Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Physics of BP

Andhra Pradesh has a strange system of high school called as Junior Colleges. After 10th standard, students join these junior colleges where they do their 11th and 12th grades. In the summer of ‘97, I too joined one such Junior College. The Chairman looked scary and had a flair for expletives. He poached upon four lecturers from a nearby JC and used them to run his JC. BR and RP taught mathematics while BP and VK handled Physics and Chemistry respectively. In addition to teaching, each one was in-charge of a branch. Most JCs had many branches. All they needed was half-a-dozen rooms to start one.  
Among the four, BP was unforgettably bizarre. He wasn’t a great teacher. That was not a problem to us since good teachers, like good students, are a rare commodity. The problem was that he had an unshaken belief that he is an amazing teacher. He would announce his arrival mostly with his abdomen and sometimes with a raucous laughter. He looked as if Vikku Vinayakram buttoned up his shirt with his instrument. A tragicomedy in a state of perpetual motion, we often wondered why no external force was ever applied to disturb his inertia. He fancied himself to be a very engaging teacher and was convinced that his antics would etch the laws of motion forever in our memory. No one mustered courage to tell them that at his best he was plain irritating and at his worst he was self-derisive.
“When you throw a ball”, he would cry, enact and expect us turn our heads to follow the trajectory of the imaginary ball. Ninety percent of the class wouldn’t even bat an eyelid and look at him with a straight face. The rest threw themselves into slumber. Over the next two  years, with two hands, he threw projectiles, lifted weights, dropped masses, accelerated at 9.8 m/s2  , reflected light, refracted rays, heated rods, compressed gases, located centers of masses and gravity, propagated waves, transmitted electricity, inducted magnetism and his histrionics reached acme when he demonstrated dual nature of light. His pantomime had all the ingredients except silence. It was 1998. A good seven years before the Andhra Pradesh State Human Rights Commission would be constituted by the Government of Andhra Pradesh vide GO Ms No. 355, dated 11.08.2005 (General Administration (HRC) Dept.,) as per the provisions laid under Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.  And BP took the maximum advantage of its absence.
His confidence never waned. His energy never sapped. His voice never mellowed. His jokes never improved. Some of us visited the adjacent Hospital for Mental Health at Erragadda to enquire if they had any preventive medicines / therapies to check mental degeneration amidst such daily doses of planned persecution. They did not meet with any success but one of them claimed to have seen BP’s name in the register that had list of escapees. Though, that increased our fears, we decided to dismiss it as a hallucination borne out of his constant remembrance.  
Those days, unable to bear the misery, I used to bunk the post-lunch classes. The modus operandi was simple. We would confidently walk out of the main gate pretending to get a refill for my pen. Once outside, we would walk to the end of the wall from where my friends would toss my bag over the wall. The rest of the afternoon would be spent at peace in some cinema theater.
During one such escapade, BP spotted us strolling at a street near our college. We got terribly scared. He made us walk back and took us to BR, who was in-charge of our branch. BP explained the whole incident with extreme dramatics.  He would roll his eyes to explain how he spotted us. He would clutch his palms to show how he caught us. He would oscillate his elbows in simple harmonic motion to demonstrate how we tried to run away. Then, there was an encore of the whole performance in every class he took in the post-lunch session that day. The rest of college was thankful to us for causing the only entertaining class of BP ever, while we suffered countless brutal blows with a broken branch of tree. BP continued to showcase the whole episode as an act of immense gallantry. To make the incident more dramatic and thereby raise his heroics, he began to report that we jumped over the wall and were running while he chased us in his car and caught us. That hurt us. We were honorable brats who walked out though the main gate and when caught respectfully walked back. But we couldn’t do much about our character besmirch. I later learnt that, year after year, BP continued to narrate his concocted heroics to every batch of students and finally stopped only when he learnt how the forest brigand Veerappan was nabbed.
Though we cursed him then, we now realize that his contribution to our lives was sizable. The continuous exposure to his daily melodrama had unconsciously strengthened our endurance levels. After those two years, be it university or workplace, India or abroad, none of us found any human being intolerable. Shailendra, who is now a senior software engineer, chuckles “In my very first meeting I laughed so approvingly at my boss’ PPJs (Pathetic PJs) that I got promoted thrice in the next two years. Thanks to BP, while my colleagues struggle to conceal their irritation, I spontaneously break into laughter which makes my boss feel that he is a reincarnation of Chaplain.”
Not just at work, BP’s classes have filled marital lives with pure bliss. Gokul, who is married over two years, chokes with gratitude when he remembers BP. “Thanks to his classes, these days I can effortlessly display poise when my wife animatedly describes for over two hours the saree of her choice. I can even pretend to be naturally excited when she describes the design as a mix of light periwinkle and peachy pink with prints of alternating strokes of honeydew green and cantaloupe orange.
Hail BP!!!