The bookshelves on the three walls of the room made it look much smaller than it was. There was a big green bulletin board which recklessly covered the only ventilating windows of the room and gave it a damp and dull touch. Apart from the circulars and notices pinned on to the board which flapped and fluttered as the fan swept the air across the room- there was no sound. An old man round and cute with his little head shimmering under the glaze of the tube light propped his glasses while looking at the boy. The boy had turned purple with fear. He curled his lanky legs around the chair and tied his hands behind his back. His face was more sad than apologetic. “It is okay son. I am not going to punish you.” the principal tried to free the boy of the tension. The boy murmured, “Sorry!” As soon as a bell rang the boy panicked and stood on his feet. The old man just said, “You may go. Attend your classes and……” and before he could finish his line the boy had disappeared out of the room.
His fat fingers held a paper on which there was a grotesque caricature of him. He was amazed by the representation of his own body. A plump figure with an oversized head, two big droopy ears, a rather flat nose and his shirt sleeves curtly cut by sharp stokes of pencil while the legs disappeared towards the end of the paper. He touched his nose in a reflex and sighed after feeling a slight bump. Not that flat, he thought. He quickly hid the drawing in his desk when someone knocked on the door. It was the purchase officer of the school who wanted to know if they should change the book seller. It had been five years and the contract was nearing expiry. He neatly place three sheets of papers with quotes from different sellers in the city, “Sir? Sir? ….Do you want me to come later.” The old man twitched his nose and said, “No. So, you were saying..?”
The conversation went on again and again reaching no conclusion. The principal appeared very dazed. He would corner his eyeballs to look at his ears or touch them with his hands he spoke. The officer sat stiff hiding his growing irritation with the man in front of him. He had a grand plan, to favour a seller over the others and pocket a greedy couple of thousands, but let alone questioning about the book sellers the Principal didn’t even look at the quotations. He started again, “The Trinetra Book Seller has been over charging us Sir. Since the contract with them will expiry by this January I proactively requested quotations from couple of other book stores in the city. From my analysis……….”
He prepared speech was cut short by the old man who now held his hands high holding his ears, bracketing himself within the bent elbows, “Are my ears too big?” The officer was thrown off balance. It took him a while to understand that the guy wasn’t making fun of him and was expecting a genuine answer. The Principal’s eyes narrowed to put the man in the spot as if he wanted to force a reply out of his mouth. The irritated officer blurted out with an absent mind, “Not your ears but… Sir, I always thought you had a big - forehead. Maybe I should come some other time” He excused himself gingerly not knowing what else to do. Soon after the officer left, the old man pulled out the Caricature from his desk and noted the big swoop the boy had made near his forehead. He ran his hands over his face as the doodle snickered back at him. He didn't punish the boy but the boy had punished him unknowingly.