PrEm Ji

ONE AMONG NOBODY (Short story)




“Premji Sir… Shall I call you “Dad”?”

I was shocked to the core as Ranju, one of my finest students, poured this humble request upon my benign soul. I couldn’t answer whether “yes” or “no”! God! It’s a confusing situation.

“Sir… Shall I?” 

She was eager to know my response and her face reddened with some sort of special confusion. I sank deep into my seat and took a heavy breath… It was not of the same face when she came to my office along with her mother, in that afternoon, some four years back.

I was sitting all alone in my office with hell a lot of papers upon my table. It contained the lists of internal assessment marks – to be uploaded to university website and many papers related with annual purchase of equipment and consumables. 

Being the head of a department is real tough. One must be able to handle a bunch of people with different outlooks and habits. Students come from low income families… There are some from rich and influential families… Many others are there who work of a living and their studies… Again, problems associated with teachers are another mess. Some of them are unable to communicate with students properly which always ends up in discrimination… But, what to do? 

Power means more responsibility.

My table and draw were never tidy, like my amorphous mind. Whenever I tried to arrange them in order, they ended up in new inventions. Life is stranger always! I switched on the computer and started checking the comments received for my latest poem in 

“Premji Sir, may I come in?” twenty year old Ranju showed her head through the half door. 

“Yes… Come in.” 

But, she was closely followed by her mother. 

“O.K… Please tell me the matter...” I said while showing them two seats immediately opposite to me.

“Sir, Ranju was not feeling well for the past one month,” her mother began to speak.

“But, Sir… She has attendance shortage now.”

“I know… She was quite irregular throughout the past one and a half years. Without enough attendance, that means eighty percent, it is impossible to attend for examinations.” I replied in an unsentimental manner. ‘she can take readmission by next year. This is all I can do for her.”

“I know Sir… But, she will lose a year…” Her mother tried to plead though she was having deadly anger against her daughter.

“I am sorry, Madam … Unfortunately, I cannot entertain such a request. You know,

I have to run a department!”

Ranju kept her hands upon the table as if nothing has happened. I was shocked to see her nails, as dark as coal tar. 

“Did you have to undergo any sort of chemotherapy?” I asked her calmly.

“No Sir,” she replied inertly. 

“I will do one special favour… You can attend the classes along with your classmates,” I told her and went back to my work, unfinished, in the computer. They left without another word. I could hear Ranju’s mother scolding her loudly, outside. 

It is really boring to teach students. I never wanted to corrupt their thought process. Heads of institutions are supposed to take elective subjects mainly. I was forced to adopt a funny strategy to get out of this monotony. Every subject contained four modules and each module was allotted with eighteen hours. It covered the entire four modules in eighteen hours. Engineering is more than learning. In fact, it’s a way of life!

“Students, you all have a clear idea about the subject that I am handling,” I started interacting with them quite casually.

“Yes Sir,” around ten percent students in the class replied. 

“O.K… Let’s make our own text book. What do you say?”

“But … Sir..?”

“Here is the strategy… Create a new facebook group, especially for academic activities. Now, I will divide your class to four core groups. Each group has to find out maximum number of questions from the module allotted to them. Post them along with their answers in your special facebook group. I will go through each post and suggest the corrections. What do you say?”

“This sounds interesting Sir…” some boys said loudly. 

“Once this process is completed, you can copy and paste the entire material according to your syllabus in a word document, your text book will be ready!” I said calmly. 

“Done Sir…done!”

“But?” I stopped in the middle.

“But?” The entire class was eager to hear from me. 

“Then… I will sit on the back bench and each one of you will have to teach me what you have prepared!”


“We must utilize social media for teaching too… See... once you create such a group, I no longer need a notice board… If I wish give you some selection on the previous night of an examination, it could be done through facebook.”

“What an idea! Sir ji...” Someone from the last bench shouted. Everything went well and posts started flooding in facebook, except from Ranju.

It was a fine afternoon and I summoned for Ranju through one of the junior students. She was in my office with two minutes. 


“Ranju… I went through your school records. And I know that you are very brainy girl…”

“Thank you, Sir,” she replied while placing her hands upon my table. 

Her nails were getting clearer. 

“What happened to your nails? How come they have turned black?”

“Sir… that…,” she was not in a mood to continue to talk.

“Never mix up your studies with your personal problems! If you do so, you will be the ultimate loser! Are you aware of that?”

“Yes, Sir… But, I can’t study at my home…,” she began crying.

“But why?”

“Nobody loves me!” She wiped her tears using her left hand. “Sir… Do you know… what happened three years back?” 

