It was 6:30 am..the 'auto-wala'(a driver), who was hired by my parents among many other helpless parents, had parked the auto-rickshaw nearby a paan–wala (tobacco shopkeeper) and my sister and I sat in the auto, relaxed for a while, in our warm sweaters and scarves, which otherwise flew whenever the engine boiled to run that sleepy auto towards our school.
“Chapter one, chapter two, yes I guess I remember all of them…oh god what was the name of the niece of Aunt Polly in chapter ten??...will I remember everything during the exam??...”
I could feel the weight of the stuffed mind I was carrying and felt a desperate need of unloading that weight from little me. I entered the classroom, but instead of shedding the weight, I added a few pounds more of my classmates’ and my teachers’ unnerving expectations to the stack of the expectations of my parents , embodied with fear, as, those were the days when I always used to come first in my class.. “what if I come second in these exams…!!”..
Some song from one of those old idiotic movies of Govinda( an Indian comedy actor) in 1990s was being played from one of the houses behind the walls of my exam-room and it seemed as if the fresh new stream of erotic words from the song flew in, forcibly displacing the data(syllabus) captured in the tank of my mind. It seemed there was a fight going on between the two data in my mind for the shelter in my big head. I wondered how hard I had tried to imprint those slippy chapters on my butter paper like mind and still those invaders had managed to find place in my mind when I had never bothered to listen to those songs. I was in class 5 then.
The question papers and the answer sheets were distributed among tiny fifty soldiers of my class. Our fight began. We were being invigilated by ‘Tara’- a monster like teacher and I again remembered an innovative song sung that morning itself, “TARA ra ra ra, TARA ra in the morning…”, by a funny boy in my class. And I felt like banging my head against the bench in hope to rearrange my head components in case something had gone wrong!!
Ten minutes were left…and the monster started collecting the sheets. I still had to attempt a two mark question and revision was to be done. My roll number was 33 and I thought of resuming my fight till the monster could reach my desk to snatch my answer sheets...and all of a sudden, the shortest girl in my class, but the bravest of all young soldiers I had known till then, begged in front of the monster to let her complete the paper. But the monster didn’t move.
She again begged but went in vain..the monster roared, tried to snatch the paper from her but the soldier resisted and folded her hand away and got slapped on her face by the monster.
The soldier didn’t move and got slapped again. A stream of tears emanated from her anguish and made itself visible to the whole world (at that time my world limited its boundaries within that classroom)..another slap came striking her face and I spoke……….
I feared another slap, but on my cheek this time, and soon the funny friend of my mine spoke in our favor and following him the whole army stood up. Finally, the hearts of the little soldiers boiled and together they spoke as if attacking the monster with the only shells they had, “ma’am the time is not over yet, we should be given ten minutes more to complete our paper, you may ask the invigilators in other rooms."...
We were asked to show up in front of the vice-principal and explain. I was the monitor of my class then and held a good reputation and with the first rank which somehow I had always managed to get then, bailed us out of that attack.
We never got those ten minutes. I scored 97 marks out of 100 in that paper and the brave soldier who had stood for her right, got 95 marks in that paper…We must have been nerds then!!
But we did get the ten minutes of the inglorious war we had fought bravely against the monster…the monster had not moved in the war, but afterwards , I am sure something inside her had moved.
The little soldiers had permanently printed the war and the fear in the monster’s head…
I’m sure all of us, at some stage of our lives, must have been some kind of soldiers in our ways and still feel our chests exalted with those memories!!