Interview of a Professor with a Student – S. C. Dutta Roy


S. C. Dutta Roy – Former Professor, Dept. of Electrical Engineering

This Professor was a renowned scholar on the subject of Vibrations, and his name and fame spread throughout India and abroad. He was decorated with a lot of Gold Medals. He was awarded Life Fellowship of the world Academy of Sciences and Engineering, Fellowship of all the national and international Academies in Science and Engineering, and a Distinguished Fellowship of the Academy of Mechanical Engineering, India. He had published close to a thousand research papers in professional journals of repute in India and abroad, and was awarded some prestigious national as well as international prizes. The Professor was also well known for his sarcasm, sarcasm mixed with a proper amount of wit and humor. He was a favorite Banquet speaker in all national and international meetings and Conferences, obviously for his sarcasm, wit and humor.

An outgoing student (S) was interviewing this Professor (P) with a microphone and a tape recorder. It runs as follows.

S: Sir, what, in your view, are the interpretations of the letter grades A to H?

P: Well, A stands for ass, B for brainless, C for callous, D for first class, E for extra-ordinary, F for First Class with distinction, and H for Honors.

S: But Sir, D is the minimum passing grade. Do you ever give a grade between B and H?

P: No, I used to, but why, unnecessarily, should I spoil the career of a student?

S: I understand, Sir, that is a very noble gesture on your part. Now, Sir, why do students rush to register for your curse?  In our class, scores of students from outside the Department also attended, and the class strength rose, exponentially, up to 250! Why, Sir?

P: Firstly, because, I give most of them an A or a B grade. Second, they love to hear what they called blabbering and chattering of an old lunatic. Listening to such a completely derailed lunatic becomes a kind of addiction, much stronger than nicotine or alcohol or even drugs.

S: Now Sir, can you please tell me if the Dean of Academics agrees to your concept of grading.

P: No, unfortunately not. He is a brainless creature and carries out only what he is ordered to do.

S: Did you tell the Senate about your style of grading?

P: Yes, I tried utmost to bring my style of grading, but the Senate is composed of people like the Dean. They obey commands of the boss, and do not care about what others think. In fact, the Senate called me a lunatic and threw me out, unceremoniously.

S: Now, Sir, let me change the topic. What, in your life, brings the utmost concentration in research?

P: That’s a good question. I have the highest concentration when my wife is blabbering and chattering in my ears. I do not know what I would have done, and where I would be today, if I remained a bachelor or married to a sweet lady who treated me like a child and sang sweet songs in my ears. In fact, I am what I am today because of my wife.

S: So, Sir, would you advise students to marry a quarrel some girl?

P: No, no, I would advise them to remain strictly bachelors, because, it may not be possible to find such a girl. Also, even if the girl is certified to be quarrelsome, who knows she will not change color after marriage? Women, in general, change colors very easily, like a dragon. It is therefore safe to remain a bachelor.

S: I understand, Sir. Another question: Which innovation of this age do you find most educating?

P: Well, it’s the TV. Whenever my wife tunes to a Hindi serial, I take refuge in my study and work.

S: That’s strange indeed! How about listening to Hindustani Classical Music? Particularly, to the Masters, like Ustad Abdul Karim Khan?

P: Good question. I am indeed fond of listening to the Ustadji.

So saying, the Professor brought out an old record of Khan Saheb, which had a collection of Thumris, and put it in a very old record player, perhaps belonging to the first edition of the HMV Company. The Professor turned the player on with maximum volume. The crackling sound was eardrum piercing, and the Ustadji’s voice was completely drowned in the noise. The Professor sat in his easy chair, with closed eyes, and from his expressions, one could easily see that he was enjoying. The Student came out of the room, quietly, and waited outside, till the record stopped. He quietly stepped in, and found the Professor in the same position, as if in deep meditation. He waited, till the Professor opened his eyes with a smile, and said:

P: I see that you enjoyed the music.

S: On the contrary, Sir. Please forgive me, Sir, but how do you stand this ear-piercing sound?

P: Did you forget that I am a living DSP? The so-called noise produced by such records are almost white, but with a pattern. I analyze the spectrum in my mind, filter out the undesired frequencies by an efficient FIR filter, and then I listen to the output, which consists of pure notes only. It is beautiful music -pure, serene, and very pleasing.

S: Frankly speaking, Sir, I do not understand the process.

P: That’s because your ears are not trained to this type of sounds. Or, may be, your filter is of the IIR type, which, most of the time, is unstable, even going to dead beat, once in a while. Would you like to get a few lessons from me? Then, you have to come to me in the early morning, before sunrise.

S: God save me, Sir. I have only a passing interest in classical music. Another topic, Sir. I know that you do not recommend any student going abroad. Why, Sir? Isn’t that unfair?