“What happened?” 

“My brother got a merit seat at Trivandrum Medical College for MBBS degree after clearing entrance examination.” 

 “My entire family… Sir my father has four sisters and so do my mother… Ours is a huge family. They all were assembled at Kavery inn, a huge resort near my house, to congratulate my brother’s solid achievement. I love him dearly and he is the only boy child in our entire family. Everyone loves him dearly and every need of him is taken care of by many! Sir, my mother is the most biased… She doesn’t love me at all!” 

“What’s your father doing?”

“Nandakumar, my beloved father, is a business man and my mother is a house-maker, especially for my brother.”

“Ranju… Don’t you have any achievement?” I asked her calmly.

“I had many. But, what’s the use? They were of no importance in their eyes. I am a second rated child in my family. Sir, I tried to grab their attention by becoming a rebel. But, that too didn’t work out.”

“Very sad!”

“Sir… I was craving for love… I was craving for some sort of appreciation… I was ashamed of my pathetic existence until I met him. And he introduced me many unhappy girls and boys.”

 “Your daughter is missing!” Mamma rang up and told my father on the very day I stopped attending classes. “She is not yet back home…” 

“What happened actually?” I asked Ranju.

“Since I was craving for love, I got into the company of wrong ones. I was heavily drunk when father located me in a dancing party at a five star hotel in Kochi. Mobile phones are a real mess, Sir! He could pin-point my location with the help of that!”

Ranju started laughing, still looking at her blue nails.


\"Then what! They started treating me like a stinking dog!\"

\"Is it?\"

“Only death could give me honour! A weed doesn’t deserve any honour! I took a whole bottle of “Round-up” – the weed killer. But, I was bitterly defeated there also!” 

I was shocked to hear her personal account!

“Sir… I have no merit… there is no meaning in life… I find everything hollow… love… life…. relations… education…” Her eyes resembled that of a dead fish! “Now my entire family treats me as their worst foe!”

“Dear Ranju! The secret of unification is pointing out the foe!” I began laughing and she too joined me. “But… I am here to appreciate you… See… You have overcome that deadly poison too! Only a solid mind can ever survive from such a deadly poison! Every game ends up in disaster… Count the blessings, my child!”

“Sir... Are you kidding me?”

“No way… And you deserve a special appreciation for it… I will give you enough attendance to appear for examinations so that you can save a year. I am going to violate the rules for the sake of you. What do you say?”

“Thank you, Sir.”

“You are consistently poor at all labs… That’s your only weakness… I will help you in that too…”

“Thank you Sir.”

“All life, you have been desperately trying to change your parents! But, what is the result? Nothing has happened! Better change yourself! That’s the simplest of all options. Nobody can take away your happiness unless you allow them to do so!”

“Sir… I can’t study at home! I will go mad whenever I reach there!”

“Ranju… You deserve more appreciations… from me… from your friends… from this college… from the university… from the society… and from your parents…”

“Am I?”

“Yes… Do you know what is meant by “excellence?” Do a “little more” than your duty! So, train yourself to be alone even in a crowd. Be attached to everything and be detached the most at the same time!”

Our textbook building was a huge success as Ranju was the sheen anchor of the project. Ninety five percent students go through with high grades under her leadership.

“We are immersed in information but, striving for knowledge! So, shall I teach you anymore?” I asked at the beginning of the next semester with a new subject.

“No Sir…,” my students started shouting. “We can manage!”


“How is life?” I asked Ranju.

“Most attached and most detached except you!” She smiled.

“Intelligent girl!”

Ranju completed engineering with flying colours. Unfortunately, she didn’t maintain any contacts with me afterwards. And today, two years, she appeared in my cabin again.

“Why didn’t you call me even at least once?” I asked her.

“Sir, you used to tell us… Every man is a separate book… Every man is a separate world…”

“And, every woman is a new book, exactly like you!”

“Sir, I took a great decision on that very afternoon that I had spent with you, that I would come again to meet you only with my greatest achievement in life. Everyone has to aim something bigger to claim more dignity… care and appreciation… Whenever I was down, I thought of your happy face after listening to the news of my victory, that too straight from me,” Ranju began crying. “Sir, I am alive today just because of that afternoon.\"

“O! Dear… please tell me the happy news!” I was getting impatient the most. 

“Sir, I have secured twelfth rank in IFS… Indian Foreign Service… They informed me just twenty minutes earlier and I haven’t told anyone except you!”

“Congratulations! Ranju! Congratulations!”



She looked deep into my eyes for some time as if she was gathering strength. 

“Premji Sir… Shall I call you “Dad”?”