Master of English, Jack of all

Master of English, Jack of all

Over the years, our professions become our identities. Though I am a college professor, my father fondly calls me “Masterji”. I derive a sense of utmost delight over this honorific expression. After all, ‘Masterji’ stands for the intellectual competence of a man. And though I can’t speak for other Masterji-s, to be a ‘Masterji’ in English comes with its own trials and baggage.

In our society, doctors are not morally allowed to switch off their phones for even a second. Even in the dead of the night, they may be called if a patient is critical and in need of immediate care. And while I may not be in the profession of medicine, I still have to take many distress calls. Unlike teachers of Maths, History, Science etc, English teachers are always dragged into a host of unwanted tasks at the workplace. Drafting official letters, writing college or school reports, scribbling material for the annual prospectus and some highly monotonous proof readings are a part and parcel of our jobs.

Teaching is my bounden duty but the rest are “bounded duties” I always take with a furrowed face. Even outside college, I have to bear the blues of being an English Masterji. A lady who lives in our street, often comes with tricky grammar exercises assigned to her son by this modern English medium school. Having cordial relations with her family, I have to lend a helping hand every time she approaches me (and grumble a lot later).

Some retired friends of my father exercise their own rights and direct me to draft official letters for their pension enhancement or for claiming their other post-retirement benefits. Further, being a bachelor, though I don’t have any first-hand experience in marital matters, many a groom and bride have sought my services in getting their wedding cards written in an ornate fashion. 

Recently, a distant cousin dropped by our home with a nettlesome request. She thrust upon me the job of making her son, who had just completed his matriculation examination, proficient in spoken English during the vacations; as if English were a commodity and I were its seller. Referring to my ill-health, I somehow warded off her blandishments.

The other day, while answering the call of nature, I had to attend a call from an unknown number. As that person was barraging me with relentless calls, I assumed that it was a serious matter and received it right there in the washroom. From the other side, a jittery voice spoke, “Hello sir, what will be the passive voice for ‘Radha is cooking food in her kitchen?’” When I enquired about the identity of the caller, she said, “Sir, I have no time to give you the details. My English exam is on and I have come out of the examination hall on the pretext of using the washroom only to know the correct answer from you.”

Laughing, I replied, “Sorry dear, I cannot give you the answer right now as I too am in the washroom,” and disconnected the call.