The teacher-student relationship is fraught — not plain fraught, mind you, but laced with dribs and drabs of every conceivable emotion. Sometimes it’s pretty, in that endearing, all’s-well-with-the-world way. At others, it’s charged, delirious with the tension of learning. Occasionally, it plunges into the syrupy waters of romance. It comes with the territory — an eloquent teacher can sound as sweet and inspiring as anything the student ever encountered. The problem begins when the teacher elects to return the affections.
And so, it happened at the CAT coaching institute at which I work. Kenneth sir, a well-known English teacher, is a bit of a rake. At 50, he is years ahead of most of his students who are starry-eyed 20-year-olds with dreams of an IIM education and an eagerness to imbibe, heart and soul, everything taught in class. The CAT classroom, with its raging hormones and faux-academic setting, is a not unseemly place for birthing intense romance.
The girl in question was complaisant, asking for topics to prepare before class and staying back long after to clear doubts. Kenneth sir behaved a little too attentively when she approached him. The line between a teacher’s attention and lover’s affection is thin. Within no time, it was apparent that Kenneth sir reciprocated the student’s feelings. Things developed so fast that within a few weeks she had left home and moved in with him.
The situation turned murky when the girl’s family, understandably, intervened to protect her from a “predatory old b*****”. Nothing much came out of that except a lot of bad publicity for our institute. The law, of course, was on the lovers’ side. But the law does not descant on the machinations and wiles of humanity. In spite of our liberality, everyone at the institute agreed the incident was in extremely poor taste.
Kenneth sir stayed on, but the catcalls grew louder. We heard of parents who did not want to send their girls to our classes any more. Slowly, the management reduced the hours of teaching assigned to Kenneth. As a freelancer, his earnings dipped. He was forced to work for other CAT coaching institutes, an outcome all of us deemed eminently desirable.
In the event, the joining contract for new employees was reworded to forbid any “non-platonic relationship between teacher and student for up to two years after the student has left the institute.” Anything to avoid pointing fingers with “pervs” emblazoned on them.
It is at such times that I relish my status as a member of the sexual minority. I have always explored the quandary of whether or not to feel special about being gay. It’s nothing special, right? I like men just like other men like women. I am not somebody who likes to nurture woolly-headed notions of being special.
However, the question refuses to go away. Being gay is different in many ways, if not special. I live a lot in my mind, like many people of course, but my living in the mind is also a necessity since I don’t often find the right space to negotiate my identity. My hankering for a cerebral life may have something to do with my gayness, as might my preference for a certain category of writers. I feel a deep connection with writers such as Virginia Woolf who are remarkably open to genderless interpretations of romance.
Mrs Dalloway, Woolf’s classic about one day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, is a masterpiece of writing that runs as fast as, if not faster than, the reader’s vivid impressions culled out of Woolf’s exactingly created world. This emerges most gratifyingly in Clarissa’s intense feelings for her romantic interests – both men and women – who come and leave only to return, or, as Woolf herself might say, who “live within her”.
Being gay is a gentle thing that hovers above me and drives my love for language and camp. Would I venture so far as to say that I am lucky to be gay, as some of my militant gay friends claim? I guess so. At heart, being gay is most traumatic. It entails accepting a difference that is too different. Is that too bad? Yes and no. It is mind-opening in a way that defies definition and can paradoxically commit its adherents to a vision of the world that is both bittersweet and breathtakingly transcendental.
Leave aside such lofty matters, though. Gayness bestows heaps of practical benefits too. As we sat discussing the delicate matter of Kenneth sir’s fling the other day, one of the directors joked how he wished all his faculty were gay so that problems of this nature would not crop up. Since I am out (and quite about), he looked at me and laughed. Others joined in. My face pink with embarrassment, I couldn’t help agreeing with him.
The author has switched too many jobs in the past and hopes he can hold down this one