Wednesday, January 9, 2008

My Experiment with Lies

The following anecdote is a scrap from my school day life as I recount it; almost a decade after the curtains had fallen for that drama. There was this age; When, I used to think that the progress card was the worst of all inventions man had ever made. Even the dirty Nukes were in no par with the physiological dent that this piece of paper could impart in a minor.

It was on 8th Standard, 2nd term & it was my new school “Loyola”. In here, exams were “no big deal”. Rather, these were a “way of life”. The weekly tests on Fridays were a matter of concern. For which, the preparation used to start from Wednesday, at the latest. It seemed to be a never ending process. Through out the whole term there were these weekly tests to deal with. As an add-on, came the terminal exams & on top of it all the luscious topping “the final exam!” was served. The exam time was never tension free; though it used to be a gamble. But there was no compromise for the adrenalin gust at the time of receiving those souvenir of our stupidity widely called as the answer sheets.

On one fine afternoon after a good meal, when the air was filled with frisk & hubbubs, the teacher Gayathri madam [known amongst us as GAMA] stepped into the class breaking its blissful sanctity of pandemonium. All of us stood staring at her as she made her way to the platform & took her seat. There was nothing unusual with her to steal all our attention, but this time she had those answer sheets with her. We guys looked each other & took our seat .Several expressions flashed through everyone’s face. Just like the variation in reaction of different metals to the same acid, the expressions on everyone’s face had its own reason. For some it is going to bring in a new feather in their cap & for some others it’s going to be the access token for their grades. There were a few rare metals that never seemed to react unless some miracles saved them from the “red mark”.

GAMA untied the bundle & started off calling the names. I, myself being roll number 1, had mentally prepared to be her first victim. But to my surprise the papers were jumbled. This time, as if to rub salt on our wounds she was calling out the marks too. My anxiety kept building up. Questions popped up from back of my mind “Have I failed? Is it why she has not called my name?” For a boy who had a fair academic track, a “red mark” was the worst sore that could be inflicted upon him. My tension rose in rhythm with each name she called. All of a sudden I started chanting prayers that came to my memory. As if I expected the ‘Supremo’ to work out a miracle. May be to change the marks in my answer sheet or to swap my answer sheet with some one else’s. A cymbal rang in my ears. Waking me up before I could end my prayers. It took me a second to realize that it was not a cymbal but GAMA calling out my name that retrieved me back into the world of reality. I rushed to her, jumped to the platform & literally took my souvenir from her hands. Wasting no time I came back to my seat n grinned at my pal sitting next to me & whispered “Reksa pettu aliyaa avaru ente marku vilichilla”. His response was a confused smile ‘the meaning of which I would know shortly’. I took a deep breath & both of us peeped into my paper. Oh GOD it’s the “RED MARK”. I scratched my head & looked back at my friend. It is now that I came to know the meaning of his grin. It was the prayers that I was preoccupied in, that made me deaf from hearing my marks when it was called & my attempt to stop her from calling out my score was in vain. We both exchanged a smile.

I’ve fallen short of 1 mark to hit the threshold of 40%.For the 1st time ever in my life the “RED MARK” has left its stain. GAMA was too stingy in giving us marks, but still I turned though the pages to see if there is hope left. I waited impatiently. Just as she finished the 'Award ceremony', I went back to her. It was not just me, but a bunch of mates were crowding around her. I had to wait for my turn. This time I badly needed that 1 mark. But all my attempts were turned down by her & in the end I had to work out my last number “win her sympathy”. With a melancholic aura I approached her, “Mam, it’s just a matter of one mark. Only you can make me pass”. Looking straight into my eyes & with a stern resolve she uttered “What makes you think that I should be merciful?” She seemed to question my blasé attitude. “Oh God’ It is a disaster! It is never going to work out” I wanted to cry. But I couldn’t “I’m a boy, I need to preserve my pride” “I said to myself.

