The day of my first term examination of my first standard was not only my first school examination but the day of some big learning also.
Kids’ fighting is a usual thing in every house if the elder is a girl and the younger is a boy. The reason is the girl will think, “I am the older, the younger one should obey me”. But usually, no boys tolerate a girl’s domination (Sorry, I can’t give a proper reason for this phenomenon- may be ‘the boys are made like that’). As the younger boy with an elder sister, my childhood was also not an exception.
The school was about a kilometer away from my home. It was a local village school managed by the Christian church of our area. Since it is a village, every body knew us (That’s big virtue in the villages. In the big cities, we may not know the person staying in the next villa). My sister was senior to me for an year. So when I joined in the first standard, my parents send me to school with my sister. I really did not want to go with her. Because…
- She was a good student, so when ever I quarreled or did some mischievous things at school, the teacher would compare me with her. I hated (then and now) comparing me with somebody else.
- She had a bunch of friends of her age or one or two years older. School going with a set of girls is not a small punishment for a proud boy. When ever I tried to skip from the gang of girls, my parent warned me and I was forced to go with those talkative girls.
- Since I was the youngest and the only boy in the team, the girls always teased me and they enjoyed my anger. When ever I lost my temper, I threw stones to them. They complained to my Mom, and I got enough every day.
(The girls are always like that. When ever they get a chance, they play with the brains of boys. But when the boys react, they will complaint to higher authority and the guys get the punishment.
Moral: The Girls have no sportsman spirit…! Please don’t expect fair play from them.)
My biggest challenge was my sister’s good image as a calm and quite, well behaving to other, very studious girl… I was just opposite to that. But, no body made any bad comment on my behaviors as they may consider my deeds as some simple kid’s play. Going to school is just a running to reach the class on time. But, the return from school was not as mechanical as going. I often skip from the girls group and we boys climb on the ‘nut-meg tree’ in the plantation of the church, for the ‘nut-meg fruit’.Expecting us, the Assistant Vicar of the Church should be there to catch us red-handed. Still, I don’t know the real reason of why he never caught us- may be because of our fast running or wearing the long white priest’s clock, he might not be able to follow us as fast as we were. Another activities were throwing stones to mango tree for mangoes and getting some flower plants for home garden from the houses on the way. Since the peoples in my village were so good, no body had any big complaint on any of these activities of naughty boys. I still remember, one lady whose house is near the road, gave us water and asked our school news regularly.
The first term examination came. Before exam, I had studied all my topics. But the real threat was, last year my roll-model-to-all sister scored 96 percentage marks with a second place in the class. (The first place winner of her batch was Mr. Kishan – now he works as a software engineer in Bangalore). If my mark is less than 96 percent, I could tell no excuses to my parents for my ‘extra-curricular activities’.
The examiner was my class teacher Sister Dais Maria –a Christian nun with a marvelous heart. Still I remember some of the questions – “Spell the summation table of seven”, “Sing the poem started with ‘Ambalamuttathana Nirannu…’ (The decorated elephants came to the temple courtyard…)”, “Write the National Anthem ‘Janaganamana’ without spelling mistake”, “Name of the Indian President…” etc.
At last, the eighth wonder of the world happened, I got full marks…!
My joy was bound less. I wanted to show my marks to my dearest mother- who always supported me, and say “My boy is good, he will prove himself one day”. Yes, her son made his first proof. I wanted to show her that – the first achievement in my life, at the age of five. I hold tightly my new black slate with a white chalk mark of ‘50/50’ in my right hand and ran to home. “Faster, again faster”… the spirit asked to my flesh. I ran like hell. After a while, I was not able even to breathe, but did not stop running. Tumbling a stone, I fall down to the dusty red soil road. From my knee, a small stream of blood started to flow. I wanted to stand up, but could not.
