“Good… Moorniing….. Sirrrr!”
“Come on guys, you are in the final year of your Graduation. You can’t be behaving like this! And to think some of you actually want to become a Professor!”
The class of 40 young adults about to graduate laughed at me as if I had been reciting a joke. I sighed. As my register landed with a thump, the class adjusted itself. The students shifting in their seats, some moving back and forth, each leaving space so that those behind could see. I walked around the class in those few moments relishing the best batch I had ever taught in my 4 years as a professor. Yes, they were notorious. They caused trouble not only for the professor but also for themselves, but they were Enthusiasts. They were probably the only students who liked the subject to have taken it up at a time when most of their peers felt it was not good enough to be useful for their future. I kept fiddling with my fingers in the pocket as I gazed at the now silent class. It was always difficult to start the session. Surely, I had not bargained for this when I had joined the Institute. I had joined as a Researcher and that is what I wanted to remain. But then you don’t always get what you want. The only accomplishment I had had so far in the Institute was that of being the youngest Professor and I don’t even know whether it was a satire or the management’s humbleness to bestow it unto me.
“Mhhh” I cleared my throat, “What have we been discussing?” I asked aloud to get them engaged; I didn’t know why I felt so clueless today. “You said you would be telling us about behaviour, today.”
I looked at the jolly eyes of the young lady before me. Looking at her I could remember her boyfriend being involved in a ruckus the other day, I was tempted to make that example but I refrained from annoying my student. “Right, Behaviour” I paused, “I am sure you know the definition. We had some guest lecturer blabbering about it last week.” The students laughed. “So who is going to define it? And extra points for a good example.”
‘That’s it!’ I was seeing an example of human behaviour right in front of my eyes, if only they could understand. “And what if I said no extra points.” Now, obviously, no one would put their hands back down… risking a wrong impression.
“It doesn’t even need a definition if we pay attention to our surroundings” I began, “We have ample subjects to study psychology, as I have already told you, we ourselves are the subjects. How we behave, in public, in private, with our family, our close friends… All of this provides us with insights into our behaviour. There are some ways we have been hardwired to behave in, like when I asked the question and said I would be giving up points, every one of you was willing to share your views. What others may call ‘Motivation to answer’ is simply a behaviour we have been taught to behave or picked up while we were growing.”
“Sir” one of the boys at the farthest corner raised his hands, getting everyone’s attention, “That day Meg’s boyfriend got into a fight. He regularly gets into trouble. Can that be an example of behaviour?”
Ha… he had done it. This was the very example I feared no one would give. I wasn’t really a master at controlling an unruly class. But I tried my best to subdue the fight and argument that followed. I surely couldn’t get it under control. So I used the final trick that every professor used to take control of the situation. I walked out of the class, closing the door with a loud thump sound. Usually, you stop doing whatever you are doing when you hear an unusually loud noise like the frame door, to look at what actually happened. I was sure they would. I had taken a mental note of not discussing anything that could, in any way, stir a conflict. I waited outside the class waiting for someone to come and fetch me, posing to look angry and frustrated. Truly, I only rarely got angry with my students. My anger would have been a waste on them anyway, so why waste it, emotions are valuable.
In any case, the boy from before came out with the girl named Meg. “We are sorry for the disturbance.” They apologised, though only they knew how much of it they meant.
“Appreciated and accepted. Please do not repeat it again. We wasted most of our lecture because of it and I lost my touch.” I said, passing them to go to the class. They followed suit.
I went to the table and collected my things, quietly. If the students thought I would be teaching them today, they were wrong. If I had to show I was strict, I had to leave the class and make them repent. And I did just that. Amidst their protests and pleas, I walked out of the class.
“Not today, you guys are free to go,” I said to the student who was coming after me.
She left dejected, but I couldn’t help it. Once my thoughts were broken, I couldn’t piece them together. I wasn’t a seasoned professor yet, I had much to learn.
I walked back to my cubicle; thinking if I should ask any professor for any research collaboration. My last paper had been submitted and was yet to be reviewed. Sighing, I dropped on my chair and laid back. It was still an hour to lunch and I had no plans so far.
A knock on the door brought me back to consciousness.
“You are sleeping in class hours?”
“Sorry, just dozed off.”
“What about the lecture you were fretting about yesterday?”
“Huh, oh, I left them early. They had earned it!”
“More like, you didn’t want to teach.”
“You don’t have to read me like an open book!” I whined. He smiled. Standing by my cabin door was my only friend at work. We had been friends for some time now. From graduation, if I was right. We had gone on to pursue our masters from different institutions. He was obviously the smartest and more intelligent among us. He completed his masters from one of the famous colleges. If he wanted to, there were a plethora of opportunities for him out there. Yet what he was doing here was above me.
Even here he was the star. Our superiors praised him all the time. He was intelligent, smart, kind and humble.
“Come on, let’s go for lunch. I have a meeting after that.”
“Sure. What meeting? Am I qualified to know?”
“Of course, in fact, I was hoping of asking you beforehand, but let the meeting finish, then I will inform you.”
“What is it about Kurt?”
“After the meeting.”
‘Damn,’ I hated this guy for this. Once he said no, it was hard to get things out of him.
My whining went to waste as he refused to talk about it and finally I had to give up. After a modest lunch, I sat pondering what to do. Some days were really tough. I didn’t have many lectures to take as I was supposed to be busy with my research and off late I had been deprived of research as well. I hadn’t been told why I was not allowed to undertake any research after I had submitted my last paper. It couldn’t have been that disastrous that they would have to shut me up. Besides, it had only been a couple of weeks since my last submission. Not having much to do, I engaged myself with a book on psychology that Kurt had co-authored. I found it quite amazing. From the way it was written, I could tell he must have enjoyed writing it. Sure, there was some criticism, but the overall reaction was appreciative.
It was past afternoon. I hadn’t seen Kurt since lunch. Whatever meeting he was having, must have been really important. I felt a bit frustrated that I couldn’t get enough information out of him. This was probably my hundredth failed attempt. I went towards the vending machine to quench this sudden urge to chew something. Some of my students greeted me there, their apologies eminent.
“I really am not angry you know,” I said, as I gestured for them to take the items they wanted. You can’t let your juniors pay in front of you. I had learnt it the hard way, back in my days as a student.
“Thank you so much Professor”, was their differently timed chorus.
“Why thank you, I was getting bored anyway.”
Yet again I was exposed to another form of human behaviour. Some of the more “show-off” category students started asking questions while the more laid back and authentic ones, well, laid back. It was obvious by their expressions that they weren’t going to understand anything I said, or perhaps they already had understood what was being asked. I took a mental note of “Researching” them further as a pass time and focused on the ‘fake intellectuals. I was getting bored anyway, so I let them humour me. Yep, I had been called cold or weird at times, but if I got to kill time and they got the fake sense of scoring brownie points, then what gives.
Studying humans had become a bad habit. I didn’t know when it actually developed, but as time passed, I started taking more notes on how humans behaved on a day to day basis, how was it different from mine. The main objective was to understand the human thought process. The secondary objective was to see if mine was right or wrong as compared to them.
I effectively killed an hour with the group, quite unproductively, but we each met our goals, and now desperately wanted to shake them off. But some of them didn’t want to understand that I had lost interest.
Kurt came in the form of my saviour. “Hey, Guys how are you doing? May I borrow your professor? We need to talk.”
“Thank God you came when you did.”
“I could tell you were losing it.”
“Yeah, I got a first-hand experience of the length students can go for having grace points.”
“I am not giving any… they seriously don’t deserve it.”
I was puzzled, “What for?”
“I got you roped in for the research that we are about to start. Both of us will be heading it, there will be some junior researchers and some students.”
I looked at him for some time, “This was what the meeting was about?” I sounded more surprised than grateful.
“Well not really, it was already decided that the both of us would be working on it, they just didn’t want to agree with my choice for our subordinates. I mean, even you might not be knowing them.”
“And so you thought, you could omit me from the meetings so that they don’t get to have any negatives to hold you on to.”
“Look, I am sorry, but this is the research that I have wanted to undertake since I read one of your papers last year.”
“Your paper on human behaviour.”
“Oh that one, yeah what of it?”
“Tomorrow, I am getting everyone rounded to brief about it. I will tell you everything tomorrow morning.”
“Okay. So, was this the reason I was getting all my ‘Research pleas’ rejected.”
So, the next morning when we met again on our way to work, Kurt explained what he had in mind, asking for my input and I was happy to make some on spot suggestions which we thought we would remember, and he did. I also asked for some time to think of it and see if the scope could be worked upon.
That day, I spent distracted, thinking about the research. I didn’t even know what I was taught in the class, but they gave me ample ideas. By observing them I could understand a bit of what it was, that Kurt wanted to research.
“I think I finally understand your research and how it is different from my article. So you want to study our students only or from different age groups?”
“From different age groups, of course.”
“And the research will span over more than a couple of months?”
“Yes, Six, I think will do.”
“So how many researchers are there in total?”
“Including you and me there are six. Three research interns and one student.”
The sarcasm was more eminent than I wanted it to be.
“Yes, if we don’t give them chance, they will never learn. Remember your research and how much you were pissed at the professors.” Kurt defended.
“You understand, that we may end up doing most of the work if we don’t want to cut a sorry figure?”
“If you have a problem with it, then I won’t mind going ahead on my own.”
Of course, I didn’t have a problem. It was not every day that the prodigious researcher decided to include you in his research. I knew of professors who would do anything to get him to partner with them. But Kurt was a very practical man. I had hardly ever seen him take a wrong decision. Even among people of our age group I had hardly ever met a person so level headed as him. So, not accepting the partnership with him was out of the question, it only meant that I would have to put in more effort to make the research meet his standard and his standards were higher than normal.
“I have asked them to meet at the conference room 9 today after 5. You should be there by then.”
I nodded. “I don’t have any lectures then, if you will be passing by, you can pick me up.”
The conference was like any other conference room but a little smaller than the others that we had in our institute. It was meant for meetings comprising smaller groups. We had reached our destination five minutes before the time and waited for the others to join us. I kept playing with the pen on the table, not paying much attention to the people coming in and occupying the seats. They probably knew Kurt because he casually greeted them, on their way in.
“We have gathered today,” Kurt began and I started surveying each member of the team with keen interest. The researchers could themselves have been tested subjects without having a knowledge of it. But I was sure, I was not gonna be one of those who would be. So I studied the group with whom we would be working. A boy in his late teens or early twenties, not much younger than me I suppose. His body language spoke for his enthusiasm, in fact, all members were perhaps more enthusiastic than I was at the moment. Questions were being fired to Kurt, who, I don’t know, may have wanted me to answer some of them. As I scanned through the group, half-interested, my gaze landed on someone, whom, now I feel would have been better if I had not met. She seemed to be the most enthusiastic of the lot, though it felt quite unnatural. Long hairs, dark as the night, tied beautifully in a ponytail, I was held by her beauty. My eyes were glued to her, as I sat memorising her face, the different expressions that kept crossing them.
“Would you like to add something?” Kurt’s question brought me to an abrupt stop.
How long had I been looking at her? I didn’t know. I had not even heard a single word that Kurt had said since my eyes landed on her and now all of them looked at me, expectantly. Of course, I didn’t know what to say. I hadn’t heard anything! To speak something entirely unrelated would be a disaster, so I took the safest exit with the least repercussion, “Not really, you have told them everything. Let’s discuss more as the research progresses.” I noted the disappointment, almost immediately, that shot through their faces. Kurt adjourned the meeting. After everyone had left, he stopped me. “I expected you to speak of your research paper there. I had been dropping hints of that throughout the session. It is beyond me how you did not pick that up! You just made a negative impact on them. I am really disappointed.” Yes, that was evident. But how would I explain myself, ‘I was mesmerised by that intern with long black hairs!’ surely I couldn’t do that, I didn’t want to aggravate him any further.
