“I know you did some malpractice, both for theory and practical,” that was the reaction of my physics teacher when he came to know that I managed to scrape through my higher secondary exams. He cannot be blamed for making a defamatory statement. For somebody, who scored 18/100 for the half yearly exams, who rarely got his practicals right, who was 54th in a class of 60 (many shared same place, so 54 would mean really at the bottom!), scoring 47/100 for theory and getting a difficult practical experiment like P.O.Box right were something improbable if not impossible.
As he had once caught me for counterfeiting his signature for a practical experiment, he was convinced that it was not just that i was completely out of place but had also resorted to malpractices. But the fact was I sort of realised with my goofed-up counterfeiting attempt that malpractice was something not my cup of tea and it would just add to my troubles. Thankfully, fairly early in life.
My physics teacher considered me wood-headed and useless. For him, I am the one who lagged behind in terminal exams, fumbled in practicals and had no clue about what was going on in classroom and lab.
I think for that he has to at least partly blame himself. I was a student who came with 84 per cent marks for physics for the 10th exams. In fact, it was one of my most favourite subjects. His intimidating style of teaching, his constant threatening, his partiality for high-ranking ones had long put me off. And in fact, I developed this habit of siesta during the post-lunch physics classes in my higher secondary days.
And for somebody who was used to lot of pampering, acclamation and affection till tenth, this relegation to a non-entity was something too much to take. But it was a period when I realised for myself that if things could possibly go wrong by any minute chance it would surely go that way....
Probably, such bad times revisited me only after 12 years, that is this year, when things were again going wrong in every possible ways..
1997. The ignominy of revenue recovery procedures including auction ads for our property in the local columns, humiliatingly high levels of debt after father’s wild goose chases, the crumbling house, familial issues....it was a drowning feeling. As if these were not enough, i defaulted on assignment submissions on a permanent basis, physics and maths classes went over my head, completely lost out to the rival in school politics, best friends crossed over to enemy camp or turned indifferent, scored historically low marks and most painfully, was completely let down by my beloved.....
Perhaps, more than all that was crumbling around me what consumed my unslept nights was her let down. I wrote poems one after other every night, mostly about the pain of rejection. I ran away from text books and read about art, literature, culture and politics. I read the most contemporary poems. I spent the cash awards I got for essay competitions on buying books and set up a small home library – to which I used to keep looking at with excessive amount of pride.
My mom was extremely hurt when she once visited the school when progress report was out. “He will always have some company around him and is least bothered about studies,” maths teacher’s words, her expression of strong disapproval and dislike left mom in tears. For she, in two years it was things turned upside down.
She had seen her son being everyone’s favourite in school when she came for anniversary when he was in tenth, proudly heard a special mention about his achievements in annual school report, seen him addressing the gathering as school leader..
But here, in another school, in another two years, he has become a pariah, a failure, a nuisance, a left-out. “I was the one who taught him to read and write. That too in 15 days...”before she completed her sentences she was in tears and a lump was formed in her throat. As she broke down in the awkwardly emotional moment the entire staffroom wore an embarrassed look.
So things were moving from bad to worse. It didn’t seem to find a halt till I finally told myself something needs to be done. Given 26/150 for maths and 18/100 for physics, my chances to pass higher secondary are pretty slim, I told myself. I thought of bunking those exams which were really difficult. But finally made up my mind to appear for all papers.
I told myself this is the most difficult test, once i pass through this, things will be easier. I can join for arts subjects for degree and fair well. I must face the challenge of attending exams rather than running away from them. I was prepared to face the ignominy of a failure if that was what it was supposed to be.
I found that except for maths and physics, I could handle other subjects such as chemistry, zoology, botony and languages. So all I need to do is to give special attention to maths and physics. I started reading physics text books for the first time! To his credit, the physics teacher gave excellent class notes. Not only that the text book made sense to me but also I found it quite interesting! Then for practicals, although a little late, I understood the diagrums could help one connect things in order and byhearted them. Although I never understood what they meant to be I was able to make PO Box or whatever little instruments work. Thus I ensured I wouldn’t fail!
Then comes maths where matrix, vector and a little understanding of differentiation is not just enough to cross the pass mark. Here came Joyichan, my dad’s younger brother a maths guru. An unslept night over differention and integration just a day before the exams – he said I picked up fast and actually would have done better - I survived the maths problem.
But, in worst case scenario you can still fail. So I was preparing for it when the results were approaching. That day when I got the newspaper, I was looking from the bottom to see my hall ticket number. Although my mind said I am through I had a slight fear when my number was not found in the third class list. Ooops I am there in the second class!
Unlike my physics teacher who chose not to believe I passed through merit, my maths teacher was particularly happy to see that I passed. The happiness was there in her eyes when she said “Manu, I honestly thought you would fail. But here you won. And when the ‘just-passed ones’ usually barely make it to 53 at the mercy of examiners here you have 64 marks! Quite an achievement and a hard-earned one. I am happy for you”.
Although it still remains to be an outstandingly low score in my academic record, the 57 per cent for higher secondary reminds me of a tumultuous time, a survival struggle and finally a big relief!