P: Not at all. I pity your ignorance. You are right in saying that I don’t recommend anyone going abroad, particularly to USA.

S: Why, Sir? Why are you particularly biased against USA?

P: Because USA stands for Unpolluted Stinking America.

S: Why and how does it stink, Sir?

P: You don’t know even this elementary fact? Tell me, how do you clean yourself after toilet?

S: Of course, with a spray of water, Sir, as everyone does.

P: What do the Americans do, do you know?

S: I have heard that they use paper, instead of water. What’s wrong with it, Sir?

P: That’s the problem with you, you liar. You do understand but you pose as if you don’t. Don’t you understand that that is the reason for unpolluted stink? Further, they usually don’t brush their teeth, like we do after every meal. As a result, their mouths smell like rotten fish. They hide the smell by chewing gums and using perfumes. How repelling!

S: Ok, Sir, I knew only a little about these awfully bad habits earlier, but with your clear explanation, things are crystal clear to me. Now Sir, may I ask you why you do not recommend any student to go for teaching and research?

P: Don’t you see me? What a wretched condition I am in? I have wasted my whole life in this worthless profession. I live a poor life, in a single room. True, I have a car, but this is a vintage one. My mechanic, who used to work in my Lab as a Technician, is very efficient, and he keeps it running, although every part if makes horrible sound, except the horn. When I asked the mechanic to repair the horn, he said, “You don’t need it anyway, Sir. ‘’

S: Why do you live in a single room? This house is palatial. I see a new Mercedes Benz car parked in the compound. Your drawing room has all the modern amenities, like TV with a large planar screen fitted on the wall, a modern Sony Sound System with Bose Speakers, a latest desktop computer, with a printer, a laptop, several mobile phones, a few beautiful sofa sets, wall paintings by famous artists, and so on. Why do you live in such a poor state?

P: Whatever you see in this house belongs to my wife, thanks to her parents. She has kindly allowed me to have this room, and brings food 4 times a day regularly. She stands at the door and orders me to eat this or that or asks me if she should bring a little more of the dish I appear to have liked. I sometimes do tell her I liked this or that. When she is gone to bring the extra serving, I get rid of the food that I don’t like in the trash bin. She comes and says, “What a good boy you are! You have finished the tray! Very good, very good.’’  And, after the food is over, she leaves with the tray. Before she leaves, I have to say, routinely, ‘’How lucky am I to have a wife who cooks so well and feeds me like her own child! How would I have survived if you were not my life companion?’’ This has been going on for years.

S: You could at least have a good computer, with a good Printer, for your professional work, and a mobile phone for contacting people. Why can’t you afford even these small amenities?

P: You see, I live on my pension only, and the Income tax takes away a lot of it.

S: Sir, immediately after retirement, you must have received a large amount of money as benefits. Why couldn’t you afford even these small amenities of professional life?

P: My dear student, you seem to be really brainless. All this money has been gulped by my sons, sons-in-law, daughters, daughters-in-law, and their children, on one excuse or other. I am not left with anything of that money. I could not refuse anyone for fear of my wife, who may get angry and throw me out of the house. Then I will be literally on the street.

S: Sir, let us change the topic. Sir, why do you advise your students to go for IAS. Isn’t that a waste of talents?

P: On the contrary, it is a real beneficial use of talents. IAS really should be IAPS, i.e. Indian Administrative Pay Service. Not only they are paid high salaries, but also a lot of perks and benefits. There is a huge amount of ‘’upri’’s, if you know what I mean. What else does one wish to have in life?

S: Sir, now some personal questions. Sir, do you drink?

P: Yes, of course, who can live life without drinking?

S: You mean water, Sir?

P: I don’t know what to do with you. I mean hard drink, you idiot.

S: Hard drinks, Sir? But that is harmful to health, as is written even in their labels!

P: That’s the reason why more and more men take to drinks. People have a natural affinity to the forbidden things. Don’t you know?

S: What are these, Sir?

P: When will you grow up, your innocent soul? These are wine, women and wickedness. You can do without the latter two, but not the former.

S: Ok, Sir. So, you like wine.

P: Yes, of course, everyone does, but my problem is that I have to drink gallons of wine to get into a philosophical mood.

S: Sir, do you like beer?

P: No, I don’t like it at all.

S: Why, Sir? Many people like it.

P: Because I have never tasted it. Ha, ha, ha….

This was the first time that the great Professor laughed. The students also joined him.

S: So, which hard drink is your favorite?

P: It is whisky, of course. But not of all labels. It is whisky sour, which I became fond of, when I was teaching at the University of Colorado.

S: Do all the people of Colorado like whisky sour?

P: No, most of them drink beer. Those who have a better view of life drink Whisky on the rocks and get drunk even with a small peg of it.

