By Atul V Mohan
Parul was feeling down that day. He loathed getting up from his cosy bed and leaving for school. He took a Test the previous day and was pretty sure that he would flunk it. He cursed his neighbourhood boy who gave him a pirated CD of the new GTA V which ended up keeping him up till 4AM and leaving him with a meagre hour and a half to cram for the test. The worst part was that he didn’t remember anything he wrote for the test. It was all a blur.
He knew that his grades were going downhill at a pace faster than his parents could ever fathom. He saw in his mind the new PS3 his dad promised him if he got a grade above B+ on the test go ‘poof’ and disappear. He didn’t care about the PS3 anymore.
He did not want his parents to find out and take away his internet privileges. He knew that today was the day of reckoning. The professor will hand over the answer sheets today. And with it, life as he knew it would be over.
He knew he had to do something. But what? That was the million dollar question and he had no solution yet. He trusted his mind to come up with something. It usually did. Exasperated, He paced up and down the room, covering the distance in long strides.
He thought of all the conventional methods that his cousin had told him- placing a bunch of onions under your armpit to create an impression of fever, faking a cold and a bunch of other tricks. But the problem arose from the fact that he had already tried them all and his parents were impervious to any new attempts to hoodwink them. Still, he decided that it was worth a shot.
He went down for breakfast. Munching down some eggs and toast, he tried his last card. “Mom, I don’t feel well. I don’t want to go to class today.” His mother exchanged a sly glance with his father and he knew it was hopeless.
They would make a show of taking him to the family doctor who treated him like he was 5 and took pleasure in drowning his patients in big antibiotic tablets. He decided that school was the lesser evil. “On the other hand, am feeling a little better now. I’ll go to school”.
And so he went. He walked slowly, dragging his feet across the pavement, his imagination depicting various scenarios wherein the professor fell ill, the school disappeared in a landslide, the test papers caught fire etc. But much to his chagrin, he found that the gods were against him that day.
Everything appeared normal. Kids were streaming into the school through the dull iron gates. He contemplated going back and decided that his mother’s beatings were harder than the professor’s. It was far easier to just face the devil and get it over with.”Easier said than done”. He mumbled to himself, climbing up the stairs.
While climbing, out of the corner of his eye, he saw the professor walk out of his room.”Damn, he’s already here” .He noticed that the room was not latched, just shut. He knew that his teacher had a habit of going down to the canteen and having a tea before he comes into the class. He calculated that he had around 10 minutes to do something.
His mind raced, his pulse quickened and his vision numbed. Like Hamlet, his mind was caught in a loop-“To do or not to do”? He finally remembered reading somewhere that fortune favours the brave and made up his mind. He looked around and saw that no one was around.
The smaller kids had class and the teachers were just arriving. He went in and closed the door to make it look like it was kept open a bit. He had an excuse ready if he was caught prowling. He was excited when his eye fell upon a stack of papers at the desk and started leafing through them. He saw that they were tests from another class and started opening drawers, taking care not to misplace or knock over anything.
He opened the last drawer with little to no hope, aware that his window of time was about to close soon and saw the papers stacked there. He saw that the ones on the top were not graded. He thought he heard a noise at the door and froze. He saw to his immense horror that a bottle kept near the desk had toppled and was falling down. He tried to catch it in vain. It broke and liquid splattered over the sides of the desk and the floor. Some of the papers got ruined. He was petrified. He couldn’t move.
Eventually, he collected his wits together and set about cleaning the damage he caused. He was only concerned about getting out unseen and forgot about the papers and why he even came into the room in the first place. He managed to clean most of the liquid away. It had a definitive stink about it.
He kept the papers on the desk and threw the bottle outside the window that was kept open. It landed on a bundle of old papers and receipts that the janitor was supposed to burn that day. Parul didn’t know that. He would come to know of it later on.
He listened at the door and after making sure that there were no sounds, he cautiously opened the door and crept out.
He went to his class, saw that people were still arriving. He sat down thinking of all the unpleasant consequences he might have to face today. After some 10-15 minutes passed, he was aware of a commotion in the corridor. Fear took over his mind. He was sure that he’d been caught and that they were coming for him.
As he sat drenched in sweat, he saw the professor running towards the class. He came to a halt and took a second to catch his breath. He then asked the students in a panicked jumpy voice to assemble in the main hall at that very instant. Parul went out with the others unaware of what was happening.
He came out and saw that a huge crowd had gathered. All the students, teachers, even the dean himself was there. He heard all sorts of murmurs and talk among the teachers and the senior students. Curiosity replaced fear and he asked the Professor who was standing near him what was wrong.
He was told that a room had caught fire-HIS room, THE room. Parul heard a senior say that the professor was in the habit of taking a swig out of a ‘special’ bottle he kept in his desk and that it might have contributed to the fire the janitor made when he burnt the old papers outside the window, the wind maybe carrying the flames. So that was what I broke, Parul thought.
He felt his mind clear and all his spirits coming back. The gods did not desert him. He was not only going to get away scot free but also the papers were destroyed. There was no way anything in that room could have survived. Trying to mask the tingle of joy in his voice, he asked the Professor, “But You didn’t grade our papers sir“.
Professor replied,”Oh, but I did. I graded yours. And Parul…”
His heart skipped a beat. All his work was laid to waste. His paper was graded and his parents might come to know of it after all.
The Professor continued, oblivious to the change of expression in Parul’s face:
“YOU GOT AN A”.
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