The eccentric professor and his metal detector

Published: April 26, 2014
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He was one of the smartest minds in the country in the field of human behaviour and psychology.

“What will you do if… you never recognise love!? What if you never see it coming and going, if and when it comes your way?”, the old professor asked in his usual manner, keeping his voice low, tone, dramatic, like a Shakespearean artist.

Each pause, at a precise moment. Words, so well selected and measured. Knowing exactly how to catch the attention of all the young men and women in front of him, who might have been busy seconds ago in their thoughts about their favourite songs, movies or games and most importantly, the opposite sex, but now, he knew they were listening to him. It was an intriguing question indeed.

It was a cool, breezy Thursday afternoon and the eccentric professor had entered the classroom. Golf cap on his white hair sporting his favourite dark brown corduroy sports coat which had leather patches on the elbows; he paired all that with thick glasses, which were a bit crooked but no one dared to tell him so.

They also noticed that, today, he had a long, sleek metal detector in his hands. He then, displayed the metal detector quietly to the whole class, without saying a word, holding it carefully and moving very slowly as if showing a magic trick… and then he had set it up on the table. He turned around, giving a faint smile that all the students knew so well by now. This was his way of saying,

“I am now ready to share my thoughts with you, friends”.

And then everyone listened.

What will you do if… you never recognise love!? What if you never see it coming and going, if and when it comes your way?”

This was his first sentence of the lecture today and the students knew that like every lecture on psychology and human behaviour in the last seven months in this class, even this lecture would not be usual or boring.

The professor, with his eccentricity, passion, natural flair to explain what’s ordinary in the most extra-ordinary way, will give them enough reasons to talk about his lecture even after college timings, in the cafeteria, over tea with friends. This was what these students come to college for. Well, at least most of them – the opportunity to hear and understand the thoughts and ideas of one of the smartest minds in the country in the field of human behaviour and psychology.

“You might be thinking, what the hell is this old man talking about? This is a psychology class and I am talking about recognising love… let me explain to you my reason.

So little devils (this is how the professor referred to his students affectionately), love is the greatest mystery for the human mind. All thinkers, philosophers, artists and poets spent their entire lives trying to figure out this puzzle and yet, very few succeeded. Secondly, I looked at your syllabus this morning and love is much more interesting a subject than ‘Freud’… trust me!”

This brought a smile on the students’ faces. The ‘disciples’ were now spell-bound, eagerly waiting for him to explain more. The professor continued…

“I spent many good years of my life too, trying to understand my desire to love and to be loved. What I realised after years and years was this. We are in love with the idea of being in love!”

He then paused and looked at every single face to ensure they absorb each word.

“Each one of you, will spend decades , perhaps your whole lifetime, searching for ‘true love’ and each time you get what you were running after, you will realise the search is far from over. You will fall in love again and again and you will fall out of love again and again as well. And many of you will be too embarrassed or shy to say it out loud that you have fallen out of love. The big mistake that people make about love is that they believe it’s supposed to last forever.

Forever!?

Does anyone even know what ‘forever’ is?

Well, forever, is a very long time! (smiles) It’s like a rollercoaster ride. You enjoy that thrill, that adrenalin rush for few minutes but imagine if you were to live on a roller coaster! Imagine your life, day in day out, with that adrenalin rush… you would die! Wouldn’t you?”

The students were not taking any notes. There was nothing on the blackboard. This wasn’t psychology. This wasn’t a lecture. And yet, it was in every human’s psyche and it was fascinating.

The professor continued,

“Love is great for brief moments in life. Don’t try to run after it and make it stay forever.

Please note, I am not saying don’t look for it or don’t enjoy those moments of bliss. All I am saying is that do not try to hold on to something that might very soon vanish into thin air forever.

Look at that metal detector.

It beeps each time it senses metal, even when it’s hidden under ground, under sand, behind deep thick walls. Activate that ‘detector’ in your minds and hearts. Know love when you see it somewhere near you, but don’t fret over the idea of ‘true love’ as it will only exhaust you.

You should be able to hear a ‘beep’ in your head when you see someone who might meet you in this journey of life, giving you some fine memories and a reason to smile remembering all that when you are my age (smiles).

And don’t try to fit the idea of love in boxes and lines drawn by ‘ideals’ or ‘social norms’.

That girl, yes the stranger, who kept smiling at you each time your eyes met on that train ride that lasted for mere 10 minutes, is as much a ‘moment of love’ as the ones spent with a girl who you courted for five years and eventually got married to.

The intensity of emotions might differ; their impression on your heart and memory might differ, but nevertheless, it was all special and beautiful when seen through a kaleidoscope of colours, in future”.

The professor picked up the metal detector. He then brought it closer to his foot and it started beeping – the professor had lost his leg in an accident years ago and the artificial leg had some parts made of metal.

“See, I feel it in my bones… love is everywhere.”

The professor left a smile on everyone’s face with that little joke and exited the class room.

The students sat there in silence, trying to decipher what they had heard in the last 30 minutes or so.

And in this silence, many of them could hear faint beeping sounds…

Samir Tariq

Samir Tariq

A Strategy and Business Transformation Manager for one of the leading banks in the Middle-East. He lives and works in Dubai. A literature lover and a writer by hobby he mostly writes fiction inspired by true life events.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.