The History Teacher
New Delhi, India
Dhananjay Trivedi hurried along, casting nervous glances around him as he walked. A deep, dark fear seemed to engulf his very soul. And he didn’t understand it. Dhananjay was a history teacher in a reputed school in New Delhi. A gold medallist from Allahabhad University, the world of academia had been waiting to welcome him with open arms. He had surprised many when he became a teacher. He loved his job and more importantly, his students at school loved him. There was hardly a student who wouldn’t gush about Dhananjay’s classes, which were known to be fun. He was a wonderful guide, walking his students through the trails of history with stories that kept them mesmerized in class. Dhananjay’s strategy was simple.
He believed that if his students enjoyed studying history, they would be more attentive, more curious and learn more. Some of the other teachers would grumble about how devoted the students were to Dhananjay. It was almost as if he cast a spell upon them from the moment he walked into the classroom. What no one knew, was that the much-adored history teacher had a secret of his own. It was this very secret that had led to the encounter today, which had left him in his present state of disquiet.
It had started innocuously enough, with a young man approaching Trivedi as he stepped outside the school gate. The youth seemed to be in his late teens; defi nitely not more than nineteen or twenty. ‘Good afternoon, sir,’ he had greeted Trivedi with a disarming smile.‘I am Vishwaraj.’ His voice had then lowered conspiratorially.‘Can I please have a word with you?’ Trivedi had recognized the name. He had heard of it before. The young man was a member of the Gana. Trivedi’s curiosity had mounted.
What could the young man want from him?
Without further ado, Vishwaraj had drawn him aside. His words were brief and to the point. Trivedi listened, astounded at what Vishwaraj had to say.
‘So, you see, sir,’ Vishwaraj concluded in the soft tones that he had adopted at the start of the conversation,‘I know that the boy is alive. And I want to know where he is. You will tell me or pay the price.’ Trivedi appraised the young man in front of him. This was an unforeseen development. A member of the Gana gone rogue. He couldn’t fathom what Vishwaraj’s intentions or motives were but he knew that the Sangha didn’t know about Vishwaraj’s apostasy. But there was nothing he could do for now. The Sangha would have to decide how to deal with this situation.
‘I don’t have to tell you anything,’ he scoff ed. ‘Your words are an empty threat. If you try anything, you will find yourself in deep trouble. And you know it.’ He paused, then added, ‘In any case, I have no idea what you are talking about.’ Vishwaraj said nothing. His youthful face was hard as his eyes bored into the schoolmaster. Suddenly, Trivedi felt a nameless fear in the depths of his heart. Despite his casual dismissal of the youth, he felt there was something that he was missing. Something that was gnawing at his subconscious mind, but wouldn’t come out into the open. He turned away. This meeting was over. But one thought ran through his mind repeatedly as he made his way home.
How did Vishwaraj know about the boy?
As he stood outside his apartment and fumbled with the keys to the front door, his mind raced with possibilities. This incident could not go unreported. Especially since it concerned the boy. He opened the iron grill door, then unlocked the inner, wooden door and stepped in, locking both doors from the inside. For a few moments, he leaned against a wall, breathing hard. He still couldn’t understand his own anxiety. Vishwaraj was just a powerless youth, incapable of delivering on his threat. So why had the brief conversation with the boy unnerved him?
He whipped out his mobile phone and dialled a number. As the call connected, he began speaking rapidly, describing what had just happened. His breathing slowed as the person on the other end of the line seemed to off er him words of assurance, calming him down. By the time the conversation was over, Trivedi had almost recovered his composure. He ended the call and placed his phone on the dining table. That was when it struck him. The reason why he had been feeling uneasy since the encounter with Vishwaraj.
Why hadn’t he seen it earlier?
As the realization dawned, the apartment erupted in flames. The fire was everywhere. It was as if every atom of the fl at had spontaneously ignited at exactly the same moment. Trivedi now knew that he had been wrong about Vishwaraj. He had made a big mistake. And he was going to pay with his life. But that didn’t bother him as much as the fact that it was now too late to tell anyone else. He could only hope that his death would warn the others. The future of the world was at stake.