Tuesday, June 05, 2007

How the World Changes

In the lab that we work in, we have a former lab assistant who is commonly known as Mishraji. Mishraji has already retired and yet, he comes to office each day and it is immensely difficult to imagine how the office would be run without him. And despite his age, he is amazingly fit and lively.

Another amazing thing about him is his sense of humor. You cannot but keep laughing at his quips and jokes as you work in the lab. Today Mishraji told us another of his stories of the time gone by.

During the sixties, IIT Kanpur had a professor named VJ Patel. Apart from being very intelligent, Dr Patel had an integrity of character that was appreciated by everyone. Mishraji narrated one such incident to us today.

One fine day the director of that time issued a circular stating that all daily wage workers have to come to the institute by the first bus and leave by the last. The intention was that professors and other staff should not be ‘inconvenienced’ by travelling with the daily wage workers. So, on the day that the circular is implemented, Dr Patel comes to his office at 8 (he had a class) and finds a daily wage worker sitting nearby. Surprised, he enquired as to why this guy was there at 8 even though his duty started at 9. The worker told him about the whole situation. He had actually come to campus at 7:30 and would not have reached home for another 14 hours. And of course, the institute was paying him only for 8 hours besides everything else.

Dr Patel was quite peeved at the entire affair. That afternoon, he took the bus to the city. Some workers who did not think the circular was serious came but the conductor did not let them board. The bus moved and reached the crossing at IIT gate. (For those who have seen IITK, this is not the current IIT gate but the old one). Dr Patel got up and forced the driver to stop the bus on the railway tracks. He got off and stood in front of the bus and said

“Soon the train will come and we’ll have two buses. Then one can be used by the daily wage workers and one by the professors.”

People realized that something was wrong. They prayed him to get back into the bus but Dr Patel said that if the bus moved without the workers it would have to move over his body. When he did not relent even after repeated requests, the bus had to go back pick the workers up and only then could it go to the city.

The next day, the circular was repealed by the Director.

It is amazing how in a campus where there was so much respect for the dignity of working class, a time has come when we cannot even ensure minimum wages for them. How the world changes!

As narrated by Mishraji.


  1. The world is truly shrinking!(coz we can communicate across the globe)
    The shrink is evident in the heart and soul.(coz we forget to communicate with ourselves)

    Good to have such a post.......:)

  2. Blood is generally thicker than water, but modern life has made us all a bit aneamic!