I am truly sorry

SSLC exam
It is ‘the’ exam for every school going child in Kerala. Entire life is planned around that exam. The chances of getting admission to college, depends on the marks scored in the SSLC exam.
Maria was home when I was preparing for the exam. I overheard Amma telling Maria
“Go and check her works Maria. Help her to prepare. You have already written the exam, so you know how to write. Teach your sister”
“No Amma, I won’t. She must carry her own cross, like I did. No one helped me when I wrote the exam.”
“You are becoming too selfish Maria” I heard Amma telling her.
I sighed deeply, knowing very well, It was Amma who encouraged Maria to be like this.
I revised and revised all the subjects over and over. I wanted to do well. I wanted to become a Doctor.
On the first day of exam, Amma woke me up in the morning with a cup of Horlicks.
“Children, come, let us pray before Nina leaves for the exam” Amma called out to my sisters.
Liza and Sally came.
“where is Maria?” Amma asked
“She is still sleeping Amma” Sally replied
“Go wake her up”
I watched Sally going to Maria’s room to wake her up.
“Maria, wake up. Amma is calling you” Sally spoke to her
“For what?”
“She wants to pray before Nina goes for her exam”
“So? Tell her to pray. Why should I be there?”
Amma heard it too
“Maria, you better get up and come here. Don’t make me come to your room!”. Amma was screaming
I watched Maria coming to my room angrily.
“Let us pray” Amma closed her eyes. Amma called all the saints and asked for help. The prayer was going on for way too long and I slowly opened my eyes to see What my sisters are up to. Liza and Sally were deep in concentration. Maria was looking at me and for a moment our eyes met. I quickly closed my eyes. I didn’t want to see her cursing me.

I had 12 exams to be written in 6 days. My first exam was Malayalam. When I reached my school, all my friends came to write the exam with their parents. Stress was on everyone’s face. I was worried. In the morning, I was confident that I have prepared well for the test. But now, when I watched how everyone was doing last minute revision, I started to feel doubtful. I found Alice sitting underneath the Cassurina tree. Her mother was with her. When Alice saw me, she looked at me and said
“Nina, I need to revise the poems again. I will speak to you later”.
All of a sudden, I started to feel scared.
‘Did I really study well? What if Maria said is going to be true? What if I fail? Oh God!, I should have studied some more. I shouldn’t have wasted my time watching TV’.
I heard the bell ringing. I walked to my classroom. I could feel my heart beating very fast. I, Nina Thomas, had my entire life to live, ahead of me. If I stumble now, there is no turning back. I prayed to God, that I won’t fail the exam.

12 exams, written in 6 days. It was tough. But I did it. On the last day, I went through all the question papers. I added up the marks of the questions, I knew I wrote well. I got a total score of 380 out of 600 marks. I knew I would get first class.
Maria came to my room in the evening
“Nina, join the tailoring class at the Paikadas college. If you join now, you don’t have to show the SSLC marks card, Later, even if you fail the SSLC exam, because you have already joined their course, they will allow you to continue”
“I am not interested Maria”
“Why not?”
“Because I don’t want to”
“So you plan to waste your 2 months holidays?”
“Ofcourse. You did the same, so why can’t I do it?”
“Because, I learned from my mistake, so you don’t have to make the same mistake”
“I am sorry Maria, This is my life, I decide how it goes”
“You are dumb and lazy”
“Yes, I am, and you can’t do anything about it. So accept it”
I knew Maria was mad, but I also knew, there is nothing she can do.

In the evening, when Amma came back from work, I heard Maria trying to convince Amma to send me for tailoring classes.
“I don’t want to go Amma” I yelled
“So what are you going to do during your holidays?” Amma asked
I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to learn english. Pre degree is taught in english and I only knew to speak one sentence in English. ‘My name is Nina Thomas’. I had to learn to speak english.
“I am going to learn English Amma”
I could see Maria closing her mouth and chuckling.
“You learning English? You don’t even know to say your own name in english”
I knew how to say my own name in english, So I ignored Maria. I don’t need her approval for anything anyway.

The next morning, I went to the children’s library to borrow the books. I went to the english section. There were lots of books. I decided to start my reading with picture books. The first book I borrowed was the jungle book.
When I came back from the library, Maria was home. She saw the book in my hand
“You reading jungle book? For heaven’s sake, you are 15 years old Nina. Jungle book is for little kids. You don’t even know what book you want to borrow? bodoh(stupid)!!”
Maria and my younger sisters were laughing at me. I was angry at being mocked, but I had to learn english and there was no other way. I went to my room and closed the door. Word by word I read my first english story book. I didn’t understand anything. I read again, and again. I was angry with myself because I didn’t understand anything in that book. I thought of giving up. Then I remembered how I learned Malayalam. If I could learn Malayalam, I was sure I could learn english. I read the book again, by the 7th attempt I could understand a bit. By the end of one month, I was able to read short stories.