S: What about whisky sour? Don’t some people at least drink whisky sour?

P: You bet, only a handful of them. In my faculty, only the Head, his PA Judy, and Steve Menolokis of Control systems, liked it.

S: So, Sir, do you know how to make it? I mean, whisky sour?

P: Yes, of course, I know. Would you like to taste a little of it?

S: Not a bad idea, Sir. Of course, if you permit.

P: Give me one minute, lad.

After saying that, the Professor got up from his chair, went to his bookshelf, brought out a bottle of black label whisky, a small bottle of sour mix, and two glasses – one small, and the other disproportionately large. He poured a small amount in the small glass, and a large amount in the big glass. He then took the sour mix bottle and poured in a measuring glass very slowly, up to a certain mark, and stopped. He then carefully mixed the drink with a stirrer and poured it in the small glass. Next, he did the same in the big glass, with a large dose of whisky, and poured a carefully measured quantity of sour mix, stirred it, and put it by the side of the small glass. He handed over the latter to the student and took the big glass himself, touched it with the small one, and said, ‘’Cheers, dear’’. By the time he started drinking, the student had finished his glass, and slumped in his chair, senseless. The Professor was surprised, brought a glass of neem juice, mixed with bitter gourd juice, and forced a spoonful in the student’s mouth. The student opened his eyes, and said, ‘’Where am I?’’ Saying that, he slumped back again in his chair. The Professor repeated the juice treatment. The student regained his senses, and said, “’How bitter!’’. Saying that, he rushed to the basin and vomited, repeatedly. He splashed his eyes with water, came back, and sat in his chair. Visibly weak, but he resumed the interview.

S: Sir, how do you drink this bitter drink?

P: No, the drink is not bitter. It is the juice, which brought you back to senses.

S: Sir, do you drink this juice after every drink?

P: No, dear. This was left by my wife in the early morning today. Normally, she stands at the door and asks me to drink it in front of her. I have to do it, and routinely say, ‘’How tasty! Thank you, darling, for taking so much care of this poor husband of yours’’. Today, she had a call from outside and had to go. That’s why it was left on the table. But thank God, it was there. Otherwise, how could I bring back you to your senses?

The Professor then started drinking from his glass, very slowly, and told the student to ask the next question.

S: Sir, I noticed that while you poured the whisky carelessly, but you were very careful about the sour mix quantity. Why?

P: Well, I have carefully experimented over a whole year to find out the exact proportion of sour mix and whisky, and have found that for every 50 ml of whisky, you need 3.54 ml of sour mix. Otherwise, the drink becomes too sour or less sour.

S: This is a great invention. Why don’t you patent it?

P: I thought over the matter many times and finally decided against it. The world is now full of plagiarists, and the formula would be decoded in no time. The unpolluted stinking Americans are particularly experts in this art. That’s why.

S: Sir, you have done the correct thing. Now, Sir, may I ask you some intimate personal questions? If you do not wish to answer, please stop me.

P: No problem. Ask freely and frankly. I shall be frank, as much as possible.

S: Let me start with Madam Professor. Do you still love her?

P: Yes, of course. I love her very much.

S: What about the abusive language she uses when you are at work?

P: Oh, those?

The Professor started laughing. The student was dumb struck, failing to understand why the Professor was smiling. The Professor himself resumed the conversation.

P: You see, this is a matter of routine now. When we were newly married, I could not concentrate in my work, and was always thinking about her. I said to my wife, “Darling, can you blabber and chatter in my ears when I sit to work?’’ She was surprised, but agreed to do so, reluctantly. Seeing the result, she made it a matter of routine. I have to notify her a few minutes earlier and she does it outstandingly.

S: What about the juice treatment?

P: Oh, that? You see she is a health bug, and does not allow me to take anything, which, in her opinion, would injure my health. She herself follows the same routine, very religiously. When she is gone back, due to some reason, I stealthily empty the glass in the basin.

S: What about whisky sour? Does she permit you?

P: No, not at all. She does not at all know about it. That’s why I keep the bottles in my bookshelf, behind the Encyclopedia volumes.

S: What about her catching you red handed, while drinking?

P: Out of the question. I drink while playing a piece of classical piece in the record player and put it in the maximum volume position. The sound is so loud that no one can stand it, except me. So, no question of my wife catching red handed.

S: Now Sir, I am convinced she loves you, but what about Madam? Does she love you?

P: Yes, as I said earlier, she does. In fact, I am what I am because of her love and care.

S: What about she not allowing you to touch the modern amenities in the drawing room and elsewhere in the house?

