“Hello, Where are you, sir?”
“I’m in front of the school building, Shekar, where are you?”
“Even I’m in front of the building, sir…”
I raised a hand, and moving it so as to catch attention, I did a full 360 degrees, looking around for someone talking on the phone. I registered no one.
Still waving, I said, “Shekar, do you see me…?”
And almost as soon as I’d said it, I wished I could eat those words.
Of course Shekar didn’t see me.
That was because Shekar couldn’t see. If he could, there was no need for me to be there.
He was one of the students of the Special School for whom a group of us from Samvedana were acting as ‘scribes’, for their intermediate AP Board examinations.
Lost for words, I raced my mind for another plausible question which he could answer to reveal his location to me.
“Uh, okay, what colour shirt are you wearing, Shekar?”
“Umm, black sir, it’s black.”
I was out of the school campus now. Looking around, I saw at some distance what appeared to me to be a group of visually impaired kids. One of them was talking animatedly on his cellphone. I went to him.
“Hey, are you Shekar?”
The voice recognition was instant. “Ohh, Aniket sir.”
“Yes, Shekar, how are you?”
I held out a hand, only to keep staring at it for about ten seconds. Finally, I extended the arm and patted him on the shoulder.
He was wearing a maroon-colored T Shirt.
The exam was Hindi, and by conventional standards, Shekar wasn’t very good at it. Neither had I expected him to be. After all, hailing from a village in Andhra, he isn’t supposed to know Hindi in the first place. But far above anything else, he doesn’t read, and he doesn’t write. Whatever he knew was what he had remembered from what a dedicated teacher had read to him.
He knew the Antonyms and Synonyms very well. But when it came to doing sentence correction, he simply fluttered his blank eyes with all the more fervor. And had all of them wrong. I had anticipated this situation, and had planned to write as much as I could for him. Also, I had resolved to let this be his knowledge that I was writing whatever he was telling me to. But now I was mired in dilemma. Didn’t Shekar deserve to know the exact place he had carved out for himself in this world full of kids more advantaged than himself? Should the chance of this one humble, but true pride be denied to him? Or should it be the case that given his condition, he should be allowed to use as much luck as came his way? Will it be luck at all to get more marks than what he actually deserved? Or did he deserve more than what he actually would have got under a neutral scribe, and thus a partial scribe was only a fair thing to have?
What will be better for him? Knowing exactly where he stood in the world, or the confidence boost that inevitably comes after a good score in the exams, howsoever may it have been acquired?
The exam got over, we gave them chocolates and packed their bags, and Sushant, my co-scribe for another kid and I asked them who was coming to take them home. There was some confusion at first, but a few phone calls here and there (the kids kept some important phone numbers to memory) confirmed that they were going on their own.
Sushant and I were worried, and asked them whether we could walk them to the nearest bus stop at least. But they insisted on going by themselves. Concerned, we kept watching as they walked down the road for some distance, and then stopped. Sushant and I, convinced that they were in trouble, went to them to offer help, but we needn’t have worried; as soon as we came within earshot, we realized that they had stopped only to do some BC and to discuss about the paper.
We, the eyed ones entered a nearby shop to have a pepsi. The three and a half hour exam had been tiring for us, too. As we came out of the shop, we saw the kids at the far end of the road, barely visible now.
While on the way to IIIT, Sushant revealed to me that Sujaykar, the kid he had been writing for, had solved almost the entire Sanskrit paper, and could easily expect 95+ marks. Sushant had assured him that his paper had been written in a very legible hand, and that he could expect excellent marks from the paper. At this, Sujaykar had told him that he wasn’t worried about passing or failing. That the results were all up to God.
Indeed it must be this faith which keeps their hopes and sincerity up in these times when people with everything provided for are giving up. As the picture of the kids, walking down the far end of the road and farther away from us came to my mind, I wondered how far would I have gone.
Thanks, Samvedana, for providing me with this wonderful experience. Let’s go some distance along the steps we have taken.