<--Added on 8/22/08 for migration to TPB -->
Freak encounters - I
There are some things in life which happen in completely arbitrary fashion taking you by surprise. Random probabilistic quirks that you least expect.
Like this event during my college days: we had two days left to pay our semester fees. We leisurely turned up at the Accounts Section and found a serpentine queue of around 75 students jostling and shoving. Almost each of them held a bunch of 4-5 invoices, to pay on behalf of their friends. About 150 others gathered in groups and chatted, waiting for their proxies in the queue to finish their job. Noticing 2 of my classmates at supposedly the business end of the queue(the counter had not yet opened), I handed over my invoice and cash to them and joined the rest of my classmates for idle talk. Just then, a peon opened the counter at the other end - all the chaps at the tail of the queue gleefully made an about-turn! The whole area burst into laughter as the early birds acknowledged defeat and left the scene, returning the invoices and money to their friends.
The next day being the deadline, I braced myself for a torturous wait in the queue - had a heavy breakfast and went to the Accounts Section in the interval, intending to skip the rest of the classes. Several others joined the queue and within 5 minutes I found myself right in the middle. I comforted myself with the thought that no matter which end they opened the counter, my position wouldn't matter. Soon the clerk got down to business at the front end. 2 minutes later, a peon opened a counter around the middle and split the line in two, catapulting me to the front of the new queue! Hehe, I triumphantly finished the task in a jiffy but bunked the rest the day anyway! :)
A more sinister situation happened in my schooldays. Those were the days when private tutoring had an air of taboo to it. People not comfortable with the concept avoided it. However, seeing the number of my classmates signing up, my parents pushed a protesting me to a professor's classes. He wasn't the batch-tutor kind, he used to seat a bunch of students around him and monitor them individually. It was a good method but not productive monetarily. While the batch-tutors roped in the big bucks, this prof stuck to his convictions, although at times he would show some resentment against his successful peers in the market by launching a tirade against their methods. He was a great guy to be with for what touched his heart loosed his tongue. Giving us problems to solve, he would pore through Junior Vikatan, air his political views, dissect the policies of the government, the municipality, city planners, the railways, the bus routes, traffic, KG admissions. Pretty much every institution got under his skin. Very sharp guy - one day he'd seen my dad talking to his friend's son(a senior) somewhere. 'If I am correct, the boy used to live in XYZ Street in 1985 when he came to my classes. His dad works in so-and-so company. Bright chap, but he had some wrong attitudes', he said. The senior corroborated the story when I asked him.
On another occasion, he showed us an interesting problem from a college text to extol the uses of probability. The chance of finding a girl with a sound education is 0.25, handsome dowry is 0.20, western manners and etiquette is 0.15. What is the probability of a prospective bride possessing all the three qualities? He didn't realise that the answer, next to nothing, had nothing to do with Probability Theory and could be guessed by any simpleton. 'Namma class edutha answer kandippa .9 aachum varum da!', my classmate whispered in argument. But the worst was Sunday mornings - the one-hour class at 9 would stretch to noon as he would throw at us problem after problem(textbook exercises over) from the Manickavasagom Pillai Calculus text which universities used since the days of our forefathers. "What will you fellows do at home anyway, enna kaetta Sunday should be a working day - no home does anything productive Sunday mornings!", he'd say. But to his credit, he had given us a robust foundation in Calculus and Trig - I'd sit in his class with a blank mind, one half of which would unconsciously pulverize a problem step by step, hand moving over the paper, while the other half would dwell upon more invigorating stuff like inter-house matches and plans for the weekend chitchats.
I and a friend attended his classes for a year. The next year my friend decided to switch to a batch-tutor who lived nearby. Not having the courage, he told our prof. that he was shifting home 30 miles away. Prof wasn't so gullible but let him go. The latter lay low in the neighborhood for a few months. I had no option but to abet my pal in the story as I was still stuck with him.
Days went smoothly. One Saturday I was at my tutor's place working out problems as he went outside. I could overhear the conversation between him and a prospective student:
-"Sir, I need tutoring for X std. Can I join you on Monday?"
-"What does your father do?"
-"Works for Central Excise. Got transferred out of town recently."
-"Where do you live?"
And this kid had mentioned the very area that my absconding friend lived! I completely freaked out when my tutor asked him to come on Monday as it was only be a matter of time before the lie got exposed.
I racked my brain for a solution. I had no idea who the guy was or his name. I needed to stop him from joining the tuition or tell him not to reveal that my friend lives next door! Several months back I had played cricket with boys from this locality and this chap's voice sounded like one I had heard during the games. I made up my mind to scoot out this guy in 24 hours and avert the impending situation.
-to be continued-