Friday, April 03, 2015

C is for CBSE board exams

Long long time ago, my dad got posted to a very tiny town. I joined Std IX of the only English medium school there. There used to be a big board hung above the door leading to the principal's office. It had the name of the school toppers, one column each for Std VIII, the CBSE 10th board exams (GCE 'O' level equivalent) and the 12th board exams (GCE 'A' level equivalent). It was a very simple school in a very small town, so the board was a very basic one too. Nothing fancy, and the names used to be hand-written by one of the teachers.

But it held great significance for me. It was my dart board. I wanted my name up there in the second column. The CBSE 10th board exams. And I was crazy nerdy to a level that not only did I want to beat all the previous years' scores, I wanted nobody to beat mine. For at least a decade.

So when the board finally did feature my name, I was thrilled to bits. And because it was a really tiny town, 93.6% was a big deal. I was in the papers and on radio as well. (I still remembered the radio guy asking me what was my secret and I told him that I listened to music on my walkman while I studied. I was trying hard not to laugh when he said, "Toh shrotagan, yeh hai Sayesha ka raaz, walkman ke saath padhai.")

So part I of my mission was accomplished and for part II, well that would be a long wait. Anyway, many things happened in the next few years, so I couldn't really keep track of that board. I came to Singapore, my dad got posted elsewhere, and my school friends also got scattered all over the world. There was no link with anyone who knew if the board was still being used, and if my record had been broken.

When I first landed in Singapore, I was suddenly reduced to a nobody. I don't know what the system is now, but back then, they used to give about 50 scholarships a year to Indian students. I was just one of the 50. So everyone was a scholar and everyone had great board exam results, and during ragging our seniors ensured that each of us was made to feel very very small. Equally small. Nobody was special. Least of all me, a girl from a small town in India that no one had even heard of.

And I think that might have made me crave to see that board all over again, as a way to remember my past glories. Years passed, and once in a while I'd remember the board and wonder if they still kept that system of hand-writing the toppers' names in this highly digital world.

A few years ago, I got in touch with an old school friend who lives in the US. I asked him if he could pop by the school during his next India visit and check if the board was still there. He said he would but I never really heard back from him and I felt a little silly bothering him again for it.

I got back in touch with another classmate last year and I asked her the same thing. But nothing came out of that. On some levels, I understood. It's a busy life for everyone. When you visit home, you might not really have the time to go back to your school hunting for a board for a friend. So I gave up my search and tried to put my mind to rest. I told myself that the record was probably smashed to smithereens, and the fact that I couldn't get to it was probably better for me.

Some time ago, I got added to my school friends' WhatsApp group. I got back in touch with many of them. And strangely, one of the guys messaged me saying that he needed to tell me he was now an English teacher. We both laughed heartily at that. You see, back in school he used to hate English and I used to help him with his homework every morning at the bicycle stands before the school assembly. He was an English teacher now! I was so happy for him! We started reminiscing about school days and the board came up in our conversation. I told him of my desire to see if it was still there and if someone had broken my record.

The very next day, I was in for an amazing surprise. He had WhatsApp-ed me a photo of the board! He knew someone whose wife was a teacher in that school, so she took a photo and sent it to her husband who sent it to my friend, who then sent it to me. I was blown away. I thanked him and then I thanked him and then I THANKED him again, and I sent him the folded hands emoticon multiple times. He had no idea what he had done for me.

So yes, the board had been alive and functional all these years! Until 2009, when apparently the GPA system kicked in. And I also discovered that my score had stayed unbeaten for 9 years. In the year 2005, she who shall not be named (but, of course, I immediately issued supari for her) broke my record by 0.6%.

Okay, I tried to blur out the names on iPhoto, but it didn't work well, so I used pic collage and put stickers over the names instead. 

9 years. Ahhhh. Just short of the decade dream. Oh well, what can you do? Besides, the joy of seeing that board after almost two decades, and the fact that my friend had made such an effort for me, surpassed everything else.

If this was a perfect story, my record would have been unbeaten forever. But it's not a perfect story. It's a story about imperfect little things, and imperfect little connections that may take their time, but eventually bring us little joys. Imperfect little joys.


Anonymous said...

It's so incredible that you got to see this board, like what 20 years! What a brilliant story! (And WOW, WHAT A NERD)

shub said...

Wow. And double wow. I did not know this about you, you woman of mystery :D

Maya said...

Neither did I! And yes, what a nerd ;)

Sayesha said...

LOL yes. :D

Hahaha! Wait, I'm going to hunt down and email you the scans of the newspaper articles! :P


Arun said...

You still have the record, if you take into account grade inflation :)

Keirthana said...

Wow, that was an amazing memory! Even more what your friend did for you, it might have been a simple thing for him but how much it means to you is something uncomprehensive :)

Horizon said...

Wow, so glad , that picture must have made your day for sure. You are a mini celebrity on radio and in paper too...

Sayesha said...

LOL that's a good one! :P

Yes, exactly. :)

Haha yes those were the days of glory when people started acknowledging my dad as Sayesha's father rather than the other way round. :)