The old world definition of a gentleman is obsolete. And those that can still lay legitimate claims to squeezing into its lexical band are a quickly diminishing species nearing extinction. To fit into the definition one needs to be Rudyard Kipling's imagined poetic prototype in If with the title skeptical of the possibility of achievement. The characteristics would include being fair, honest, diligent, sensitive, caring, well-mannered, generous and conducting oneself with dignity and equanimity even in adversity. Its a tall ask. Very tall. Almost like asking the subaltern hooch shop vendor to make a Bloody Mary. Pardon my patriarchal slippage. The old world definition for ladies is equally obsolete and its definition includes the same personal and social values.
One such person who inhabits the definition is an academic called Professor Ehteshamuddin, who,if this morning's HT report is to be believed, has expressed deep anguish and exasperation at the Kafkaesque situation prevailing in the universities and wishes to say goodbye to his chair as acting Vice-Chancellor of Tilka Manjhi Bhagalpur University. His anxiety to rid himself of the hubris of absurdity is because 'for a self-respecting man, continuing in the post means making compromises'. This brings us to a few more traits of a gentleman: self-respect, being principled to the point that one should not be willing to make well-chosen compromises for the sake of unworthy privilege. If he does indeed leave there will be one less gentleman among academic administrators in Bihar. The loss won't be his. It will be of the state, its university and the academic community.