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Ishita turned to Nathan. “What is your opinion?”
Nathan shrugged. He knew Ishita would override his decision anyway. Still he vouched for his friend. “Arjun has a good track record. His students have always performed consistently well. I think we should tell him to take up some courses so he gets a real degree and then he can return. Maybe teach on a part-time basis while he studies to get the degree.”
“No, I cannot allow that,” replied Ishita. “Arjun is a fraud, and I can’t believe you’re favouring him, Nathan.”
“Yeah,” said Veena. “I think it’s better to get rid of Arjun. God knows what other things he’s lied about. We don’t need frauds in our school.”
“Exactly,” said Ishita. “This is the kind of integrity I’m looking for in my employees.”
Veena stood up. “What are we without integrity? For me, integrity is the first priority. Now I have to go to class. I don’t want my students to wait. It’s a sin to make others suffer. I can’t live with that guilt.”
“I have to go also,” said Nathan. He didn’t have any classes for the day, but he felt claustrophobic in the principal’s office.
During the car ride back home, he texted Arjun good luck. Arjun replied with a thanks. End of another friendship, thought Nathan. Work would be boring without his friend. He wished he were the principal. He would’ve convinced Arjun to get a degree and then continue teaching.
Besides, a degree was just a piece of paper. Veena got her job not because of her degree. It was her friendship with Ishita that helped her enter the staff room.
And Ishita was more of a socialite who was more interested in organizing foreign trips for the students than reviewing and making modifications in the curriculum.
Nathan stopped his car before a red signal and then wondered about the importance of a degree. Ishita was right to some extent. Would he drive a car that wasn’t certified to be safe? Would he visit a doctor who didn’t have a degree? Would he fly in a plane that was piloted by a man who was passionate about flying but didn’t have a pilot’s license?
Honking from behind brought him back to reality. The signal had turned green. Nathan pressed on the accelerator then increased the speed as if he was driving away from the thoughts in his mind.
He entered his driveway, and a familiar barking greeted him. Usually he’d drive with Arjun and drop him at his house. Today Nathan reached home ten minutes early.
“Hi Dad,” said Mina from the couch. “You’re home early today.”
“Well, I had the worst day of my—”
Popeye, their dog, ran to Nathan and raised his front paws to Nathan’s chest. Nathan patted Popeye, then bent to him and hugged him. “Did you miss me? Did you? Did you?”
Popeye woofed twice.
“Let’s go out for dinner,” said Raima, stepping out of the kitchen. “I’m too tired to cook.”
“Sure,” said Nathan. “I’ll just freshen up.” He planted a long kiss on his dog’s forehead then headed to the bathroom.
As the warm water trickled down his face, he counted his blessings. A great family, healthy body, decent income. He scrubbed the soap over his body and washed away all thoughts related to the earlier debate. He’d earned his degree, and his students got good grades. He may not be as fun and effective in teaching as Arjun, but he wasn’t as bad as Veena.
He twisted the tap shut and used a towel to wipe his body. He had more important stuff to do than bother about degrees and Arjun. Enjoying his life was one of those things.
After getting dressed for dinner, he drove his family to a restaurant. During the ride, he concluded that it’s a waste of mental energy to debate between having a degree versus being good at your job. Life was too short to solve other people’s problems.
Sitting next to Nathan, Raima pressed a button on the dashboard, and piano music filled the car.
“Booorrrring,” said Mina from the back seat. “Mom, your choice in music is so boring.”
Nathan smiled as he increased the music volume. That was followed with a scream from Mina.
“This is torture,” cried Mina.
Nathan accelerated and adjusted the rear-view mirror to see his daughter covering her ears with her hands. He decided to take a longer route while returning home, with the radio on all the way.