A Letter Of Recommendation – InsideIIM Short Story Corner

“So here goes the bootlicker again!”

“I wonder how people could go that crazy for marks which seem irrelevant after a point in life. But then he’s been doing this since the inception.”

“Yeah! You always have such unique specimens in every MBA batch.”

The muffled insults, like some cacophonous horns, were bleeding Ronit’s ears. His eyes were bloodshot red, his hands, now strongly clasped would have broken free to only return with imprinting rewards of broken jaws.

But he was the ‘nice’ guy and ‘good’ student, the one who asks doubts, the one who submits assignments before the deadline, the one who attends all the classes, and most importantly the one who respects his professor to the core.

He commanded respect, rather deserved it. He was not the brightest of them all, nor the smartest, neither was he the one who immures himself and crams the theories verbatim. He was just a simple sincere student, who always looked forward to respecting the professor’s words and grasp the key points.

But the case with Mr. Saha was so different that even Ronit’s resilience was put to question. The old professor had been an avid time traveller. His conversations swerved so many times, back and forth, that even the students began to doubt whether it was them he was communicating with. He would come to the class, pick up the book, draw a figure on the board, speak a sentence or two, and then some adjective would pop inside his head and the remaining 90 minutes would be then filled with his cryptic, and eerie laughter.

Fortunate were the ones who adjusted themselves dexterously to vanish from the view and happily slip into their slumber which didn’t create much of a problem. However, for majority of class, it was just plain nonsense. It wasn’t that everyone wanted to study, but when the few ingenious ones, who devised some or the other scheme to kill their time, were caught, insulted and punished by keen eye of the professor, there was no other alternative but to fix the evident plastic smiles on their faces and calculate 5400 seconds to fresh air. 5400 seconds!

So it was pretty natural for everyone to hate him, treat him with plastic respect if not scorn, and ultimately rallying sentiment to start a little mutiny, only to end up doing nothing, like absolutely nothing but attending classes with fixed plastic smiles. As if they could have done anything.

Thus, when Ronit decided to give himself a try to be the ‘nice’ guy as he was, it was evident that he would not only lose the support but also whatsoever ground he had.

Did he like him? No, hell No! He was there to get a recommendation, the much coveted Letter of Recommendation for getting placed in his dream firm even at the cost of apathy or disdain from his fellow college mates, he knew that one Recommendation Letter was much heavier to put on the table than any of his colleague’s admiration. And then whom should he care for, these amnesiacs who would forget everything once a bottle or two of Old Monk is opened?

Today is the last day. Just a few more hours more and then he will ask for the letter. It wasn’t that he waited all this while to get this, but one bad move and everything would be gone. And then he just had no courage to step up and stand. He was the one to chicken out of the mutiny’s plan. How could he then take a stand for himself?

And today, he was sure that just a few minutes more, and all his hard work will finally pay off.

So, if it was just a matter of few minutes, then why all this scorn was making his ears bleed. He has endured so much that he should have been immune. But his tolerance was giving up.

“Come On! I am sitting here, in his chamber, and I can’t let myself loose now. A few more minutes and I will never see this man again.”

But insult is something that could escape the strongest of the checks, and once entered, it comfortably trains to slain the last fleck of sense only to seek a reward for vengeance.

The stinging remarks kept piercing his ears. He was so tempted to walk out. He knew that he has taken serious efforts and it shouldn’t be difficult to get a letter for all his dedication and perseverance. He knew that the professor won’t turn his back, but what if, the professor did?

The single thought of uncertainty ran riot in his mind. His blood began to boil again. All the anger started to vent out from the pores. The feeling of resentment is perhaps so powerful that it could dilute months of diligence in one go.

“Hell! If at all he refuses, I will burn this entire room down; in fact, I will burn him down. I will not stay quiet. I will tell him how…”

“Oh Ronit! I am sorry that you had to wait. When I was a student, you know, I used to wait for hours just to have a simple word with my professor. Your generation is lucky. Ha-ha!”

