The School Inspection

The team entered the premises at 7:45 am sharp and made their way to the head’s office.

Clearing his throat, “Ahem, Mr Upadhyay?”

(Quotation marks will be abandoned from now on)

Good morning, but you catch me by surprise. You know my name. But I don’t know yours.

We will come to that in good time, but first we need some clarifications.

Clarifications? What about? And who may you be, to ask for clarifications?

Like I said, all will be revealed in due course. For the present, Mrs Abha Talwar, Mr Gupta and I, Sincere Johnson, will do the questioning.

Thank you for your names. You are welcome. But I still don’t now who you are. May I have some identification?

(Aside), IyerJi, please note that down. The suspect is being difficult.

Yes sir.

My dear Mr Upadhyay, your uncooperative attitude does not do credit to the head of an important institution and moreover, one run by public funds. However I must now inform you that we intend to record these proceedings. Mr Rajanna, please bring your team in. And you may start recording.

This, this is outrageous. Who are you? What is this TV team doing here? Are you from the press or TV? How did you enter the school? And what am I suspected of?

IyerJi, please keep noting down. The suspect is uncooperative and defiant.

Calm down Mr Upadhyay. We have been appointed by the secular opposition to examine some unseemly goings on in this school, reports of which have caused concern in certain quarters. We have learnt that attempts are being made to thrust religious education down unsuspecting children’s throats. My dear sir, in case you didn’t know, we are a secular nation.

But where, who has complained? We certainly do not force religious education on anyone. In fact there is no religious education in our syllabus at all.

Oh indeed, Mr Upadhay. And dissimulation too now? IyerJi, noted?

Yes sir.

GuptaJi, what do you think?

Johnson sahib, this is getting interesting. I can see that he is sweating already. A racing pulse, heavy breathing, the sure signs of a cornered man.He is guilty as hell. But don’t let me interrupt you.You may proceed, Mr Johnson.

Mr Upadhyay, for the record, please state your name.

Janardhan Upadhyay.

Upadhyay, hey? Interesting. Are you a Brahmin by any chance?

Yes, sir.

Thought so. These people are everywhere. Corrupting youth, eating at the vitals of the nation, undermining secularism.

I have never undermined secularism in any manner whatsoever.

Mr Upadhay, you will speak when spoken to. IyerJi, please note that the suspect immediately started making excuses and spoke without permission, just when I was about to make an important deduction.

Upadhyay, you are beginning to test my patience. I will have no interruptions. Is that clear?

Yes sir.

Am I understood?

Yes sir.

OK, we will now proceed.

May I come in sir?

May I come in sir?

May I come in sir?

What kind of school do you run, Upadhyay? An important meeting in progress and some youngster has the temerity to walk into the principal’s office. Who are you?

Prashant Bannerjee, sir.

And what is Prashant Bannerjee?

School Head Boy.

Oh I see. And Bannerjee, what are you?

School Head Boy sir.

I know that already, you nitwit. What’s your caste?

I don’t know sir.

Note down IyerJi, Brahmin, but pretends not to know.

What’s your fathers’s name?

Nilamoni Bannerjee.

What does he do?

He’s HOD Chemical Engg at IIT XXX.

And your mother?

Mumtaz Bannerjee.

Strange name for a Brahmin’s wife. What is she?

She is HOD Sociology at XYZ University.

What was her maiden name?

Mumtaz Sheikh.

Oh I see. What do you want to see the principal for?

To tell him that the assembly is ready for the morning prayer.

Interesting. You may go now.

Upadhyay, why have you made this boy the Head Boy? Because his father is a Brahmin, just as you are? I am sure you could have found a Dalit, Christian or even Muslim boy for the role. After all, what does a Head Boy do that others cannot?

Sir, he is the best at academics and also captains the school’s football team.

That he should be good at academics is not surprising. After all, both his parents are teachers. Give others the same opportunities and they would do as well. But making him the football team captain sounds a bit too much.

No sir, he was the top scorer on the inter-school competition. So we thought that since he excelled in both academics and sport, that he should be Head Boy.

And sir…

Yes.

He is not a Brahmin.

What do you mean?

His mother is Muslim by birth and according to the Manusmriti, it is the mother’s caste that counts. We all know the story of Jabala Satyakama.

