this one in the book!


Dev Kumar Vasudevan / / 7 yrs ago
Dev Kumar Vasudevan

hi bijaya. am glad if this story, which is based on a true incident, was a catalyst in your thought processes.

Bijaya Ghosh / / 7 yrs ago
Bijaya Ghosh

really a touching story. specially today i needed to read it,
i was furious with a friend who finds some psychological pressure in talking rude. i write him a letter to match hisa rudeness. then i read this and  was reminded that  he actually is a   kind.and honest person.

Dev Kumar Vasudevan / / 7 yrs ago
Dev Kumar Vasudevan

thanks angut. thanks for the visit, the comment and the encouragement. your comment serves as a catalyst to me.

angut / / 7 yrs ago

the narration is very smooth without any jerk just for the sake of making an impression. hats off to your story telling style. am humbled.
meanwhile let me congratulate youhope to read more of you

Dev Kumar Vasudevan / / 7 yrs ago
Dev Kumar Vasudevan

kamalji. as this short story is based on a true incident i can understand your feeling emotional when you read it. i had felt the same when i had heard this story from the actual person. thanks for the visit.

kamalji / / 7 yrs ago

dear mr.vasudevan
your story has made my eyes misty.what a wonderful old man.if this story dont get in the final print of blogprint, i will be sad of the finest pieces i have read.good luck,sir,regards.kamal

Dev Kumar Vasudevan / / 7 yrs ago
Dev Kumar Vasudevan

shamoli and saneev: thanks for the visit and the encouragement.

(saneev i understand you have a busy schedule. we will make up. )

saneev / / 7 yrs ago

 beautiful these human emotions. they make u laugh away painful memories and u cry when u remember happy times?. thats a fantastic peice of work dev. heartycongrats. regret not finding time to spend with u in this busy schedule/

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