In An Ironic Mode
Lola Chatterji
T'TA PROFESSOR by Manohar Shyam Joshi Penguin/Viking, 2011, 139 pp., 299
January 2011, volume 35, No 1

Well-known writer and Sahitya Akademi Award winner (2008) Manohar Shyam Joshi, has had a very varied and distinguished literary career, writing novels, short stories, film scripts, as well as being a prolific journalist.Written in a satiric, comic vein, the brief novel eventually culminates in frustration and depression, not only for the protagonist, but also his biographer, the callow Master Sahib, Joshi. We first meet him as a young man, full of romantic, revolutionary ideas determined to make a name for himself in the world of letters. Coming from a Kumaoni family, he takes on the humble job as a school-teacher in order to be far from his family and avoid applying for the civil service. The school is in a remote village in Kumaon called Sunaulidhar and has just been upgraded from a Middle to a Senior School. Arriving, he finds that no arrangements have been made for his accommodation so has perforce to rent a small store-room in the local tea shop.

He has been appointed as a teacher of Science and Maths and soon finds himself, as he says, in a loaded situation in the midst of politics. The Manager and the Headmasterwho prefers to be called Principalare at loggerheads. But the main character is the dubbul M.A. Kashtivallabh Pant, who, in addition to being the English teacher, is a brahmin in a village composed largely of thakurs

Despite the fact of his dubbul M.A. the hero is not very proficient in English, but holds the language in such esteem that he carries around a note-book and a copy of the Oxford English dictionary wherever he goes. As he is unable to pronounce `ta ta but shortens the phrase to tta, he is known as TTa Professor. He is the butt of unkind jokes perpetrated by the rest of the staff, who find obscure words and ask him the meaning. His other passiona secret oneis his interest in sex. The village does not provide much scope for exercising this, with the lone exception of a young attractive half Chinese woman, Kalavati Yen, a teacher in the primary section of the school.

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