Previous Episode: Tale Of a Zamindar
There are people who are willing to tell their stories of village life in India and would like to see me narrate for them, so here on my blog are various stories – a mix of my memoirs and others with various tags.
It was the year 1990. I was nine years old and we had spent enough time in a tiny house in our village. My mother had decided to shift to a more convenient concrete house instead of the palm tree roofed house. The transition to new rented house was effortless as we didn’t have much of luggage to carry to our new house. This new house gave us privacy and comfort. The landlord was old, polite and a washerman by trade. His family helped us in our transition. They owned two beautiful modern houses in the village. There were stories about his wealth – such as, his ancestors left a secret locker filled with a lot of jewellery above the door frame and he found it accidentally when a cyclone hit the village. It was a curious case, if we put the facts behind the story, to compare the income he could earn from his work and the houses he owned. Maybe these stories were created by those people who were jealous of his hard work and wealth. The landlady was good at calculating profits and costs. She would memorize the items of laundry collected from each house without needing to make a list, whereas the washerman would mix the clothes up from one family to another during the delivery if he was working alone.
That year during the mid-season a new schoolteacher was transferred to our village. He was a father of three girls. The eldest one – Lohitha, was a year older than me, though she studied the fifth grade twice because she skipped fourth grade. You may ask how she skipped but that’s a question to our school administrators. But then they allowed her to study fifth grade twice so she could practice more for the upcoming Common Entrance Test of JNVST, which was the gateway for all who dreamed of gaining admission to the associated premier schools. Since she had already studied the syllabus in the previous year she was quicker in solving the exercises. On top of that teachers made her head girl of the class. The title made her powerful and an even more mean girl. She would complain against every single student who wouldn’t listen to her instructions. We were given daily chores for each group such as planting and watering the plants in our school. She would never take part in these activities, instead she would pass on her responsibilities to one of her group members and use her status as head girl to get her work done. Soon she had become a most irritating student among us. Her tantrums didn’t last for long as one of our team members complained to the teachers as she wasn’t taking part of the chores, which resulted a punishment for her of watering the plants by herself. We were happy with our team member’s courage and celebrated the victory over Lohitha.
Our teachers allotted us a special session on a daily basis to get us ready for this exam. Lohitha stood first in each practice test, which made my friends and I nervous about our performance. When the big day arrived, we all prepared ourselves to look our best as if it would be a personal interview. Bright and active children of our age group arrived at the examination center and sat down in their allotted seats with an exam kit – two sharp pencils, one pen, an eraser and a sharpener. It was our first major exam with multiple choice format that I could remember.
I was perplexed by the question paper and it seemed clear that I hadn’t studied for most of the sections. I looked around for my friends Cnu and Ravi to seek confirmation if what I felt matched their experience. They sat far from me within the same exam hall, but I could see Ravi spinning his pencil frequently, a sign that he has got stuck in solving a sum. We managed to fill our answer sheets within the allotted time and walked out of the exam hall with great relief – a heavy pressure was off our chest and were happy to be done with the exam. None of us were that bothered about the results. However, we weren’t surprised when the results came out: as everyone expected the girl was selected for admission to the premier Navodaya Vidyalaya school. The selection committee was at least kind enough that they didn’t publish the scores of each person, rather they sent an acknowledgement stating that we weren’t qualified. I met my friends Ravi and Cnu, and we shared our disappointment that our efforts didn’t pay off. After a while we laughed with each other about the exam and didn’t place much importance on our failure. We were at least thankful for the selection committee not publishing our scores and saving us from shame. Along with this common entrance test we also cleared our fifth grade exams and were thrilled to move to another school where the classes were organized by senior faculty and in better buildings. My excitement continued as we then had a vacation and traveled to visit our grandparents.
Next Episode: Trunk Of Treasures