The usual way of putting himself over, Ronit thought as his head moved up and down in a nod and lips curled into a fake curve.

“Students these days just don’t actively participate in the class. It is so disheartening to see such a dull response from the students. At times, I really question the attitude among students towards better learning.”

“Sir! We always strive to complete every case and every assignment within the stipulated time.”

“Oh Come On! You people don’t do me a favour if you complete all these assignments and read all the cases. It is your duty to do it. You, students, are just so lethargic and then you give me these responses.”

Sir, I was just trying to say.”

“Students like you should be reading all the high-quality cases made accessible to you by the institute, instead, you choose to come up with such excuses. And then…”

Ronit knew that there was no point whatsoever to put up his case.

“True sir, you’re right, perhaps we just didn’t perform better.”

Professor Saha looked at him with such a stern eye that for a moment, Ronit’s entire confidence quickly turned into dreaded fear.

“It’s certainly the attitude; students just feel they can speak anything anytime. Attitude, Insolence.”

Ronit could easily feel his scornful remarks. He thought of apologizing but before he could say anything, perhaps the look of fear and uncertainty prompted the Professor to dismiss his appeal. Sadistic pleasure, for sure.

“It might appear that I am angry with you students. I sometimes am, but I am not angry, I am disappointed with you all. You have resources at your disposal, but you don’t use them. And then I teach you; students across the nation want to be taught by professors like me. But it doesn’t seem that even a senior professor of such repute, has made a positive impact on you. You guys continue to sleep, be inattentive, don’t listen to what is taught in the class, and turn to every trick in the book to avoid what is taught in the fruitful sessions.”

Oh yes! Fruitful sessions, and professor of such repute, who speaks nothing but bullshit in his classes. But no, we should have paid attention to all his time travel chronicles to excel in the subject. Professor of great repute, duh!

And a subtle smile spread across his face. Perhaps he can win in his mind at least. He knew that since the professor has kicked off his boring speech, it would be better for him to just ignore. After all, the practice hours during lectures should now come into play. And since there was no lecture today to save him, he knew that there will be no way out but listen to his old tired delusional talks.

It didn’t take long for Professor Saha to return to his normal ways. And soon the record started to play. From adulating his own status as a professor to disparaging the current batch, the comparison of his older batches to the new ones, his opinion that the new generation is worthless, and how he feels that his pure teaching acumen remains underutilized, he kept on belittling Ronit and his fellow batch mates.

And he didn’t even stop at it, as Ronit expected. He forayed into his personal diaries, his success with the esoteric papers, his ambitions to earn field medals, his son excelling in some university abroad, his wife preparing some papad, his dogs barking in melody, his house in desperate need of plaster, his neighbor’s refusing to segregate dry and wet waste, his car giving optimum average even after being 10 years old, his this, his that, his argghhh!!!

The man just never refused to shut his mouth.

Though Ronit tried to persevere through Professor’s utter hogwash, he gradually felt suspended and flooded with all the memories. Even after attending every class and meticulously jotting down the five sentences he used to deliver in his 90-minute lecture, he managed to score nothing but average marks in the internals. He was all on his own, but he sifted through the heavy tomes to find something relevant. And if he could dare approach him and ask a doubt, what he got was nothing but a lot of ridicule.

Therefore he knew that his exams will be a disaster but his results were even worse. And when he expected the Professor to be a bit lenient with checking, he on the contrary to it, deducted marks for answers that were not up to his standard, like his standard, really! So how could he ever like him?

But it was the stinging remarks that did more damage than any of the verbal harangues and complete injustice. He was always respected by the batch but just because he was always good with everybody, and didn’t participate in any of the oppositions, he was targeted. I mean, people now dared to target him, HIM!

Being sincere turned out to be a costly affair.

But somehow he persisted. He knew that he needs to act right. And then the Recommendation Letter and all the wonderful things that letter could do for him will fall in his lap.

Being nice was such a great incentive, but is it? Sitting here, being insulted, being isolated, what did he get? A proof of being a total jerk.

