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Nisha Tandon (Category-Short Story) (Exam| Certificate of Excellence)

Some incidents happen for good as they are life changing. This particular one changed mine forever.

My fear for Biology , got the better of me. This incident dates back to the year 1983 when I was in Grade 7 and the Science subject had been bifurcated into Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Somehow I had an aversion for Biology, probably because of the practical lessons where we needed to perform dissections on various creatures. I was a student with good track record in academics and sports. Our class teacher was Ms Annie Thomas, who was a strict disciplinarian. Despite this we were all extremely fond of her .

Our first term exams took place and I fared well in all subjects but to my dismay and shock, there was a red line under “39”, my score in Biology. The pass mark was 40. When Ms Annie handed over the Report Card to me, I was highly embarrassed and burst out crying. It was the first time in my life had I ever failed. My mind was clouded with sadness, anger and shock. I begged her to give me that “1” grace mark to give me a clean Report. But she bluntly refused. I had not hated anyone so much in my life. (I had every reason to, I justified to myself.)

I returned home , and did not know how to face my mother. I feared her ire. During those days, it was a matter of pride as parents discussed their child’s academic excellence in social meets. I had disappointed my mother and kept cursing myself and ifs and buts bothered me. For obvious reasons, my mother was upset with me. Next day we returned to school and my mother too requested Ms Annie to change the marks on the Report card with a promise to never let it happen again. But Mam did not budge. My mothers pleas and my cry fell on deaf ears. We returned home highly embarrassed and disappointed. I felt extremely guilty and decided to teach Ms Annie a lesson. Sad but true, these were my exact thoughts at that moment!! But that one moment changed my life, for good .

Through the next term I stayed indifferent towards Ms Annie and hardly participated in her class. I had made up my mind and was determined to prove to her that I did not need that “1” grace mark from her. I would do it on my own. Through the Second term I studied hard and paid special attention to Biology. Ms Annie also gave me space and did not push me around too much. She ignored my tantrums,sigh! And finally the second term exams arrived. Like always I was confident in excelling in most subjects. I sailed through the exams and awaited the Report Card day. On the day, Ms Annie distributed all the Report Cards and held mine back. I had palpitations. My mind started working overtime. Is she taking vengeance? Has she failed me again? Is she taking out her grudges against me? I had worked really hard. This was my time to take revenge , Mam can’t do this. I was angry, plain angry and my eyes welled up. I kept waiting.
Finally she called my name, and trembling, I walked upto her. Her face was expressionless. I felt pity for myself. What if? Mam will have the last laugh.

Finally, she handed over my report card to me. Hesitantly I looked straight at the column for Biology marks, what I saw was unbelievable!! I cried out aloud, this time a victorious cry. I got 76 in Biology, almost double of the First Term. I looked at Mam with an attitude, as if saying to her,”See,I did it!” Mam smiled and asked me to get my mother to school the next day. I was proud of myself and also happier since I had taught mam a lesson. Happily I returned home and we had celebrations at home that evening. I had succeeded with my firm determination and my fear of Biology Exam had vanished. But the story doesn’t end here.

Next day my mother visited school and met Ms Annie. My mother was all praises for me and bragged. Ms Annie smiled and said,” See , this is the reason I did not give her that “1” grace mark that day. If I had given it to her, she would have never worked hard to achieve on her own.” We were left speechless. I felt extremely sad and guilty that I had misunderstood Mam and behaved badly. She was so magnanimous that she never held my misbehaviour against me. She kept her patience but at the same time supported me in her silent ways. I learnt a big lesson in life that day which has stayed with me till date. Its been almost 35 years since then but I still get goosebumps when I recall this incident. Where do we find such teachers today?

I feel obliged to her for giving me such an important lesson in life that if you make up your mind, nothing and nobody can stop you from achieving what you set your eyes upon. Exams in life do not test your intelligence, they teach you important life lessons. I learnt mine.

Nisha Tandon
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