It was during one of the examinations. We, the younger class ( I guess 7th standard) were made to sit with an older class (10th or 11th standard). The guy sitting next to me was typically one of those guys who come to the examination hall on the sole merit of the guy sitting behind/front of him. But, alas, it was not to be. That day, due to the seating arrangement and his bad luck, we were seated on last bench. And apparently this bhaiyya’s (that’s what we used to call our seniors in school) friend was the one who had to sit behind him and prompt him the answers but he was made to sit in the adjacent row’s first seat. There was no way these two guys could have helped each other.
The bell rang. The exam started. As a junior, I was in awe of the seniors and the senior classes because their syllabus was so much tougher. For the first one hour, I remember, this guy hadn’t attempted a single question. He just kept turning the question paper and answer sheet. He was writing down the questions. I felt weird and initially thought that may be they had a certain way of attempting the answers. But after the first hour, it was clear to me that this bhaiyya had not studied anything for his exam. I could sense that he was growing restless with every passing minute. As soon as the bell rang indicating that the first hour of the 3-hour exam was over, he sat upright. I think he just decided he had to do something to salvage his exam.
And so, he prodded the guy in front of him to show him something, anything. The guy reluctantly kept his answer sheet a little to his left so that this guy could copy down his answers. And so the cheating started. This bhaiyya must have used to doing this because he did manage to con the supervising teacher. All the awe and importance I had been feeling of sitting with a senior flew out of the window. They were supposed to be intelligent guys, cracking difficult questions. And he wasn’t supposed to be asking a 7th grader (i.e. me) if I knew answers to any of his questions.
I warned him. And the first time I did, he just smiled. I told him that if he continued doing what he was, I would inform the teacher. But I don’t think he had any idea that this 7th grade girl, who wasn’t in the least intimidating (not even 5 ft tall and very thin) would have the guts to do anything like that. He continued with his antics, and I with my warnings. He just kept ignoring them. Finally, when I could not take the breach of the righteousness taught to us any longer, I walked up to the teacher and told her that the bhaiyya sitting next to me was continuously cheating from the guy in front.
The teacher immediately walked up to both of them, snatched their answer sheets and made a huge cross on them with a red pen and wrote “Caught cheating”. It was quite awkward after that. I walked back to my desk and this bhaiyya was sitting forlorn. He threatened me with a “dekh loonga tumhe” (I will see you later).
But today when I look back at this incident, it sends shivers down my spine. Haven’t we all heard gruesome tales of kids harming and killing other students and even teachers who have in the past reprimanded the? We hardly heard of such stories in the past. Today they are an everyday reality. What if that bhaiyya had been a psycho too who would try to harm me for the fiasco I caused? I was a harmless little girl and I am sure I would not have been able to avert it. But those were good times I guess. Kids back then had some goodness in them. So what if they were caught cheating? So what if they were tipped off by a junior? They didn’t come back at me. I am not sure if the scenario had been the same had this incident happened in today’s times.
With all the vices this world has for kids these days – from child abuse to misleading advertisements that have kids at their hearts, there are few things left that let kids learn about right and wrong or retain their innocence. Tata Capital’s initiative to publish a book of DoItRight stories, for kids and by kids is something about which I feel from the heart. And that’s why this story from my own childhood is my contribution to this initiative.
I wish all kids and parents read these stories and it has a far reaching effect on the kids. That Honesty, Kindness, Compassion, Respect and Integrity are not just words. They are virtues that will hold them in good stead for along long time to come. And will take them very far in life 🙂