Classroom Impostor

Updated: Feb 14

The Physics freshmen at our campus were waiting for their first lecture in Physics to commence.

We found out that Professor Ghosh, their teacher, would not be attending class that day. That's where I stepped in. Being an older student from the previous batch, it wasn't difficult to portray myself as Dr. Ghosh to the newcomers, as I entered the lecture gallery and stood in front of the black board. The lectern lent me “gravity”.

There was a slight risk that I could be exposed (as a fraud) because my class friends from Physics and other Departments had also packed the gallery, to witness the spectacle.

The freshmen were informed by me that their seniors were in attendance at the lecture hall because the lecture was of critical importance.

I asked the newcomers to stand up one by one and introduce themselves. From their perspective, there was an older man standing in front of them behind the lectern who was about to teach them Physics, and they complied. From left to right, front to back, fifty odd newcomers stood up and stated their names, high schools, hobbies and interests. Thirty minutes (must have) passed by till the completion of the interactive introductions.

I instructed them to take notes because they would not find my lecture in text books. They took out their notebooks and pens.

My first question was, "What is gravity?" They diligently wrote down the question. A few hands went up. One of them said, "Gravity is a force."

I asked a young lady to stand, and enquired (I’ve been ashamed of myself for this question for a long time), “How much do you weigh?” Susmita smiled and declared her weight. I asked, “Would you weigh the same in Gariahata as you do here in Jadavpur?” She seemed flummoxed but kept the smile on her face.

My next question was, "What is a force? When does gravitational force occur?" A few of the new students cocked their heads to the side, one had his finger on his lips, some looked down, others looked up and most just stared at me. My batch mates stifled their reactions, biting their collective tongue.

As I spoke the freshmen began writing. I said, "Gravity occurs chiefly in autumn when apples fall from trees." Some paid rote attention and kept writing, others stopped.

Krishnendu, from our batch, from the Chemistry Department, in the first row, raised his hand to ask a question. I raised my voice, "Put your hand down!" A student also from our batch in the second row, now my own Dr. Roy, bopped him on the head with her hand bag to shut him up.

Next I said, "Pay attention. Newton was born in England while his parents were traveling in America."

That was the last straw, of course, and some of the notebooks snapped shut. A few young ones seemed confused, most were amused.

At that point I dismissed the newcomers saying that there would be no actual class; they could go to the cafeteria to get to know one another, celebrate their first day, and be sure to enjoy the rest of their days on the campus.

A few freshmen from that class approached me individually and in groups over the following days to confirm that I really was not Dr. Ghosh, with huge grins on their faces.

Gour told me that he had shut his notebook as soon I said that gravity occurs chiefly in autumn. Little Susmita chided me, “You asked me my weight in front of the whole class!”

Those friendships endured.

I don't recall if the real Dr. Ghosh ever got to know about the impersonator.

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