So, I was in class 8 I think when I met him first. In his mid 50s, semi bald and an easy grin on his rather sweet looking face, he was the third maths tutor Mum and Dad found for me. He was also a patient of my Dad and the two had known each other for a long time.
At that point in time when we first met Khan Sir, he had been suspended from his job for sometime and was looking at teaching kids to make some money. He had been caught taking a bribe. Of Rupess 500.
No, I am not kidding. He told that to us himself with endearing frankness that brought out a rather inconvenient giggle from me.
Anyways, that is not the point. There is this one particular incident I want to talk about.
So, my house is the last house on the road. Beyond that is a wall that separates our colony from the rest of world and the ‘naala’. ‘Nalaa’ is a big drain, for the benefit of my friends who do not know Hindi. Now those days for some other work, that wall had been brought down temporarily. So basically we were spending days whiffing in the delicious smell emanating from the Nalaa.
Just to put things in perspective, the Nalaa did a noble job. It carried the bodily wastes of the entire colony to I don’t know where. I really don’t even want to know where. It was always flowing and once the wall was down I could once in a while hear it make gurgling noises like any small delicate rivulet. Only one could not ignore what the Nalaa carried. We waited with bated breath (literally) for the wall to be put up again.
So one fine day Khan Sir was expected to come at 6 in the evening. 6 came and went but no Khan Sir. But there was nothing new about this, he was often late, and hence this was no cause for worry.
At 6:30 our door bell rang like a hundred times in a frantic mad manner. Alarmed, we hurriedly opened the door to see the local milkman standing outside the door with a scared look on his face.
‘Sa’ab, come quickly’ he told my dad.
‘Why What happened?’, asked my Dad.
‘Khan Sir’, said milkman as if that explained everything.
‘What about him?’, asked my dad.
‘He fell in the Nalaa’
‘WHAT?’ said my dad as he hurriedly made his way to the nalaa. Solely for entertainment purposes I went along with my Dad to ‘rescue’ Khan Sir. In a file, with Dad leading, followed by my brother, the milkman, and another neighbour, the rescue party marched to the Nalaa. I brought the rear end of the rather perfect file sometimes tripping over stones and gravel because of my dainty white heels.
Once we reached the Nala, and it was quite dark by the time we reached, I could hear Khan Sir’s voice coming from somewhere down below. Using my thumb and index finger delicately to close my nose, I gingerly bent forward to peep into the darkness of the nalaa. With my nose shut also, I could smell the strong, pungent odour of ‘bodily wastes’. Our colony is rather big, I thought to myself judging by the amount of substance I could see in the nalaa, happily flowing along.
‘ABC aunty had an upset stomach and had come today morning asking for some medicine’, my brother whispered in my ear before bursting into uncontrollable laughter. He had never really liked Khan Sir.
Khan Sir was sitting cross legged on the floor of the Nalaa looking rather comfortable and waiting patiently for us to do something. He looked up from the Nala as I looked down and are eyes met. Well, that was my tutor sitting in the middle of shit. But it was my tutor nevertheless and one could not really forget the formalities.
‘Hello Sir’, I said my usual greeting.
‘Hello R’, said Khan Sir from down below.
A moment’s silence as Dad, Bhai and the milkman stepped aside to discuss their plan of action.
‘How are you sir?’, I shouted at him. This was my usual second sentence to him. Even in the moment of adversity, we stuck to protocol.
‘Chal raha hai’, he said causally from down below.
After that I really did not know what I could say by way of small talk so I kept shut. The men had in the mean while figured out a way to pull him out. The neighbour and the milkman went to our house and got a ladder which was then put inside the nalaa.
Slowly, after some 15 minutes, Khan sir climbed out of the Nalaa with shit dripping out of every bit of him. Needless to say he stank.
‘Kaise, bhai sa’ab, yeh hua kaise?’ asked my Dad seemingly very interested in how one could end up inside a nalaa. Dad looked like one of those news correspondents who want to ask the man who has come out of the gutter how he is feeling. I giggled. Dad looked at me sternly which made me swallow the rest of the giggle and disguise it into a cough.
Khan Sir grinned sheepishly. And delicately raised his pinkie. Thereby meaning that he had gone there to pee, tripped over a stone and had landed elbow first inside the nalaa. He had spent some 20 minutes inside shouting for help when the Milkman heard him and somehow recognised him.
He had a couple of scratches on his hand and Dad scared of some infection decided to take him to the hospital. The car was brought out, a million news papers spread and Khan Sir made to sit in the front seat as Dad took him away.
It made a great story for years afterwards, and has since been told and retold and re retold a million times. It is now part of the family legend and I thought of sharing it with you guys.
P.S. Dad politely asked Khan Sir to freely use our house toilet whenever he felt the need. And each time he took a loo break after that to use our home toilet, my brother and I would look at each other and burst into uncontrollable laughter.