On Saturday, I went for the choir practice. Anju was waiting for me at the entrance
“Did you know?” She asked me
“Know what?”
“Biju has been debarred from writing his pre-degree exam”
“What? Why?” I couldn’t believe my ears.
“He tried to copy and was caught by the invigillator. He can’t write the exam for another 3 years. His parents are so mad at him, I heard that, they beat him a lot.”
6 months ago, I waited for this moment, I had hoped that he would suffer. When I asked mother Mary to make him fail the exam, I didn’t think of the consequences. I prayed for someone’s downfall. I should have never done that. Because of me, Biju never managed to do engineering.

I carried this burden for the last 20 years. I am sorry, I prayed that you fail. I never thought it would bring this much misery to you. I was angry at that time, but that just doesn’t justify my actions. I am truly sorry.

14 thoughts on “I am truly sorry

  1. “This is my life, I decide how it goes”

    Great! Good thing you were brave and had your own thoughts. 😉

    Now about you cursing her, curses work only if GOD wants it to. So you arent responsible. Its Gods wish and we are just his messengers. It will all happen like he wants it to.

    Well, coming to think of my board exams, we sure were scared for the first one, then it becamme fun. I even slep off in the exam….lol

    And thinking about the pains you too to learn english, it so great and i am so moved by your humble yet brave deeds.

    I am reminded of Roald Dahl’s Matilda.

    No wonder God blessed you. 🙂

  2. How well u describe the tension before the exams…. i almost went back to my SSLC days…phewww, the worst thing is watching everyone doing last minute revisions and u wondering what the hell do i read now…

    no sarah,like thanu sez, biju chose to cheat, you didnt make him. if he cheated tht means he was not well prepared and even if he wouldnt have been caught, he might have not got enough marks to get into engineering… not your fault..

    ur such a brave girl !! i know my uncle used to read memorise all the words from the readers digest to increase his vocabulary when he came to bby from kerala. He remains my inspiration till date and so are you now… !!

  3. wow!u r a huge inspiration.If you learnt english and malayalam on your own,that inspires me to learn all the things I want to learn.There is so much work to do now 🙂
    You really have the will power and you can overcome anything and am glad I can feel all that with you.

  4. u remind me so much of me..
    SSLC exam.. childrens library..
    actualy i have forgotten abt all these.. u always make me go down my memmory lane..
    and it is not always a pleasant experience.. but i love it..

  5. I guess at that age you felt responsible for Biju’s misfortune, even I would feel so..if I got angry at someone and that someone had a misfortune. Then I realised that we cannot sway anything against anyone by prayer. God does things in his own wisdom…
    Great that you took the initiative to learn Malaylam and then English. I think children who have no one often rely on themselves and come up trumps 🙂

  6. U didn’t make Biju cheat, he chose to cheat – remember that dear

    i love ur determination – the silver lining here is if ur mom n sis had not provoked u so much u wouldn’t have grown to bne this wonderful person u are

  7. hmm.. the ressurection period of nina! even i felt like have i studied enuf before i appeared Xth. i too had this habbit of not opening the book once i reach the place of the exam.. ini varunnidathu vechu kaanam type 🙂

  8. oh! u take me go down the memory lane. the fear, anxiety, and then it was fun doing board exams.

    You should not be worring about Biju at all. he invited the trouble and not because u cursed him.


  9. Reading the last few of your posts today filled me with different emotions, rage dominating. I had to find what is it, which is being written about so wonderfully. And I found that. March 23, 2006. It will take some time to catch-up, but I will.

    And yes, Arundhati Roy or not, if you ever publish this work of yours, I’d want to be the first one to buy.

  10. ~ SSLC(Schoolil Sight adikkan kittunna Last Chance – an old full form).

    U reminded about my SSLC days… 12 exams in 6 days. Starting from a wednesday and ends in next wednesday.. (My exam was on 16th March)..One Saturday and Sunday between the exams. Tension..tension..tension.. Malayalam was too hard.
    Some how managed!

  11. Alex: I couldn’t fail.. methran Thambi’s grand daugter couldn’t fail!

    Thanu: I learned each language the same way..I had to do it..

    Sk: I never took books to school during exam time. Like Jithu wrote, Varunnidathu vechu kanam type.. But when i see everyone doing the lst minute revision, it freaked me out…

    Maya: I learned that, if I wanted to, I can do it.. Nike logo always stuck in my head”just do it”

    Hope and love: It is journey alley?

    silverine: this was something I prayed.. I shouldn’t have done it..

    Visithra: I agree, that I wouldn’t have been here, if it wasn’t for them, at the same time, was the heartsches worth? Was the pain tht was forever in my heart, worth it? Don’t know

    Jithu: U and i have something in common.. I never revised at the exam hall..

    jay: I know.. I prayed for something, that I shouldn’t have.. I always justified, telling myself that he did it himself, but I couldn’t absolve myself from tht prayer!

    Viks: The story had to be told..for my sanity

    Aqua: Aiyyah.. i didnt know tht..I knew MBBS, member of back bench society….

    Rocksea: SSLC was the highest mountain, I ever climbed!!! after that, even the final MBBS was like, oh pinney, sslc ezhuthavunkil ano ee dookkily exam ne orthu vishamikkunathu!!!

    Starsscream: Everything is destiny.. the guy who was to go to states is still in India, and the girl, who never thought she would leave Malaysia is in Canada!

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