5.45 am. Too early to wake up. But what else do I do? Sigh, I wake up. Had it been any other day, I would have still been snoring; afternoon is the default morning for me. But today, there was a strange uneasiness in me. I was so filled with nervousness and anxiety that I felt like running away to a sweet escape.
So, I got out of my bed, and started roaming about in my room and I was just trying to wish myself the best of luck.
All of sudden, a sound struck my ears. It was the birds chirping. Beautiful. I peeped out of the window, but could see nothing. So I went tip-toeing from my room, through the lobby, across the living room and into the balcony. As I stepped out of the door, the only few words I could utter were ‘whoa what place is this?’
I could see the night slowly fading away and the sun bit by bit piercing through the darkness, carrying with it the torch of the new day. The gentle breeze blew across my face just like the whispering winds sway the trees. The sky right from the zenith down to the horizon was covered with bright warm morning hues of orange. All the shades in the red family starting from crimson to lime yellow were spread across the sky in a contrasting gradient. Blotches of blue were also scattered across the canvas. I let myself forget the hurricane of thoughts that was rising in my mind till two minutes ago and let completely loose of myself. After about ten minutes, the sun shone and casted its warm golden light all across the field of view. The entire neighborhood was glowing under its morning warmth.
Suddenly, there was a tap on my shoulder. As I turned around, I saw dad.
“Anna, I am going for my walk. By the way, what are you doing here, so early?” he inquired.
“Dad, I am quite tensed, you know that, right? So I just came out for a while.”
“Hmm… but Anna, don’t worry sweetheart. I am sure you’ll top your board results. You are a very intelligent child. After all, you’re my child!”
He gave me a warm smile. I forced one, too.
But, as I heard those words, a huge storm aroused in my mind again. I had my Board results for tenth today, and BAM! I was melting down! The girl who never cried could now not keep her eyes from shedding invisible tears! And, especially when everyone around you has so many expectations from you…
As I saw dad downstairs with his friends, I heard Mr. Sharma saying, “Brother, this time, only a box of sweets won’t do the trick!” My brother, now a pass out, topped the school in his tenth boards. What if I won’t be able to do that? Millions and zillions of words were revolving in my mind, with one word leading them all: EXPECTATIONS.
Before long, it was now mother looking for me. She called me and said, “Anna, it’s a great day today. As always, you are going to make us all proud. Come on, now go get a bath, my rock star, and we’ll go to the temple.” I simply nodded.
Anna was a girl never too keen on visiting the mandir. But today, I think the circumstances were such that I felt that the temple is the only place where I could find my ‘refuge’.
I went into the bathroom, brushed my teeth and had a bath. I came out and mother and I went to the temple. On the way we met mom’s friends who unanimously said, “Anna, we’ll be waiting for the sweets!”
Soon we reached the temple, where I found fellow classmates- all of whom were praying for their good results, perhaps. As I waved my hand to them, I was replied with a “you don’t need to be here, topper!” comment.
Why was so much even expected from me!
We went back home, dad was already back. Mom prepared breakfast for everyone, and dad said, “Anna, I am going to my office. I’ll check the results online,” and bhaiya said, “I’ll try to check, too.”
But I didn’t want them to see.
What if the scores are bad?
So it took me not more than five seconds to think of a way out.
“Dad, bhaiya, please don’t check my results. I want to be the first one to see them. But I’ll make sure I give you a call.”
They agreed and then left, dad for office, and bhaiya towards his college. Mom said, “Come, let’s see if the results are out. It is 10 o’clock already,” to which I replied, “No mom, I want to go to the school and check the results there.” Mom okay-ed my plan. I somehow wanted to just delay seeing my results.
So, with mixed feelings of hopes and anxiety, I stepped out of the house. Everything – the houses, the trees, the roads, the streetlights – seemed so cheerful, as if trying to wish me luck.
The school was a little less than two kilometers from my house. So, as I did every day, I took a rickshaw and took off. But the journey seemed just so long and never ending.
Finally, I reached school and the first face I saw was that of Ms. Ahana, my previous year class teacher. As she also saw me, she gave a smile as bright as that of a toddler. Her cheerful smile was enough to tell me that she also had as many expectations from me as my parents. To this bright smile, I gave back a dull one. She came to me, patted my shoulder and said, “Anna, you have always been a very bright child. I am sure you’ll continue making us all proud. Let me know about your results, I am eager to know.” and she gave me a tight hug before leaving me trudging aimlessly.
Suddenly, I heard a yell, “results are out, everybody!” after which, 8-10 students gathered round the display board. I was at the back of the ‘crowd’ of the 8-10 students. Strangely, I heard murmurs, “this is not possible,” “there is something wrong,” or so.
I asked what happened, but nobody would tell me. I tried to push my way forward, but all of a sudden, Ahana ma’am came. “Anna, I heard the results are out? Tell me, did you do the magic again?” she asked me so sweetly and excitedly. A boy from behind me yelled, “Ma’am there is something wrong. Anna got only 64%!”
WHAT? ONLY 64%! But- but, how?
No one could believe that. Ahana ma’am said, “What, that’s not possible, come let’s talk to the Principal about this.” The whole crowd started towards the principal’s room, with Ahana ma’am leading us. As we walked in, the principal sighed and said, “I know, too. I just called the board, but the results are correct.”
I could bear it no more. I just ran away to the washroom. I was in tears. I looked into the mirror and saw the reflection of failure staring back.
“Hey you, how could you do this? You know, right, how much your mom and dad have done for you? How they would stay up late to teach you! How bhaiya used to miss his classes to make sure if you’ve understood everything or not! How your teachers made their best efforts to teach you! You know why? Because they love you! And you? You’ve just disappointed them!”
Unexpectedly, I heard a ring from inside my bag. I looked and I found mom’s phone. “She must have kept it along with the tiffin. Whose call would it be, let me check…? OH MY GOD! It’s DAD!’ I didn’t know how I would tell him so I didn’t pick it up. It got disconnected and I was even more disappointed with myself. I was avoiding their calls! What a shame! Soon it was his call again, and I didn’t pick it up this time either. Then bhaiya and mom also called me, but in vain.
Oh no! I had no courage to pick up the phone. So I just ran out of the washroom, out of the school building, to the basketball court, where I would bunk classes and tell my teachers I was practising. Suddenly I fell down; I couldn’t open my eyes. I just lay there on the court, numb to the world around me as if everything had come to a halt. And, then there was a hand on my belly, shaking me and saying,
“Anna, wake up! You’ve your results today! Come on now, don’t make a fuss!” And, my dream, rather nightmare was finally over and I sighed of relief!