Perhaps some day I'll take to it again. I never say never; I am a coward; or is that being human? Mortal, gullible .. insecure : ah, coward it is. I'll take to it again when I find the need for a higher financial platform too pressing, for they are the only dependable means to it that I know of. And let's be fair, most of what I understand of life and living, is due to these run-of-the-mill entrance exams. They are great objective teachers, other than, of course, being objective-type tests. Unlike the archetypal pedagogue, they let you be. Unlike the archetypal pedagogue again, they make you ask questions. Unlike him again, they are sympathetically understanding of your silent responses. But like them, they make sure that you are not the same after them as you were before; you are more. Also like them, they are looked at by the pupils predominantly with a feeling of a well-known type of fear vigorously muddled with a not so well-known type of contempt, and yes, how could I forget that, that occasional awe.
My first brush with this world was when I was midway in my eleventh class. Due, somehow, to something the kind guys liked in me, I was offered their preparatory course for a pittance of a fee - a nominal eight thousand for an year and a half. I vainly wished that they took the full forty from my folks, and later on quietly slipped the thirty-two in my hands, so that I would go back home and give back that money while proudly exclaiming "I earned it, Mummy!" With the same end-result, God could have made it a thousand times more thrilling, but he likes the mundane.
Once there, I was exposed to a group of three apparently-deprived youngsters whose lives until then, it seemed, consisted only of days wasted in playing with punctured tyres - rolling them around with some stick and running alongside. Humane pretensions kept aside, the words on a father's paycheque are invariably written on the face of his sixteen year old son. And their faces told, or screamed, that the words weren't quite heavy. Newly here from their village somewhere in Bihar, they looked exactly the kind of young lads that modern, sophisticated girls would look at, from a distance of course, with disdain, and turn about hoping not to be looked back at by them. Their teeth had the red of bricks by years of guthka, pimples sat themselves in awkward positions at every corner of their faces, clothes were just good enough to venture out of a shell, bottomed by hawaii chappals. They, however, anyhow, anyway, at the end of the day, eventually, were superhuman wizards. When I would be struggling to begin to make sense of the questions, they shot back with the answers - with a sense of victory; with a tinge of, if I may add, vengeance on the world. And then I was no dumb bimbo either; on the contrary, I hardly believed until then that a pair of a head and a spinal cord existed on this planet that could work as swiftly as mine. Of course, every such mirage fast evaporated, incondensibly. They were everything I was not - carefree, loud, cocky; despite all the odds that lay against them. The next thing I knew was that I wanted to be with them. Then I squandered the year with them, in things that can politely be put as unsuitable - I didn't know that while I was craving for looking into them they had been craving for looking into something else. Obviously, I, constrained by the foolproof middle-class conditioning of temperance, never went the distance as they did. At the end of the journey when each of them was deep in debt, they were still astoundingly unperturbed, as though they had seen a life from where it was impossible to get worse.
It was the final mock test, after which there was only to be the real one, when the best among these best, took the question paper, sat in the exam hall for ten minutes flapping his feet wildly all the while, and in a sudden moment rose up and left. I thought he must have had some seriously troublesome thing bothering him; and after fifteen restless minutes I submitted my answer sheet and left too, I knew no answers either, but that's another story, for another post. Outside, in stark contrast, he was lounging around as if he had all the time in the world and he would much rather be preoccupied if that was an option.
Bewildered, I began, "You, Piyush, you, it is you who stood up; no duffer gets up before half an hour, and you know it's you. What happened to the whiz who had taken admission here?"
"Forget about it, I was wasting time inside; I knew not many answers, and those that I knew wouldn't have scored for me a bumper." Nothing ever sparked any contemplative emotion in him; not at least the emotion you expected to spark.
"Why did you even come for it if you were so unconcerned?", my curiosity was seamless.
"If I didn't appear, a letter would have reached my home that I missed the test, and you know the kind of dressing-down I'd get from my Dad then?", retorted he.
"And wouldn't you get a dressing down for the seven-on-hundred or nine-on-hundred or whatever that you'll get now, and which, too, would be reported to your Dad?"
" No. He can't get a seven-on-hundred on this test himself, I bet. Ha ha ha" he answered hysterically.
And in a few days it was the time for which we were all there in the first place. While some of my human, ordinary friends went on to make records, none of these three ended up exactly in heaven. It was their destiny, there's no other answer that I would take, it was their destiny, just as it was their fathers'.