"Gangu Ram, are you there?", I cried. This just doesn't work. Gangu Ram is always late. He never comes to the school early .Sometimes I feel so exasperated with him that I feel I would give him a sound thrashing." I would like to break his neck", I thought. I repeatedly told him yesterday not to be so late, but who listens to whom. Especially today is a very important day. The school inspector is coming to inspect the school. Our school, the P. G Memorial is reputed to have the best library in Kolkata, with its air conditioned rooms, comfortable benches and the most important of all, its books and how they are arranged. There is almost every book there is in the world in this library. They are all neatly and meticulously arranged. Dare not think that Gangu Ram had done all this, to be absolutely honest and humble, all of this credit goes to me. Gangu Ram is only my library assistant.
Leave all that. Yesterday, there was a food fest in our school. It was a great success. Many people visited it, but the main attraction was -----don't think its food, its the popular school library. My God, what a mess! And that's what I heard from Gangu Ram, and I am seeing it now. I did not come to school yesterday, I had a sudden bout of fever. Today, I was much better, so I decided to come. I should not have come. It is better to face embarrassment in front of the Principal, instead of the school inspector. The whole library is really a mess. I had catalogued the books so carefully day before yesterday, now I saw the shelves were a delicious mixture of Ruskin Bond, Agatha Christie , Thomas Hardy, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte and Jane Austen.
I am a very meticulous person and I can argue about that in front of everybody. I am, in fact, too meticulous. I have a typed schedule, and I follow it strictly everyday. I value the importance of time and I hate it when something disrupts my schedule. As I am hating Gangu Ram now. He was supposed to come to school at 7:20, and its already 8:00. When will he ever learn? I got absolutely disturbed today. I got up late, brushed my teeth late, had my breakfast late and even reached school late. This was absolutely horrible. I glanced at my watch. 8:10. In about 10 minutes I have my coffee time. Then after 30 minutes the school will start and the inspector will come. Absolutely disgraceful for us to let him see the school library in such a state. But what can I do? Let’s see what happens. First let Gangu Ram come. He’s already an hour late.
“Sir, the principal is calling you sir”, one of the staff members told me.
“Wait. I am going”; I said. I desperately looked at my watch. Already 8:20, my coffee time. These people do not understand the value of time at all.
I went and knocked at the Principal’s door. A slight “Come in”, permitted me entrance. I entered and wished him good morning.
He eyed me for a while, then he started talking:
“Mr. Malhotra, you are very early today.”
“I could not understand what you are saying sir. I think I came half an hour late. “
“Not at all, young man. See the time there on the clock.”
I saw the time and was bewildered. Only 7:20! My watch, my watch id one hour fast! Oh no, and all the fury for nothing. I will hug Gangu Ram once he comes. We still have lots of time to arrange the books.
“I called you on important notice. The inspector will be coming on 7:50 today instead of 8:50”, the principal, Mr Mani stated.
For a moment I did not get the meaning. Then, as I was able to grasp the value, I exclaimed,
“Oh no, why so early sir?”
“ Don’t you know that the school inspector is a very queer man. He wants to come unnoticed by the students, so that he can witness the actual happenings of the class, not some play acted on a stage. So, Mr Malhotra, is the library all right?”
I was boiling with rage now. Indeed the school inspector was queer indeed. I muttered a statement about the library being all right, and requested to be dismissed. The school inspector dismissed me and Ifled back to the library. No time to have coffee now. Oh God help me.
Reaching the library, I saw Gangu Ram arranging the books feverishly. Seeing me, he let out a great sigh of relief. “Sir, I can’t do this alone. Please help me. I know that the school inspector is coming one hour earlier than expected.”
I looked at him blankly, as if not understanding the words he said. It is not possible to arrange all these books in such a short time. I have to think of something. Something……………..
“Gangu Ram, just take all those books back to the school bookstore and ask Mr. Dali there to keep them there for today. And bring all the old and new books present in the bookstore. Either very old or recently new. We have to impress the school inspector. Go fast.”
Gangu Ram obeyed and I sat down. The school bell rang. It was 7:30 and the students have started entering the school. I took the pile of old and new books that Gangu Ram had brought. All were novels. Good. I separated them and arranged them in the respective bookshelves. I did not care for the category and which author wrote which book. Then I took out a deodorant which I had in my pocket. I sprayed it all around the library. Gangu Ram was surprised at first. But then he exclaimed:
“Best smell in the world!”
Readers, don’t think this is some ordinary deodorant. It is special and is made by my son, who is a scientist. If you want to know the type of perfume, you won’t get it anywhere in the world. It is made from pages of old books and new books and the rest is secret. But remember, that this smell is the world famous smell of old books and new books! And a library is not a library if it does not smell of books.
The telephone rang. I picked it up.
“Sir, a person is waiting at the door. He says that he wants to see the books. Principal sir is with him. They are asking you if you are ready to show them the library.”
“Ask them to come in.”
They knocked at the door. I opened the door and then….
And then I woke up.
Readers, don’t think this as a dream. It is reality. Actually I woke up from my state of fear.
The school inspector entered. He took a deep breath and then began his inspection . He looked there sniffed here and looked at the pile of books disapprovingly. My heart was beating fast. Finally he turned to me and said :
“The inspector will like this library immensely, I am sure. I just came here to see that everything was set or not. He will be coming around 8:50.”
I was shocked. All this fuss for nothing, nothing. I had planned so much. Oh no.
“Oh sir, I did not understand that you were his assistant. Come and sit here, sir. What else do you want to see? I can show you everything.”
“Don’t need to worry so much, Mr. Malhotra. I don’t know why people are so scared of school inspectors. I have seen all that I wanted. The books are not arranged properly, but the wonderful smell! I know the reason that why the books are not arranged. I am the school inspector.”
Terrible, I thought. This is absurd.
“I am queer, am I not?”, he smiled.
I drooped down and nodded my head. I was delirious and I understood that fever was coming back to me. Too much shock in one day.
I will resign, I thought.
“Thank you Mr. Malhotra. I need to inspect the other parts of the school too.”, he went off with the principal. My printed schedule fell down from my pocket.
“Gangu Ram, please take me to the school medcare room. I feel sick”,I said.
Gangu Ram looked crestfallen. He took me to the medcare room, where I was given a dose for medicine and asked to lie down for sometime. I was truly tired from everyday’s monotonous schedule. I need a break, I thought.
Funny are the things that happen when people expect too much from you but you fail.
The inspector reported that the school library was good, but the books were not arranged properly, so that is an issue which needs to be corrected. Otherwise, everything is good.
This was the first time that our school faced criticism regarding the school library. First I thought that I had failed as a librarian, but I violently rejected the idea. After all, mistakes do occur to all human beings. Actually everybody had expected that I would be able to arrange the books in whatever time I was given. When I failed to do it, their trust broke.
The school library did not lose its priority at all, the priority which was lost was mine. Although I kept on arranging the books in a meticulous manner, I still sometimes faced criticism.
Readers, many of you may be thinking that I am giving a humorous account of a day in my life where my precious schedule got disrupted. Not only the school inspector part, on reaching home I was unable to do anything in due time. I was too upset.
I understood that everyone wants to treat me like a superhuman and I too treat everyone the same, Gangu Ram, for instance. This has to stop. I took Sunday as the day for enjoyment, no longer for working.
I have to follow the schedule, but I also need to find time for myself too, or everything will get disrupted, just like today.