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A long-forgotten ‘burglary’

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K S S Pillai

During my career as a college teacher spanning over three decades, it is but natural that there would be several memorable incidents. One that I had almost forgotten, but brought back to my memory years later, is that of a ‘burglary’ of my office room. And those who reminded me of it were none other than some of the perpetrators themselves!
Our agriculture university had a rule called ATKT (Allowed to Keep Term) that allowed a student who failed in a limited number of subjects to be promoted to the next semester with the condition that he passed these courses along with the current ones.
There would always be some such students in every class. They would scrape through semester after semester till they passed out of the college. Mostly the wards of affluent farmers, they were expected to join the family business of farming, and not interested in scoring high marks and getting a job. Neither were they eager to remain in the good books of teachers and were the main trouble-makers in the class.
The assessment system included three fifteen-minute quizzes of ten marks each for each course. Once, after announcing a quiz, I had got the required number of question paper cyclostyled in advance. As usual, the bundle of question paper was kept in my steel cupboard and locked. One key to my room was with the peon, who opened it in the morning and closed it in the evening. I had another one.
When I opened the room early in the morning on the day of the quiz, one of the windows was found ajar. As the room was on the top floor, it had no bars and was large enough for anyone to enter or exit through it. I didn’t give it much thought at the time, thinking that the peon might not have closed it properly the previous evening.
However, I got a little suspicious when the lock of the cupboard was found much easier to open than was the usual case. My doubt that someone might have opened the cupboard with a master key was confirmed when the bundle of question papers was found in a disturbed state.
Instead of reporting the matter to the higher authorities, and cancelling the test, I thought it better to deal with the situation differently. Luckily, the examination was scheduled for the afternoon, and there was enough time to draw a new question paper, and get it cyclostyled. I busied myself in the task, and a new set of question paper was soon ready.
When the paper was distributed, I was amused to find a puzzled expression on the face of the ATKT gang and some others close to them. When the answer sheets were assessed, their score was found to be miserable. It appeared they had not bothered to read anything outside the original question paper, and I had drawn a completely different paper.
When we met, they owned the misadventure, apologized profusely, and had a good laugh, remembering how the tables were turned on them that day.
(The author is a retired professor of English. A regular contributor to The Kashmir Vision, he can be contacted at: [email protected])


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