5...4...3...2...1...and the bell rang. The time was up. The examination was over.
I stared at my blank sheet, exasperated. When the teacher asked me to hand over my paper, I didn't resist like Akshit or Ramya who were still penning down the last few words in a desperate hurry. I just didn't feel anything at all. In fact Mrs. D' Souza was quite puzzled to see nothing on my paper. With closely knitted eyebrows, she whispered to me, "Is everything alright with you?" I nodded feebly. The room was full of sounds. From cries of happiness to anguish, from the sound of pencils and pens to the click-clack of pencil boxes, all girls and boys were talking loudly, verifying the answers they had written. Some had their eyes closed, with a word of thanks on their lips. They had managed to ace the paper after all. But nobody looked at me. Nobody asked me if I had answered it well. After all, I was repeating the grade. I was "the" weak student, the rotten apple of the class. I silently exited the examination hall, collected my bag, readjusted the locket with Lord Shiva's picture on it, and headed downstairs.
Anxious parents had already arrived way before the end time of the exam. They were yelling excitedly at their wards. As I pushed my way through them, I felt insignificant, too small, like a speck of dust that could be blown away miles without any notice. There was no one waiting for me though. I had to trudge back home with heavy steps. I did not wish to take the bus today. Didn't want to hear anything about school, syllabus and exams. As I walked a few blocks away from school, all I could hear was muffled voices... "What! You didn't answer this? " "How did you solve this sum?" "How could you forget it?" "Did Rajan get all his sums correct?"
It was 4 p.m. I was hungry. I walked to the nearest bench alongside a park. I took out my tiffin box. It contained a packet of biscuits. I tore it open, and fished out the first biscuit. I took large bites of it. Its tiny crumbles hung onto the corners of my lips. I relished it. The breeze was quite cool today. The summer's heat felt no longer scorching. The rustling leaves and the cawing of the crows made me feel at peace. Made me feel like a different person altogether. So who was I ? I was a student of class 5 who couldn't add or subtract, who failed to memorize equations, who had no idea about the rise and fall of Indus Valley Civilization, didn't know the capital of Indonesia etc. etc. In a nutshell I was dumb, dull, and what my mother called "a good-for-nothing" chap. It was not that I didn't try. I had tutors for every subject. My parents took turns to help me understand my lessons. But my brain was like a bucket with a large hole. No sooner did information seep in than it would drain out. My parents feared that something was wrong with me. At times I feared it too. My classmates laughed at me. My teachers either pitied me or scolded me so hard for being clumsy, that school days were really not the best of my times. But then what was I really interested in? Nothing. I loved doing nothing. I loved staring at the wall. Once I had stared at the wall for three hours straight!
I was munching my fourth biscuit now. I was thirsty. I sipped into my water bottle. Life was good on this bench. A stray dog sat himself before my bench. It was a lean-framed brown and white dog. He had noticed the biscuits and was looking at it with hungry eyes, with its pink tongue hanging out. I threw a biscuit at him. The dog sniffed at it and looked at me again. I didn't understand? I didn't have anything else to share? Stupid dog. Doesn't like good quality biscuits. Biscuits are healthy. They don't make you fall sick like the oily parathas and the butter laden butter chicken. Chicken..perhaps the dog was craving for meat. Stupid dog. You don't always get what you want. Stupid dog. Stupid dog.
And then as I kept on wondering at the stupidity of the dog, I caught him gently wagging his tail at me. Somehow the dog seemed to be less stupid to me now. It was not barking at me. It wasn't growling at me. But there was some kind of affection for me in those brown watery eyes. All for what? A biscuit, which he didn't even touch. Perhaps the dog wanted to talk to me. "What is your name stupid dog?" I asked, squashing a mosquito biting into my thigh. The dog woofed and sat up on its paws. Hmm. So he did understand me. And in his doggy language, he said that his name was 'Woof'. Hmm. Interesting. "OK Woof, what do you want from me? I have no more biscuits to give you. " "Woof", came the reply. I was not understanding. Did he want to play, did he want to eat? I was all confused. Mother said that I was too dumb for anything. The dog didn't know that perhaps. Just as I was about to put forward another question, a stone came flying by and hit the dog's head. Frightened and terrified, the dog yelped to its feet and ran away. The stone was thrown by a young man holding the hand of a pretty girl, with her hair braided in knots. "Ha ha ...stupid dog!" said the man, while the girl looked at him in an expression of mock-anger.
I couldn't fathom the reason why the perfectly intelligent young man stoned a stray dog. I couldn't fathom the reason why the girl was going out with this young man. I couldn't fathom why the young man was stealing a kiss of the girl's rosy lips right before my eyes. The world around me was too complex. I couldn't fathom anything at all. Not addition, not different civilizations and capitals. The blue of the sky was now crimson red. A red ball had appeared in the sky. The birds we twittering back into their nests. I threw the wrapper of the empty biscuit's basket in a dustbin, and adjusted my uniform. I had to walk back home. It was getting late. Perhaps Mother would be angry. Perhaps Mother would be worried. Perhaps Mother would want to know what I had written in my answer script. I had to think of a way to avert the scolding. Stupid me.
This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda