Few years back my friend who happens to be from a business minded Gujarati community, while discussing about the new avenues for business came up with this idea, which, then we had discarded as immoral one. He said, let us target an area which is witnessing rapid development, let us find out one rich person, no issues even if he is an illiterate, we will canvas him to donate funds for building a school in the locality in his/her name or in the name of his / her relatives. Let us, the friend went on to explain in the same vein, put up one statue of the person. The donor will be happy with the name, we will be happy with the money we generate from the school. We, the ambitious young generation then, did not find the idea too delicious to digest, we rubbished the whole plan as commercialization of education, which is a noble profession. My friend, unheeded of the outright rejection of his idea said, friends, education is a big business today, it has got good market, there is no recession or lean period here. We changed and stopped the topic then and there.
After many a years the words of my friend came back to me in form of the bad experience i have had. It so happened that i decided to shift from my current residence to new residence in a nearby city. The entire to-do list was ready, on top of it all was the school admission of my son in secondary school. All my plans to shift to new residence could have gone awry, had i not got the admissions to the school. So after initial searches on the Internet, i zeroed in some schools, which i thought would be convenient for my son to travel. On one such occassion, I met one father of a christian missionary run school. I had that special leaning for convent education, as i too was schooled in one. I met one father, who was unlike the father we used to have in our school days. The fathers in our school days used to wear traditional white gowns adorned with all religious accessories with them. So, sitting in front of the closed door of this father’s office, i imagined meeting one such father, a respectable and a figure of awe, when we were children.
As I was called in, to my surprise, i found a bespectacled man in his late forties wearing Tshirt sitting in the Principal’s chamber. Now at the hindsight i found he resembled like a hunter waiting for his prey. The man i met was the “father”. I requested him for the admission of my son, he saw the mark sheets and almost opaquely said, he can give the admission, but i will have to pay Rs.25000/-, may be an ounce of guilt was remaining in this father that prevented him to name this sum as “donation”. After few seconds he said I will also have to pay Rs.13000/- towards what he called “Admission Fees”. I inquired what was that, he told the charges for school uniform, shoes, school bag etc. Now, i was not that naive to know that this was simple and pure fleecing at the hands of this “Godman”. Now, in this corrupt world, one surely cannot expect goodness, and i was mentally prepared for this fleecing, I agreed to cough up the sum, he said, come with the money and get your admission. To my surprise, when i asked the gentleman what was the monthly fee, the man told me first get your admissions, we will tell you afterwards. Was more fleecing in the offing ? I never know.. I had bought an admission for my kid.
I went to my office, while having tea with my colleagues, one devout christian female inquired me about the admissions of my son, i told her, it was done, she asked me the name of the Principal, could recall the surname, the lady asked about the physical features of the father to match it with the father she knew. When it matched ditto, she confirmed, yes, she knew the father, he was the father of their church before he got himself transferred to this school. In her zeal she said she would ask her husband who was his friend to have a word with the father.
Now this noble lady, a friend of mine, is always helpful to each and everyone, because of people like her, i had a kind of soft corner for Christians and my previous education in convent had a tilt towards Christianity, but somehow, this gentleman has forced a serious rethink on my belief system i believe.
The next morning the husband of my colleague called the father and they exchanged pleasantries, after which the soft spoken gentleman, the husband of my colleague requested for some kind of concession in the donation. The father said he will look into it, ask the parent to meet me tomorrow. I readied the cash and went to meet this father today.
To my surprise, the father was stiff today, he was same on the earlier occassion as well. He said there is no seat vacant and he cannot get the admissions for my son, i reminded him everything he said two days ago and also told him that I had brought the cash, the reluctant soul refused to listen and told me that he would contact me. I immediately understood the father took the casual phone call otherwise. His ego was bruised, now that his greed was exposed in front of his community members.
I returned back, no, i was not sad, there are so many shops open today, yes, my friend was right, education too is a business and the persons who run these institutions do not fare more better than petty shopkeepers. Atleast shopkeepers openly display their greed for money. I had other better schools and my son’s admission was no worry for me.
The only thing that hurted me today was the acute greed that was displayed by the “father”, during my convent education we always had “Father” as the Principal of our School. The respect, the awe, the fear he commanded from just everybody, from students, to parents to teachers and non teaching staff was because of the fact that he practiced what he preached in those sermons which he used to give in weekly masses. The “Fathers” was compassionate those days. I remember in my earlier upbringing, when my dad was trying to change my school half way in the semester, the father of the school himself had visited our house and desisted my father from taking such a drastic step. Such, were the fathers, the “father” that i encountered today, i pray to Lord Almighty may be the odd man out, who needs to be plucked and thrown away. The father who must teach other pupils love, compassion, evils of greed, how to fight ego, must be found wanting on this count.
When this news reached my colleague back in office, the poor lady and her husband started feeling very guilty, her husband almost apologized to me over phone, she was very critical of the father and was cursing the father like anything.
Looking back at the experience, it only makes me laugh, laugh at the poor soul, who is in front of God 24/7 and yet has not succeeded in getting rid of basic evils.
Indeed my friend was right, Education is a lucrative market.
Get Well Soon Father :) I will pray for you.
PS : I have related to the Bombay Archbishop the entire episode today, let us see what action is taken.