I don’t know | Chapter 2 | Childhood and Changes
Childhood and Change
As a young kid I was the worst at studies, okay to be fair that may be a little exaggerated. As a kid, I was never good at English. I used to get 5/20 in my spelling tests. By the end, even my teachers were disappointed but luckily I wasn’t bad at all subjects. Math worked in my favor. As a brown kid, you have to know math, no joke. One thing Asians are known for is being good at math and well breeding engineers, but that’s a whole different story. You see subjects like English and Science seemed easy as they should have but it was still very hard for me to understand everything about it. Another subject that I was horrible at was Hindi. As someone whose mother tongue is Hindi, I should have known the language well but to this date, I can’t read and write Hindi very well. Grades 1 to 3 were okay. They were fun but I kept thinking that I wasn’t good enough and this began when I started taking classes.
I don’t know whether this is the case for every country but in India, parents have this obsession with classes and so when I was just starting 3rd grade I was put into a tuition class. This class was different from other tutor classes because the sole purpose of this class was to prepare us to do well in the exams for the school I was going to apply for.
My dad had gone to a boarding school when he was young and everybody else from his family had too. Most of my aunts were graduates from the same school and both my uncle and my dad had graduated from Mayo School located in Ajmer. So as the next generation in the family, it was on me to carry on the legacy of our family, or so I thought. My mom didn’t think any different, she too was set to send me to a boarding school. You see back then I didn’t know how it would be any different from what I was studying back then. I simply wanted to go because my parents wanted me to. They weren’t forcing me and I had never felt so. I guess I always knew that I had to go and I had no objection regarding it. It was going to be different but not something I couldn’t adapt to.
I started taking evening classes and met a lot of different people my age applying to the same school. We were all taught together and within days we became close friends. It was hard not to be good friends because we would spend large amounts of time together. After school we would stay there till work wasn’t done and everyday Sunday from morning 9 to 3 we would stay there. We would get short lunch breaks between the classes and those times would cramp up in a small room located beside the stairs of the tuition center. We wouldn’t talk about normal things like studies or school we would talk about ghosts. The leading topic of our conversations was “Bloody Mary.” I had never actually believed in any of these stories but something about them always intrigued me. It was always nice to see my friends use their imagination to make up ghostly stories to scare us, sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.
My class wasn’t always the best. If you know me by now you would know that I hate going to classes. It’s not because they can be extremely exhausting and tiring, well that can be one of the reasons but it’s also because I have to spend so much time in the classes that I didn’t even find time for myself. I would go to school, come back, and off I was to the class, I didn’t get time to breathe in between. On top of that, I had the workload. We were assigned tests so see whether we were at the level to have passed the entrance examination or not and I was never good at those. I was the worst out of my group in the tests. It would score marks below 67% as if teachers nodding their heads in disappointment wasn’t bad enough. It’s not like I didn’t try, it’s just that I wasn’t very good at it. They focused so much on making us memorize things that sometimes I would just forget everything that I had learned. Information from school and information from class would always get mixed.
What was worse than seeing me fail was to see that my friends were doing exceptionally well. I was envious of them. Whenever I visited their homes I would see large amounts of trophies and certificates and it would always make me feel incompetent as if I was nothing. The first award I had ever received was for abacus and it was first, second, or third place it was a consolation prize but whatever it was I was happy to have received it. I didn’t know what it meant back then, it was the same as first, second, or third for me but wherever I’d meet other people and see their trophy and medals I thought I had to be doing something wrong to have not succeeded because to me that was the definition of success. How many awards can you get? How many certificates can you get? How many people like you? But I was none of those things. My passions and hobbies changed so frequently that I never stuck to one thing. While others were getting scores above 80 I was still trying to reach 70.
I remember one day I did pathetic on my test. I got 67 and that was not a good look. I hid the test in the bag and I lied that I didn’t have it. After all of the searched for the “lost” test, I felt my heartbeat louder and louder. The saddest part about all of it was that my heart didn’t beat because I hid the test and felt guilty. It beat because I didn’t want to be caught. I think that itself shows so much about the education system. I was scared. I was embarrassed and just like me millions of students feel the same way. They don’t want to look like fools just because they didn’t score well because that would mean they’re dumb, right? That’s what I had always grown up to learn, at home, at school, and everywhere else. If it gets good scores you’re smart but if you get bad scores you’re dumb. I’ve always hated exams, not only because I wasn’t good at them and every time I had to give one I would feel as though I was pee right there but also cause I didn’t want my scores to determine how smart or dumb I was. The weird thing about all of it was that even though I didn’t get the best of scores I should have been dumb but I didn’t feel like I was.