“All damages can be repaired.” I was defensive.
“Then do that yourself.”
Much of our first month went in reading earlier research conducted in a similar field. Since I had written a paper in this field before, I walked everyone through my notes and observations. This helped the interns and the student in getting a hang of what our intentions were with this research.
“I have shared the notes with Julie. I would require all of you to take it from her and keep it as a reference.”
After the others had been dismissed for the day, I sat reading through a recent article I had dug up in regards to our research.
“You seem to catapult to a lighter mood whenever you are around Julie.”
The sudden comment made me slip my pen, “What do you mean?”
“I have noticed you from Day 2. You seem to swoon over the intern named Julie.”
“Of course not!” I lied, “You know me.”
“Yes, that’s why I am sure. She has all the features of what an ideal woman of your dreams would have, as per your description.”
“You know that does not sound right.” Though I was blushing.
“Pay attention Ed, don’t become a test subject.” Kurt laughed.
“On a serious note, you should pay attention. She won’t hang around for more than six months, don’t lose your head on stuff you can’t control.”
“I think you seriously should talk to her,” Kurt said one day as I kept humming a song I had heard recently.
“We are halfway through our research; you won’t get much chance after that.”
“Oh, it is alright. As long as I get to see her smile, it’s fine with me.”
Kurt sighed. This was probably the twentieth time in three months he told me to come out of my delusion or go and talk to her. Her name was Julie. I always got lost in her. Her tantalizing eyes, beautiful long hair always neatly tied. Myriad expressions kept crossing her beautiful face from time to time. I had started looking forward to seeing her every day, not that I had asked her out or something. I was happy looking from afar, even I knew this was temporary and nothing was possible.
But Kurt was right. We were nearly halfway through our research, and for some reason, everything was on time! “I so much want this research to get delayed.”
“I know you do, but I am not going to let you slack off.”
“I won’t… This topic is so interesting… no wonder it came from you….”
“Don’t flatter me”
“I am not.”
Given the pace that we had worked, the research had indeed been completed on time. As I had feared, we ended up doing most of the work. They were inexperienced and their paper writing skills failed to meet Kurt’s quality standards. We had the team divided into three each with the student being with Kurt while compiling our research for the journal. What we had researched was music, the different kinds that our test subjects listened to, how the music changed with the number of times it was played and how different emotions impacted their taste, to name a few.
The interns, I would say, were lucky, to have witnessed two professors defend their research and my respect for Kurt rose further. Other participants of our team were glad, that their names got printed on the paper published, and we wished them luck with their futures.
On the very last day, we treated the interns and the student, me and Kurt. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood, but the same couldn’t be said for me. Though I kept my cool. Even in six months, I couldn’t get close enough to her and after today, I would probably never see her again.
It has been a couple of months now since the research group has been disbanded. Our objective was over and we had moved on. I had heard that the interns had scored well for their reports at their respective colleges. We were happy that we had been of great help and I was secretly happier that I had been able to help Julie.
On my way home, one day, I thought of how quickly those six months had passed. I had wished then that the time would slow down a bit, though it wasn’t possible. Then I realised, how my taste towards music had shifted after the time I had met Julie. Even now, the soothing music of a romantic song played through the earphone. For someone who had claimed big things, I too succumbed to the emotion that I thought wouldn’t affect me. I had indeed become the test subject of my research. Julie’s thoughts still made blood rush to my cheeks, and I always hoped that she would do well, whenever I thought of her.
Smiling at my folly, I kept listening to the song that played, as I unlocked the doors to my home.
Research Paper and Love Story
“Good… Moorniing….. Sirrrr!”