Hell twice over

Gursharan Singh


THE news that about 134 candidates have applied for the position of VC at Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, and Punjabi University, Patiala, was amusing. I recollected an incident that happened a decade ago.

It was a Sunday afternoon, I was with a retired Central government administrator who also happened to be a former VC of a reputed university. We talked about the weather, the traffic, and subsequently, about the declining standards of education vis-a-vis the functioning of our VCs. My host was concerned about the eroding autonomy of VCs, for which he held both the politicians and VCs responsible. Even the effervescence of tea could not calm his anger. Suddenly, he smiled and narrated a joke someone had told him when he became VC.

‘A man dies and on the basis of his deeds on earth, a lower court of Dharamraj sentences him to five years in hell. The man, an educationist, protested and approached the higher court, but failed to get any relief. He consulted lawyers but all doors seemed closed, except one ‘rarest of the rare’ — a personal audience with Dharamraj which was an uphill task. He, however, managed to seek a meeting, and on D-day, was face to face with the mighty Dharamraj. After a thorough scrutiny of the case, Dharamraj pronounced with an air of finality, ‘See you in hell’.

Dejected, the man started moving out, when suddenly he was ordered to stop. ‘By the way, what was your profession on earth?’ Dharamraj enquired. ‘Your highness, I served as VC for two terms, each of four years,’ he answered with folded hands.

Hearing this, Dharamraj was furious and asked the man to sit comfortably. The judges of both courts were summoned immediately. With fire in his eyes, Dharamraj rebuked them and questioned how they could send a person again to hell, when he had already been there for eight years as VC! The man was escorted to heaven by fairies. Some judges were asked to seek premature retirement while others were transferred with a demotion.

Both of us laughed loudly. But on my way back home, I wondered if it was merely a joke. All prospective candidates for vice-chancellorship, including me, need to take this joke seriously.

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