OK, OK, don’t teach me the Manusmriti now. You seem to be a thoroughgoing Manuwadi.

No sir, I was just pointing out that technically Prashanth cannot be a Brahmin.

No excuses Upadhyay, we know what you are. Take us in to assembly and let us see the school.

This is our assembly. All the students line up and then we have an address by one of the teachers on moral values. Then we read the news headlines and thereafter sing the school prayer.

Aha! What might that be?

You know it. “Om Asato Ma Sadgamaya, Tamaso Ma ….”

Stop right there. We knew it. Mrs Talwar, what do you say?

Mr Johnson, I think it is quite clear that there is subtle indoctrination taking place in this school. This is a very serious matter indeed. We need to report this to the High Command. Don’t you think, Mr Johnson?”

Absolutely Mrs Talwar. Something sinister is going on here. Look here Upadhyaya. Do you know that we can have you arrested right here for suborning young minds and…

But, but but…what am I being accused of? What have I done?

IyerJi, please note down. The suspect pleads innocence when evidence of his infamy is clear to all. Upadhyay, how did you think you could get away with this?

I don’t understand. What have I done? What…?

Upadhyay, stop playing the fool. You have been caught red-handed and will face justice.

What, what have I done? Please tell me. Dont keep me in suspense.

Give us a minute…. Upadhyay, do you have a spare room where we can discuss your case?

Yes, but..

But me no buts, Upadhyay, just show us the room.

There the second on the left behind us in the left corridor.

Mrs Talwar, GuptaJi, IyerJi, shall we?

Yes, yes, yes, let’s move.

OK, meanwhile Mr Rajanna, please continue video recording. Let us find out what they do in this assembly. We need hard evidence.

Yes, Mr Johnson.

OK, GuptaJi, Mrs Talwar, I think we already have a great deal of evidence, what with the composition of the staff and all that plus the school prayer.

Yes, absolutely, Mr Johnson. And that head boy too. I say wind up right now.

No, no, Mrs Talwar, these people are very clever. We need to block all loopholes, lest he get away. I suggest we subject him to some more interrogation, especially about the choice of school prayer. Let’s get him.

OK Mr Upadhyay, I hope you have had some time to reflect on what you have been doing here.

I still don’t understand.

That will not work anymore. Pull off the mask of innocence. Now tell me why you chose that school prayer?

Om asato ma sadgamaya?

Yes that.

Sir, it says, lead us from untruth to truth, from darkness to light, from death to immortality…what can be wrong with that?

Very subtle and clever, isn’t he, GuptaJi.

Yes, trying to divert us. What is the first word of the prayer?

It is Om.

So, what is Om?

It refers to the cosmic sound…the primordial source of life..

Ha! Cosmic sound indeed. What do you mean by spouting all this nonsense and worse corrupting young minds. Mind you we have a secular education system. What is your subject anyway?

I teach physics.

Oh, we have a physicist here, do we? What frequency is Om? Does it vibrate transversely or longitudinally? Aren’t you ashamed of yourself as a scientist to teach young kids all this nonsense, that too at the beginning of the school day. Think of the effect on their young minds. Mrs Talwar, as an educationist, what do you think?

Absolutely horrendous. The sooner we put an end to this the better. We need to fumigate this school. I have a new principal in mind.

Hold on, Mrs Talwar, let’s get the job done properly. OK Upadhyay, we’ll give you one last chance. Explain the prayer.

Sir, it just says lead us from darkness to light, from death to immortality and peace to all.

That seals it. You missed the last Om. Trying to mislead us. And where is it from?

It’s called the Pavamana Mantra and its from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.

Aha! You have convicted yourself, Upadhyay. I think that it is very clear that this person here has been using the school to indoctrinate young minds in pernicious philosophies, subtly Hinduizing these innocent and pure children. Thank God, we got the information in time, before he could do further damage. Call in the enforcement team. Here, Mr Kamble, you can take him.

Mrs Talwar and gentlemen, I think congratulations are in order. We can take some satisfaction from a job well done.

Yes, yes, Mr Johnson. But there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Yes, but we have the will and the energy. They shall not pass. “Il ne passeront pas.”