Some body took me up. “Oh, he is bleeding”. They took me to the nearest house. Somebody washed my wound. “Is he the son of Rajan Sir?” Some body asked. I really wanted to cry aloud, but did not. Because once I had fall down while playing and cried aloud, my neighbor Mercy Chechi took me from ground, patted on my shoulder and told “Hey dear, don’t cry like girls… You are a boy and the boys don’t cry.”
I wanted to ask her, “Why don’t the boys cry? Don’t they have pain, like girls?” But not yet asked. Still I am thankful to her for the care she given to me and consider me too as her kid, even I often made quarrel with her daughters.
But this time, it was not just pain; my new black slate with my 50/50 mark was broken. But, the slate had just a single break, still visible to see the mark. So I somehow controlled myself and kept the slate pressing my chest, not showing my mark to anybody. One man asked, “Are you OK, Kunjikutta?” That was my neighbor Reji Chettan.
“Don’t call me that, I am Mahesh” I shouted, while weeping. Pain and anger was in that tone. “Kunjikuttan” was my pet name of my childhood. I did not like that name. Because, in Malayalam, the meaning of “Kunjikuttan” is “dear ‘little’ boy”. At the age of five, I felt that ‘I am not that much little‘ and so I did not like that name.
Everybody laughed hearing my reply. I got confused, ‘I just told my name, is it?’. I really wanted to run from there. Reji Chettan took me to his shoulder and said, “You sit here comfortably, and I’ll leave you at house”.
While walking to my house, he asked me “Went for exam? How much you got?”
“I won’t tell; first, I have to show this to my mother.” I replied.
He laughed again; I did not understand why people laugh, when I had said something seriously. Is there any mistake to show my marks first to mother?
When we reached my house, I jumped from his shoulder and ran to house calling “Mom… Mom”
My mother was combing the hair of my sister and makes her ready for the examination after noon. Mother shocked seeing my posture- body and cloths full of soil and dust, with an injured knee and a broken slate in hand, I was running to her, calling her with a crying voice.
“Oh my God, what happened to my baby?” she kissed my forehead.
My grand parents also came. Grand father checked my wound and said “Not a too serious one, but some scratches on the knee, it’s painful”
“Nothing to worry uncle, he fall down tumbling a stone…” That was Reji Chettan
“Oh thank you son, for the care on him… You are so kind hearted…” My grand father thanked him.
“That’s OK, he is a lovely kid, we all like him… He was in a hurry to show his marks to his mother. I have asked but did not tell me. Now, tell me your mark Kunji… Sorry Mahesh?”
I felt a bit embarrassment, with a shy smile in tears; I showed my broken slate to my mother. I saw a proud smile on my mother’s face “He got full mark…”
I could see her eyes also filled with tears of pleasure. Such small-small pleasures make our life worth live.
“Oh… like his sister… That’s why he wanted to show his marks to his mother first. Very good my dear, keep it up in all exams…” Reji Chettan smiled and went to his house waving a hand to me.
I thought my sister would be jealous to me, as I broke her record. I looked at her with pride. But she was looking at my wound, she came to me and kissed my dirty cheeks and said “I am really proud of you, and I will tell all my friends that my kid brother got full mark. Is it too painful, my dear?”
It was quite unexpected. I was competing to my sister and she feels proud on my better mark? I had a totally wrong image about her in my mind. My sister was the reason of my bad boy image, she always tried to dominate me, and she never paid attention to my words. When ever I did something naughty –she complained to mother and I got enough. And sometime to my worst fear, she complained to father also – when he came home in weekends.
But when I came with a good mark, she was really happy and really sad seeing my injury. I realized her true love to me. She was not jealous to me but very proud of my good marks. I was competing to the wrong person and doing a worthless fight to my own shadow.
My eyes filled with tears. Not because of pain, but for the first time in my life – I have learned “Blood is thicker than water”.
I think that was the first incident I really started to learn the value of relations …
P.S: I feel very sorry to say, two of the characters in this incident are now not with us. My beloved grand father –Mr. K. K. Narayanan Nair– passed away about twenty years before and my dearest neighbor Reji Chettan–who liked me very much- left our world about fifteen years before on a bike accident.