P: Oh, those? She does so, because initially, I fiddled with some devices, and spoiled them. Once, I put a record of Ustad Amir Khan in the new music system and put it at maximum volume. The sound was so ear piercing that it pierced both the Bose Speakers. She had to spend a large amount of money in repairing them. Once I put the washing machine dryer cycle to one-hour time, and the result was that all the clothes were burnt to ashes. Since then, I myself do not even touch any of them.

S: Why do you live in a separate, dingy room?

P: Oh, that? You see, she and the whole family consider me as a lunatic, having bouts of violent behavior at irregular intervals. I must admit that it is partly true.

S: How, Sir, how?

P: I am normally a man, behaving softly and politely with everyone, including the driver, the cook, the gardener, the maid servants, the man servants, and even the guard at the gate. But once, the cook served me, and I became mad, because I am used to my wife bringing the food and serving me. I became so mad that I threw the costly china plate at him with all its contents. The cook was hurt, and cried out. My wife came rushing, and pleaded with him not to mind and leave service, because he was a good cook, cooking all healthy, but tasteful dishes. She also raised his salary by about 50%, in one stroke. The cook became composed and stayed back. Once, I got mad with the gardener, because my favourite jasmine plant had dried up. I took his pair of scissors and threw it at him. This caused him grievous injury in his right cheek, and the same thing happened. His salary also got raised by 50%. Since then, she pleaded with me not to interfere in any household work, and devote all my time to my work. Now, of course, I do it intentionally, to keep everybody away. Sometimes, I throw the empty dinner plate in the garden against a stone wall, so that the sound reaches everyone in the household. Sometimes, I throw a useless book on the drawing room floor. Ha, ha, ha, what fun do you make, Professor! And what a beautiful drama you enact! Even Utpal Dutta would admit defeat. Ha, ha, ha…

S: What about sleeping? Why doesn’t she allow you to use her bedroom?

P: There is a long story behind this. To make the long story short, let me tell you that she wanted many children of her own to live in this large house. We had six children – four sons and two daughters who are now happily married and live separately, some in India, and some abroad with their respective families. But all of them are gathered here on my birthday, the 1st of November, and all stay up to our marriage anniversary, which happens to be on the 25th of the same month. It happened this year also, as in every year. Anyway, going back to our sleeping in separate rooms, during her seventh pregnancy, the gynecologist had to make a caesarean operation to bring a dead child out, and the Doctor-in-charge declared that she could not conceive any more. Since then, she blames me for the mishap, and banished me from her bedroom. Her temperament got bad, and now a days, she is no longer as polite and gentle as she was earlier. She loved classical music so much, but she gave up everything – music, books, gardening etc. etc. The only thing she has not changed is her care and love for me. The only change I notice is that instead of requesting or pleading, she orders me, and I have to obey like an obedient school boy! Anyway, there are always two sides of a picture. It has been a blessing in disguise for me, because I get all the time to do my work, and I can have my drinks anytime, with loud music of course.

S: What about your children and sons and daughters in law? Do they love you?

P: O, Yes, they do. As I said earlier, they come regularly, from various parts of the world, during the last few days of October and stay till the last days of November. This year is my 80th birthday and our 50th anniversary, and I understand from my wife that they are planning to celebrate both days in a big way.

S: Sir, please tell me about your grandchildren. Do they love you?

P: Very much. They are a dozen in number: 7 girls and 5 boys. We make two cricket tams and play cricket on the ground. Sometimes, it is cricket, sometimes it is merry go round or guessing game or sometimes it is cards or Ludo. In the last game, invariably, I lose, mostly intentionally.

S: Do the boys and girls love you equally?

P: What a question? Yes, they do, but the girls naturally love me a little more. They compete with each other in a homemade beauty contest, where I become the judge. Sometimes, my wife competes with them in the contest, and I have to declare her as the winner. The girls shout, ‘’Thadda, you are partial to Thamma.’’ Then sometimes, they compete with each other as to which one will marry me, and invariably to the proposal of each, I have to say yes. They ask me, ‘’What will you do with eight wives?”. My answer is, ‘’I shall love each of them equally’’. They laugh and laugh…, joined by my wife.

S: Sir, what about your drinks and professional work when he house is full?

P: I remain miles away from them. My mind is so full those days that I can’t think of anything else.

The student was clearly tired. He looked at his watch, and declared that it is time for his Alumni meeting with current students. He wanted to leave taking this excuse, never to return. Enough was enough for him!

S: Thank you, Sir. It has been a most educating experience. If you permit, I shall come again and ask you a few questions.

The Student bows down, and touches the feet of the Professor. The Professor brought him up, and like a lightning, slapped him on both the cheeks.

P: You liar! You know full well that you would never come back, still you make a promise?

S: Sorry, sorry Sir. True, I did not wish to come back. But yet, I would like to have your blessings.

The Student bows down and does another pranama, and before the Professor could catch him, he flies away like a flying soccer……

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