Friday, October 4, 2013

The First taste of Failure

“Ma’am, please! Please give me that quarter mark somewhere,” he begged, in a tone that would cause pity in even the strongest of hearts (or so he thought!).

“Dei, ask her for a quarter mark somewhere da. That’ll double into a half, and when it gets rounded off, you’ll be fine,” his neighbour told him. “After all quarter mark da. She’ll give it off somewhere. She can’t be that strict also.”  The teacher, though, did not look like one to budge. She had the reputation for being a strict one, but one of the best too; when it came to the subject. Tears welled up in his eyes.

“Dei, what da. 10th Half Yearly la Century. 12th Half Yearly la Half Century?” his friend chided him jovially. He tried, but couldn’t manage a laugh. All his mind went to was, to what if she refuses to give the quarter mark? He couldn’t even dare to imagine the disastrous turn that his life would take. How would he explain that tiny red mark in his report card to his parents? What would he tell his friends whom he would soon meet in the lunch break, who would ask him what his score was …

He had always been a high flyer, the ones typically called nerds, in his middle school days. One of the extra-sincere ones who completed all their home-work on time, had their books neatly covered in brown sheets, came to school 30 minutes ahead of time and the one taking copious notes as the teacher went on and on, about the history of the country and the freedom struggle. Math had always been his forte, and loved his numbers from a very young age. The kick that he got from having his name scrawled by his teacher for being the first in the class to solve a star mark problem was like none other, to him.

“Go for the IITs. Slog for just two years, and you’ll be set for life,” people told him. He thought things would be a cakewalk for him. And here he was, struggling to clear his school mid-term exams; and suddenly life seemed like a walk in a dark tunnel, filled with Tamil Cinema goons who were punching him from every corner. And he could see no light at the end of the tunnel either.

Seri, give me your paper. Let me see,” she said. His heart beat went up a few notches. If only she gave this reprieve, he would somehow manage things; and escape the agony of his first F grade. “What is this pa? I’ve asked you some derivation. You have written nonsense all over, and in the last line you have written the formula; and concluded in a pencil-underlined-neat- flourish ‘Thus proved’. What did you think, that I won’t read all this and give you marks?”

She turned the page over. “You’ve drawn a neat diagram. But this is not a drawing class right? That’s there in the question paper itself. You’ve just copied it out neatly. No direction of current marked. No this, no that. What can I give you here? Nothing. Even what I’ve given you right now, is way too much.”

One more turn of the paper. “What is this? You’ve copied out the question. But where’s the answer? Only a huge blank space. Wasn’t I the one invigilating your exam as well? When you asked me for an additional answer sheet so soon, I thought you were writing so much. But looks like you just rewrote the question paper with blank spaces for someone else to write the answer in!” she exclaimed. And his heart sunk. It looked like he had hit a dead end.

I should probably have listened to him and added some answer in the blank spaces that are there, and taken it to her and pretended she had missed out checking this question,” he thought to himself. He walked back dejected, and thought he’d meet the teacher once again in the evening and beg for that elusive quarter mark.

And so he did. “Ma’am. Please give me a quarter mark somewhere. I’ll pass this time. I’ll make sure this never happens again.”

 “I won’t give you this quarter mark,” she said; much to his chagrin. “You will remember this for life, and will make sure you never end up in such a situation ever again.”

And that turned out to be the best lesson he learnt in his 15 odd years of schooling - Make sure you never end up regretting a past mistake. “If only I had done this earlier …”

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