The kind of insolence and apathy he faced in all these episodes, compounded with a hyperbolic effect, restarted to run a riot in his mind. He was no longer wearing a smile but a hateful expression of disgust. His fists were clenched and his anger seethed out from his nostrils and red hot ears. He was just hanging on to a hinge which could break loose anytime. And if it does, God forbid, he could vent it all out and lose his best chance.

And when the all the checks failed and he was about to leash it out, the room bustled with the sound of a ringtone. A call, but his phone was on silent, oh wait! It was a call on the Professor’s cellphone.

“Oh Ronit! You have to excuse me for a few minutes.”

God does help one in mysterious ways.

“To hell with him. If no one else gives a damn about this man, why should I? People are doing just fine without a Recommendation letter. I will also do something good for myself. I can do so many things without that letter. But if I happen to sit through even a minute of his applesauce, I sure would do something that I shouldn’t. I will go. I don’t want to stay here.”

But then all of his stifled sufferings and irritation didn’t let him stand up and quit just like that.

“Anyway this Satan will never give me any letter. But I sure would give him. And he should know how pathetic he is. I am not scared anymore. People like him need to be told the honest truth, loud and clear.”

He took a loose page from the diary lying on the table and picked up a pen from the shiny pen-holder and began writing. In whatever time he had, he tore the pages with the ink of his force and made sure that there was nothing left to get off his chest.

“Ronit, stop with whatever you’re writing and come here.”

“No Sir! I wanted to give you something but I just need a few more minutes to complete. Only after then.”

“Shut up Ronit!” interrupted Professor Saha, “and come here quickly. You can keep scribbling afterwards.”

Something in his voice, perhaps the absolute peril he sustained through the semesters couldn’t let those mutinous ripples of dissonance rise, and Ronit walked directly to the Professor.

Before Ronit could even speak a thing, Professor took his hand and placed a gift in his palm.

“Looking at the way your batch has behaved and performed, I had no expectations from you. And many times, I lost my heart to see absolute apathy. And I didn’t want to teach you. But every lecture, I would see a boy sitting on the first bench, with a beautiful smile, listening and making notes of whatever knowledge I had to give.”

“Don’t take me as a sentimental fool, Ronit. But you’ve been a major reason that I could continue completing the entire 90 minutes of the lecture. I would have left earlier but perhaps all a teacher needs is an attentive student. And an attentive student is like his son. You remind me of my son. Thus I thought that before I depart, I should gift you something.”

Professor left his hand and while proceeding to his desk, requested him to open the wrapper.

“Oh it’s a watch! It’s Titan, oh it’s latest from Titan. Sir, I don’t know, I mean, I…”

“Who took a page from my Diary?” thundered Professor.

Ronit was petrified. His feet froze, his lips quivered.

“I… I… I don’t know Professor. I mean how I would know about any…”

“It’s unfortunate. You would not want to believe this, but it contained a Recommendation Letter that I wrote specifically for you. And now, even this is gone. Wait, it should be here only. Or else I could give it to you only after I reach my original office.”

Rohit was flabbergasted. He was still unable to understand what had just happened. Asking him for words, at that point in time, would have been too much to ask for.

“I believe you would want it quick. Right?”

“Umm. Yes Sir.”

“I will try to get it you to by my secretary. But I am afraid it might take some time. But it will surely reach you. Anyway, what was the letter you wanted to give me?”

“Letter of Recommendation, sir” he mumbled.

“Ronit?”

“Ah! Nothing sir, it was just something I wanted to write, but it seems to me that I need to put in more heart and effort. I would definitely post it to you sir.”

“Wonderful then, I would expect your letter and you could expect mine.”

“Yes Sir, I will make sure it reaches to you.”

One Letter of Recommendation for another.

DHRUV SHARMA

An author (Chiaroscuro, Glimpses, BBCKCCS), an avid daydreamer :) IIM Amritsar PGPM 2017-19

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