The day we had all been waiting for was here. We flew to Jaipur and drove to Ajmer to give the entrance examination there. I was scared out of my life that somehow I was going to mess everything up but the first day was quite relaxing. We visited the boys’ school where once my father had studied. He met some of his teachers who were still to that day teaching in the school. The school was beautiful. They had their own museum. They had a horse range as well. The more I saw the more I wanted to be in the place. The boy’s school set a very high expectation of the place for me. I mean I was excited to go to school but now it was a whole new thing. My expectation of the place rose by at least 10% and I wish I could say the girls’ school didn’t fail me but I can’t.
The girls’ school was very different from the boys and it was not the most magnificent. It was smaller. The dorm rooms didn’t seem appealing at all. It was good and I could see myself leaving there but it wasn’t how I had pictured it for myself but happily that afternoon I went into the examination hall, fingers crossed, praying that I would get in. Just in that one room were at least 300 students giving the entrance exam with me. It was already nerve-wracking to know that I was not the best student but to have so much competition just freaked me out even more. This was just one location out of the many where students were giving their exam and 4th Grade was by far the worst grade to apply for that is because 4th grade is the starting grade for the school and they have thousands and thousands of applicants for just one class. But whatever came I tried to keep my cool and finished the exam. I thought I did pretty well. I knew most of the answers and the two subjects that I didn’t like, English and Hindi didn’t seem to go bad at all.
I was optimistic when I left the examination hall. I wondered if I would get in and what my life would look like. Everything was going to change whether I got in or not. If I did get my life would go in a whole different direction. New school, new friends, new teachers, new everything and I didn’t know if I was ready for that change and even if I didn’t get in what was next? It would embarrass me in society, not that I cared about that but I see people. People talk. They need a topic to talk about and sometimes they can as horrible as to talk about children. They want to know everything, did you get in? If yes, then you’ll hear congratulations from all the fake people and if not then not only will you be the topic of talks but the news would spread so rapidly. Whatever it was I didn’t want to look more like a failure than I already was. I didn’t want to embarrass my family.
Before the exams, all I could think about was studying and studying to pass the exams but now that I had been done with all that I was scared of their decision, either way, I didn’t know where my life was going to take me. All I could do was wait. Patience has never been my strong suit but I couldn’t control the situation and the more I thought about it the more I worried. Luckily my parents had looked at a few more schools for me to apply to and that reassured me that if I wouldn’t get into the first school I always had another option. The next week we visited the school Banglore. The school was great, okay sorry, that was a lie. Honestly, I don’t remember what the school looked like. I have faint visions of a huge garden but that’s all I can remember. I was taken to another room from the orientation hall to give my exam. I was staring at the paper and I was more confused than I had ever been. I wasn’t taught any of the things that were on the paper. Most questions were logical reasoning, it was easy but I didn’t expect to have that on the paper. I didn’t give a Hindi examination and that was a relief but I did give math and English. The funny thing about this exam was that after coming out of the examination hall I didn’t feel very confident about the answers I had written. I didn’t do the test well and I knew it.
The third school was located in the north. Dehradun is known to be a place filled with boarding schools. The way up to Mussoorie is filled with schools. The school that I was applying to was Unsion. The only thing that made me feel so much better at that moment was my cousin. My cousin was also applying to the same school. She is 9 months younger than me but we were both applying for the same grade. She had also appeared for the school in Banglore but they said that she was too young for 4th grade. Even if I had gotten in the other schools I would have looked forward to Unison the most out of all the schools and the only reason is that I would have had my cousin by my side. The entrance examination and the interview after didn’t go horribly. I knew I would get in that school and it wasn’t because I did exceptionally well in the exam but it was also because the school needed students. It was about 7 years old and that is still relatively quite new and they needed more admissions each year to increase the popularity and show trust.
Weeks went by and Mayo announced their first selection of students. I wasn’t one of them but one of my friends was and I was happy for her but my self-esteem just shirt down at that moment. I was desperately waiting for 2nd list to come out and it did a few days later and I still wasn’t on it and another one of my friends was. I felt horrible about myself. I felt worthless. I felt like a nobody. There is no hope for me, I kept thinking to myself. Everyone else besides me had gotten into the school of their choice but there I was angry and disappointed. I was embarrassed more than anything else. I needed good news, just any good news and I got it. I had not been capable enough to have gotten into Mayo but I did get into the other two schools. The choice to decide from one of the two schools was a no brainer. I wanted to go to Unsion and now I finally was. The other good news that I heard the same day was that my cousin had gotten in too and that we would be going together.
I was thrilled to hear this and at that moment I forgot that I was worthless. I felt great about getting accepted to a school, but more than that having a companion to go with. That is where the road to finding myself began.