I was left with this question “what next?” Being a truthful son; while I reach back home, my mom might put me through a check-in procedure even before letting me stretch or take a nap. She had her own reasons. She used to have a good time cleaning my room, but at times she came across some stunning discoveries like my History & Math answer sheets that had yielded to time & has metamorphosed by the toil of silverfish. This time I was sure it is going to be a testing task. If caught, it is going to be one big explosion. I had to sneak this bomb into my home safely with out letting out the fuse. It was not just the paper; I had to hide my expressions when facing questions about the answer sheets,it was a tougher job. I can’t carry it in my pockets. If checked, even the bag won’t be spared. By the end of the 6th period I had worked out a design to evade all possible traps. When the last bell rang at 3:45 pm I proceeded to the toilet where I carefully folded up the paper & slipped it into back of my under wear. I hurried back to the bus & took my seat. The folded paper was giving a kind of itch while sitting. Wanted to scratch but couldn’t. Sitting in the bus I tried out several expressions to mimic a placid face. By the time I reached my stop, I had perfected on my new mask.

Just like an actor on his stage, I entered home. I can’t act suspicious; being a ‘good boy’ would be the worst thing to do. So I removed my shoes & left it in the hall way, came to the dining room n dropped the bag. Grabbed the remote & switched to VH1. Removed my shirt, belt & threw it over the staircase railing in a manner that it slides & settles down where the railing ends. I started munching on the snacks kept on the table. Suddenly a voice from kitchen shouted out “Kai kazhukityittu kazhikkeda”. Thought my present situation calls in for obeying her completely, I should pretend as if noting was heard & wash hands only when the song being played gets over. After the act in the ground floor was over, I sluggishly climbed upstairs to my room. I took a good look around to make sure that none except the lizard on the wall was there in the room. There was a Bible on my table I slipped the answer paper into it. I was sure that it would be the last book to be disturbed from the harmony that it has found with the dusty milieu. But there was a slight remorse for having used the Bible for such an act .I yielded to it & in b/w the pages of my chambers’ dictionary the paper found its final home.

Days & weeks passed, I had produced many papers at home which had better figures. Each time I showed an answer sheet, the look on my dad’s face seemed to speak thus “I know the worst ones are yet to come down the line”. I don’t know whether it was my guilt that spoke to me so? The Christmas was closing in, so where the terminal exams. How long could as secret be hidden?
my alma mater 'Cheer Loyola sons ! '
After a few weeks, while dining at the table,

mom asked me : “eathellam weekly testinte paper kitti?”
me : “ Eni English matramae kittan ollu”[ with out lifting my head]
mom: “English exam adyatham ezhu thiyathalle? ”
me : “enta ? enne oru samshayam olla thu poolae chodikkunae” [looking @ her]
me:“teacher kurachu naalayittu leavilaa”

I still don’t know why I responded to her question in such a manner, but that was the best deceptive response I could’ve ever given her. The same kind of questions came up twice or thrice even after a days interval or two.

Weeks moved on, I got my progress card It had to be signed & returned before the Christmas exams begin. But how will I account 4 the “RED MARK” in it. Though I managed to end up with a first class, it is never going to be an excuse. I kept counting the days. The last day to submit the report card was up. I came back from school completely determined to show my report card & the answer sheet. After all routine habits, I went to my room & I searched the dictionary only to find out that the paper has disappeared.

“Yes! It has disappeared”. “God! what‘ve you done to me? I asked for a miracle to save me, you could’ve done the same work when the paper was with GAMA”. Now things are going to get even worse. I searched everywhere but the search had to be discreet or else parents might smell some thing fishy. That was a dreadful night. The next day I woke up, got dressed up for school. I searched for the paper again, but it was of no use. On the break fast table, Mom served the food & while going back to kitchen she asked “entahda vallathe erikunnae ? [for which I had no answer] aaharam kazhichukazhinju ee chaya kudichitu poo”. After having food, I went to the kitchen for tea, on my way back, while crossing the dining table some thing stole my eye. “Is it that? Yes it is “I took a closer look it was my answer paper but I found not just the “RED MARK” but a familiar handwriting. It was my dad’s signature!

With an embarrassing smile, I walked to the door.“ente monu abhinayam theerae vasham ella, alle ?” That was my dad showering his arrows of victory over me! . After that incident neither did I hide any papers nor win a “RED MARK”, but felt free to toss the papers over to the dining table no matter what figures it bore.

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