You Ought To Knock- A Story

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“Dumbass! How could you behave like that? It’s a basic manner that before entering you must knock if the door is closed.”

“I know, but I was perplexed by the day’s events. The mind was rumbling from the same thoughts like how could they say to me this? How could they have such misunderstanding? And thinking all this along the way to the tuition, I opened the wrong door and encountered the woman, busy in changing clothes…My God! She screamed like she saw a demon”

You must be thinking how could this happen? What were the events that confused this teacher? Let me tell you about this character.

Mr. Pathak was my colleague in the college. He taught English, and I, Maths. As I was in learning phase, I didn’t know much English then, I made him my close friend to get some knowledge out of the discussions.

Mr. Pathak was a brilliant man but way too shy and confused while talking with girls. Some psychologists will agree that it’s common in young men. But when Mr. Pathak started lectures on John Keats’ La Bella Dame Sans Merci or Thomas Carew’s True Beauty, it was amazing to see how beautifully he explained the “the lady in the meads” or ” the rosy cheeks and coral lips”. It was not the same when he had to face a real girl. God knows only why and where his confidence used to fly away then. And a particular trait of his personality was that he took everything damn serious, like if someone said something bad to him, he would think of it for ages. How could he say this to me? How could he think so? In fact, he couldn’t avoid the weird incidents of daily life easily.

His father was also a teacher and it is a universal fact that teachers are extra-cautious about society and the honor it gives, and they carry this burden of extra-sociality till they die.

Mr. Pathak got the chance to get a proper training in teaching so that he could apply in government schools and colleges. It was necessary for the career also, because we taught in a private college where salary was low and workload was high. Who doesn’t want a secure life?

So, Mr. Pathak left the college and went to complete the training. The training institute was on twenty miles distance and he used to travel this distance by bus. On the very first day, he got company of two girls. Yes, two girls, who were going to the same institute. Both were sisters. It was the girls who approached him seeing the same backpack, otherwise Mr. Pathak was brave enough to spend all the semesters going alone.

So, they became friends. He came to know that the girls were from the same town, their home was in the Old Market while Mr. Pathak lived in New Market. Their father was manager in a bank and he knew Mr. Pathak’s father well. The friendship strengthened and he started going to their home also. He did their assignments, filled proxy attendances, helped in every way as he could. All this was for the younger girl specially, because he came to know that the elder one was going to get married soon.

You must be thinking whether Mr. Pathak really got something out of this loyalty. Let’s proceed to know.

After six months, the elder sister got married. Mr. Pathak served Paneer also in her marriage. Look, friendship is friendship after all and when it is with girls it becomes much of a matter of responsibility. He couldn’t propose the younger sister yet. After marriage, the elder one went with her husband and the younger one rarely went to the institute in those days. Mr. Pathak was regular as he had no pretense to avoid. One day, the class teacher announced that there would be a conference on the day after tomorrow as some guest lecturer was coming and therefore, all the trainees should be present. This was news and Mr. Pathak was bound to deliver it to the girls.

While coming back he met a gentleman in the bus who was a government employee and was preparing for civil services. When he came to know that Mr. Pathak teaches English, he said that he needed coaching in preparing for CSAT (Civil Service Aptitude Test) as he was weak in English. Mr. Pathak agreed as he was free in the evening. The matter got fixed up. He had to go now to his apartment tomorrow at 6 O’clock.

The gentleman lived alone, just for the study purpose, but other employees there, in the building, were usually with family. The building consisted separate 1bhk, 2bhk rooms. His room was at the end of the gallery on second floor. He explained the location, took Mr. Pathak’s number, and went off.

Mr. Pathak came home. He was happy because he got two opportunities today. One, the excuse to talk with Surabhi, the younger sister, and the second, a tuition. He dialed the number, but Surabhi’s phone was switched off. He tried on another number, but that too was switched off. He decided to call the elder one, Sushma, who was with her husband at his home. The bell kept ringing, she didn’t pick up and he kept dialing. On the seventh ring, she picked up and he gave her the information. Mr. Pathak felt that she was some nervous on phone while talking, but he couldn’t guess why.

In fact, the reason of her hesitation was the presence of her husband. He asked her, ” Who is this Pathak? Why is he calling you?” You can guess, the bond of trust was not mature and strong yet between the just married couple. She told him that he is a boy from her college and he was just giving some important information. But the husband was a real scamp. He called his father-in-law and told him about this incident. Her father thought that Mr. Pathak might ruin her daughter’s marriage so he called his father and told, ” tell your son not to call Sushma, she is with her husband and in-laws now”. Mr. Pathak got a tough look from his father and tried to explain the things but it was of no use. It hurt Mr. Pathak.

In the morning, when he was going to take the bus. Sushma’s father met him on the way. He said, “please don’t call Sushma, take my number, you can call me if you have to give any information.” Mr. Pathak tried to explain, but he didn’t seem getting anything and went on blabbering. Mr. Pathak was puzzled now. The humiliation was making him restless. He thought he didn’t do any wrong, he was just trying to help. Somehow, he finished the time in institute, came home, and was preparing to leave for the tuition that was fixed up yesterday. He was on his way, just then the phone rang. It was Surabhi’s call, Mr. Pathak’s crush. He picked up the phone and as she said about the same thing, Mr. Pathak blurted out-

“Hell with you people! I just tried to help. Just wanna give the information but your damn phone was switched off, so I called her, your elder sister. And I don’t know how it became so inappropriate. Hell!! Don’t call me ever. Get lost!”

He went to his tuition in the same rage and forgot the location of the door. He pressed the first door in the gallery and it opened at once. It was not locked from inside. There was a woman busy in changing clothes. When she saw him, she screamed-

“Who the hell are you? You should knock at least. Who are you??”

And Mr. Pathak stammered, “No, no,no, I didn’t saw a thing. I am sorry. I am sorry.”

Right then the employee came out of his room and told the lady that Mr. Pathak was here for him, and he was mistaken as it was the first time he came in the building. Thus, he saved him from further embarrassment.

He couldn’t teach that day. He said to the gentleman that they should start from tomorrow as he was not feeling good.

He needed to talk this with someone, so he called me and we met at a tea-stall where he narrated the story. In the end, he said-

“But the woman should have locked the door from inside. She too was equally responsible.”

“No, you ought to knock.”

~Ravi

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