The class conversation turns to languages and our SSLC results. Languages were never my strong point. I never did enjoy learning Malay in my younger days. I somehow scraped through the exams. Back in India, I had to learn two more languages. I only knew the basics of Malayalam when I came to India and now had to learn Hindi as well. My cousins and a tutor helped me to somehow get over the first hurdle and cram a few years curriculum into 3-4 months. That’s how long I spent in my sixth standard. Luckily I passed but the following years didn’t get any easier.
Writing two Malayalam papers in the final year at school was not an option for me. One was difficult enough, the second paper was even tougher. I was allowed to take Special English instead of the second paper. There was no one to teach me. I had to manage myself. One of my classmates from my previous school helped, but was that enough. Only the results would tell.
I remember trying out the local tutorials. One had a brilliant teacher. I cannot remember why I tried out a second one. The teaching was appalling and I decided to walk out in protest with a friend of mine. The class was underway and I nudged my friend to get up and walk out. I stood up, but she sat frozen. It was too late and all eyes were upon me. I had no choice but to walk out. I cringe even now, when I think about it. I cannot remember why I had to do a public protest. I could have just not attended the classes even though I had paid for them, but I think I did it to prove a point. When the results were out, the tutorial still published my name to advertise that I went there, even if it was only for a few days.
I recently found my diary from my final year at school. Most of the school days were cancelled due to strike actions. Leafing through the pages, it is a wonder that any of us managed to pass the year. Our teachers and the tuition sir did a wonderful job and got us through despite the cancelled classes. My classmates have gone on to achieve good jobs and great positions as a result.
When the results came, the papers published photos of the rank holders. Our highest marks were still quite a few points (well a bit more than a few) below them. They were our SSLC year’s celebrities and we looked at their photos in awe. A couple of years later I walked into a classroom where three of the four rank holders became my classmates. Roshan, the first rank holder, Mini and Rajani, the joint third rank holders. Their star status still shone bright, till we got to know them better. After that for the next five years they were our classmates, still rank holders, but now friends.
Years later Mini died from ill health and I find out today that the second rank holder, Mathew, also died during his postgraduation days due to illness. Two out of our four SSLC stars didn’t make it to the very end. The profession that they had chosen to follow couldn’t help them when they themselves became unwell and was even the reason for one of the deaths.
Regarding languages, I think the world would have been a poorer place if we didn’t have to learn more than one language. My language skills are still pretty poor, but I admire those who have a powerful command of more than one language.