“This is the last time I will allow you to come late to class. The next time you come late, the only acceptable excuse is a lady on your arm’
That was my English professor at the Madras Christian College in 1980. This was a time when you had been taught to believe that talking to an unrelated woman was a sin second only to the heinous one of failing in exams. Having had that lesson dinned into you ever since you realized why girls are not boys and having not yet reached the state of deciding that even hell was worth getting together with a woman, it was like a breath of fresh air to hear an adult actually encouraging you to get along with the opposite sex!
“The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. If you like a man, take him around to the college canteen, get him a cup of coffee and look into his eyes. No response? Take him to the local hotel, get him a masala dosa and look into his eyes. Still no response? Take him to a Chinese restaurant, heap noodles before him and look into his eyes. After the first forkful he will look around the noodles and say, ‘I love you’. After the second forkful he will look around the noodles and say, ‘I love noodles better’!
The same Prof.! Does it strike you that he was more of a ‘Ask Aunt Sally’ than an English professor? Let me hasten to add that he was very good at teaching Shakespeare as well but the Immortal Bard made less of an impression than his advice to the lovelorn.
“Women dress up so that they can be admired by men. Distressing a woman is a heinous sin. (‘Pen Paavam Polladhadhu’ in Tamil is pithier) So, men, never fail to admire a woman’
This was the Tamil Professor at MCC. Advice that most men take to heart but apply, as women will testify, only to all women other than their respective spouses. By the way, what is it that makes the language professors more romantic in conversation? Is it that they read poets who, when they take a breather from Nature, concentrate on the female form divine? A chemistry prof. could work in romance by alluding to endorphins and the biology prof. has endless opportunities but I am yet to hear of either featuring prominently in the list of romantic conversationalists!
My all too brief sojourn at MCC ended with my getting admission in Chemical Engineering. The only funny thing I learnt there (other than the fact that someone actually considered that I would make an engineer!) was the definition of a Chemical Engineer – ‘he who knows neither chemistry nor engineering!’. I do not know how seriously that was intended but all my life I have tried to be a true chemical engineer, as per that definition.
My days at IIM-Bangalore are a blur and it appears as though I sleep-walked through the whole course. My only stand-out memory of those days is standing in a long queue for food in the hostel mess and dolefully misquoting Robert Frost
‘And miles to go before I eat
And miles to go before I eat’