The chosen path: part 4

I could not find the name in pass list. I was a good student. By school standards, a very good student. I usually get 85-100 in almost all papers, except Malayalam-II, and Social Studies. Both these mostly contain essay questions. Each question required 2-3 pages in answer. Grading is liberal for those who writes nothing, but very stiff if we prepare and write good answer. Getting a 7 out of 7 for an essay was impossible, even if the teacher’s own answer was put up. Even then I used to get 75-90 marks. But then Board exams is a different story. So, much confidence was not there.

As I was searching, one of my teachers called me to the teachers’ room. I was puzzled. Slowly I understood that I had scored very good marks. They were all very proud, and very happy. I was, they said, the topper of the school. I had 556 out of 600, all subjects included. This works to about 92+ percent. Somehow, that number of 556 is still hard to forget, even after so many decades. They said, “we are finding out the top score in Irinjalakuda education zone, and also in the district (Trichur)”. “We will get a better picture soon”, they added. Eventually that picture ended as first (shared with another student) in the Trichur revenue district. I think this was 15th rank in the State. You get Press etc only if you are 1, 2 or 3. From that point of view, this was just an information. But first in the district was important for anyone – it ensured I would get a college seat wherever I went, which ever option I choose. Even before the episode that turned upside down all our plans, my mother used to warn us that getting a seat by paying money will not be possible. Of course, now the situation was different.

Meanwhile, my teachers all wanted to know which college I am going and what I am going to do next. I told them the pre-determined plan. They were stunned. I am choking as I write this! I had a number of teachers in this school, who were like my mother. Soosanna teacher who taught us biology, Thresiamma teacher who taught us social studies (I think), and so on. Soosanna teacher was one who particularly valued education very highly. She had, I think, 5 daughters, and eventually managed to make each one of them a Doctor (medical). She was a God-sent angel particularly over the last couple of years of my school, following the loss of my brother and for the next few years. I and my mother have even borrowed money on some critical occasions. Radhakrishnan master who taught us English was also very fond of me. For a vernacular medium student, my written English was not poor.

Talking of teachers, there are many faces that comes to mind. Nandakumar who taught me physics (may be in 9th), used to tease me. One day, after the mid-sem, he came to class, gave away all the answer sheets and kept mine to the end. Then with serious concern, he asked me “Sasi, what happened to you?”. I got scared. My paper was not that bad, so what happened! After some more drama, he told me “very good, you have 48 out of 50”, or something like that. We had a very interesting Sanskrit teacher, always with pan in his mouth. Though, he did not teach any significant Sanskrit lessons for the exam, all through the year, I got to love languages and particularly Sanskrit because of his classes. Every day he would start the class, and find some story or episode to link to, and the rest of the class will be on that. Of course, that episode had little to do with the syllabus. Then there was Aravindan master whose cane was world famous! As he enters swinging his cane, one would forget whatever one has studied. I used to bug him trying to solve the problems at the end of each chapter of the text book. Where he was not comfortable, he would say “I will get back”, and a day or two later, he would tell me “draw a perpendicular from A to LM, and see”, and usually that would solve the problem. I think my Geometry owes much to this exercise. Let me return…

The news of my plan (or the lack thereof), and its shock waves, spread through the school. One of the teachers called me and said, go home and ask your mother to come.

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