“This is who I am inside; this is who I am. I’m not gonna hide. ‘Cause the greatest risk we’ll ever take is by far to stand in the light and be seen as we are.” — Jordan Smith
My mother and her mother always wanted this for me: to become a person with a black rubber tube around my neck with hard earbuds. The former always urged me to pursue science which led to my one-time aspiration of becoming a cardiologist and then revising my decision after watching “the most-watched crime drama in the world”, CSI.
When I stepped into the portals of higher secondary school, things phased out differently than I had expected. I was fixated on becoming a forensic scientist, but was drawn to Physics, a subject I formerly harbored anything but love toward. Chemistry became a drudgery while Biology was too verbose and ho-hum to hold my attention for longer than five times sixty seconds.
My first year was manageable albeit my performance in Physics wasn’t always on par with my passion. I was above average in Biology while I scraped in Chemistry.
My sophomore year, however, took a turn for the worse. Math became this incurable headache; I felt like a dyslexic looking at my Chemistry textbook, while I was never content with my Physics marks despite always being among the elite and gaining respect from my peers for my unwavering dedication.
And the highlight of Grade 12, the jazz the entire year of teaching and tutoring is focalized on is this thing called the Public Examination, and it’s never a good set of syllables to hear in that order. Six subjects, two hundred marks each, amounting to a grand total of twelve-hundred, and the number you get decides your future and above all, how intelligent you are in comparison with a squillion people all over the state.
Now before I launch into the part about goodbye kisses and all, let me just bring into the foreground the very indisputable fact that the system of education here is substandard in light of the syllabus adhered to. Let me give you an illustration. They ask you to describe the principle and working of a Van de Graaff Generator. You pen down Fact A and Fact B. Let us assume that Fact A is an autotype of a statement printed in the textbook and Fact B is a verifiable and relevant point you have gleaned from a source other than the prescribed textbook. The evaluation system is so out of kilter that your score would be abated for writing something like Fact B that is universally correct but out of the text material.
The same technic was implemented for subjects that were supposed to let fecund imaginations blossom. You weren’t supposed to use words from your enhanced vocabulary kit either in English or in French on the pretext that what was written “would not be understood”.
And that is my gloss on the method of scoring in a nutshell.
So, once this Public Examination landmark had been crossed, with the greatest difficulty (that could be compared to a person with two left legs being asked to learn Maddie Ziegler’s “Chandelier” routine in one night for the recital the next morning), I let my hair down for a while, but then I stumbled upon this coaching academy where a generous number of my classmates had signed up for sessions to enable them to crack the engineering and medical entrance exams.
My mother viewed this as an open door and I ended up on a seat that was too small for my hindquarters in a cramped room that was akin to a mess hall in a correctional institution with instructors prattling and rattling like they were doing running commentaries on a classic Djokovic vs. Nadal match at Wimbledon. Hell, two-thirds of them (there were three) knew English as well as I knew how to extract the cube root of 791977 in under five seconds (I flunked twice in Math and now you get the picture).
Surviving that place (for two days) was like surviving a trip to Santa Claus’ hometown with only a pair of socks for insulation. I then decided to be a stay-at-home pre-college student which earned me an economics lecture from my mother about fifteen rectangular pieces of stiff paper with a face value of one thousand each and the face of Gandhi were wasted.
Now the day these valuable pieces of paper went from the hand of my mother to another, this “another”, the spokesperson for the coaching center glibly convinced her that a couple of medical colleges in the state were worth what she had in the bank. She thought that this was the materialization of some dream of hers. I didn’t want to be too skeptical because I visualized myself using the MBBS degree as a suave one-way ticket into the bagging and tagging profession.
Unfortunately, my mother and I both caught in a snag which was an eye-opener of sorts. I was unprepared and unwilling to take flight from the nest and we didn’t have a money plant. Aside from the substandard coaching, I realized that I was not tailor-made for the medical profession nor it for me and even if I did crack the exams on my first attempt, that was only a minor icebreaker.
Footslogging through half a decade’s worth of medical education would burn a hole in my mother’s pockets. Add my lack of enthusiasm and it would be like using a big note the way you’d use toilet paper.
My kaleidoscopic views as regards to the right course were the cause of much interior turmoil. I was vacillating betwixt Psychology and English (psychology because my mother didn’t want me renouncing science), contemplating the radius of merits of both. I started perusing this tome of psychology and found it quite immersive. And all that while, the thought of it being my alternative access pass into the realm founded on the principle of every contact leaving a trace lurked in my mind like this undying little ember of a fire long quelled.
The seventeenth day of May was Judgment Day (a more appropriate way of referring to Results Day). Time of death was scheduled to be between half past nine and ten in the morning. Be that as it may, I escaped death (heralding Final Destination 6), and woke up an hour before lunchtime. My moment of truth wasn’t one wherein I sat like a porcelain doll, phone in hand, with kith and kin cloistering me like I was some ancient relic.
Feeling like a criminal on death row whose last wish was to use phone internet, I keyed in this six-digit number that substituted for my name along with the day I popped out of a stomach.
And there it was. 996/1200: PASS. Something welled inside of me and something else quelled inside of me and I don’t know until now if “something” and “something else” were the same thing.
Disclosure was not a cakewalk. I could not and would not rationalize my mother’s disappointment that was hidden so badly that it could be seen.
I ignored eighteen calls and countless messages on WhatsApp and Facebook. I wasn’t a celebrity. I didn’t crave the attention. I wasn’t worth it. My friends were probably under the notion that I was larking about with pills, knives and ropes. Let ’em be, I thought.
I did not score the cent percent in Physics that I labored for, I obtained bog-standard marks in Biology, and didn’t touch the height of distinction in Chemistry and Math.
That was when I agnized that I had to make a decision that ran anti-parallel to the norms of a typical devotee of science. My mother and I had a showdown that evening when I asserted that it’s not just people with four-digit scores and six-figure monthly payrolls that have a place in this world.
Acceptance soon crept its slow but sure way into her and I restated my purpose of renouncing science: there was no practical purpose it would be able to serve in my life down the road. I explained to her that a lot of the doctrines in science are based purely on hypothesis and I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life with infirm sinuses, defending things that mean little or nothing to me and whose nature and existence will always remain an enigma.
Had I chosen to plod the weary way of Science, books and television would be deemed distractions, but I didn’t want them and to suffer a label that was below the belt, for they were my biggest informers and educators.
Finally, I decided to make my passion my profession, deviate from the established ethos that glamorized and gold-plated certain qualifications, unconsciously depreciating the worth and value of many others, language being one of them.
But I’ll take that with a pinch of salt because now I know: this is who I am, this is what I love. I won’t waste a God-given talent.
I’ll be chasing a string of English degrees in the near future.