It was a dull morning of June 2001. Weeks ago, I had got my XIIth boards results securing 89.6% marks. I was planning in my head to go to the Delhi University and follow my dream to study Hindi literature in graduation. My friend Abhimanyu was going to follow his dream and was confident that he would get admissions in SRCC in commerce or economics. I appreciated his rebel attitude. I was thinking between St. Stephens Chemistry and Hindi Literature at Hindu or KMC. Papa had gone to Plant (Bokaro Steel Plant) in the 'A' shift that begins at 6 am and he would be back only at 2 pm. I had celebrated my 18th birthday months ago in January and had also appeared at the IIT-JEE mains in May under the compulsion of my parents.
In the prelims of JEE, I had secured a rank around 15000, when roughly 16000 students had qualified. I had no inclination to go to the IIT as science did not interest me. I studied for my Boards and as a sign of rebellion, did not study for the JEE Mains. I was determined to revolt against Papa and go to Delhi for my graduation. At 8 am, the results were about to come. I somehow knew that I wouldn't make it and then I shall be off to Delhi. Papa shall have to agree.
There was no internet cafe nearby, but Nidhi had internet at her home. She always thought that I was a bright student and would get through IIT for sure. She had kept my roll no. to check the results. At around 8:15am, Nidhi called on our landline phone. I picked up. She was very sad and found it tough to tell me that I haven't qualified the JEE Mains. The rank is somewhere in the 8000 whereas there were only 3000 seats. She said she had checked the result several times. She re-confirmed my roll no. She said I should go and check the results myself. May be there has been a mistake. I was surprised to see her so concerned. I was cool. I knew I would not make it. I did not want to. I am a rebel, I told her and I shall do what I want to do. She was going to pursue Commerce in Pune so I expected her to understand.
I told Mummy and Gudia that the results are out and I haven't made it to IIT. Gudia was not as shocked as Mummy. She appreciated my rebellion but somewhere found me rude for not working towards IIT, just to prove a point to Papa. Mummy was in tears immediately. I tried to argue with her. "Why don't you understand? I do not want to become an engineer. I want to be a poet and pursue Hindi in Delhi." She looked at me with shock. She took me to the Dining room and opened a door. Behind the door, on the nails, hung a packet of sweets. She told me, "Your Papa bought these last evening and hid them here." He had told her while going to the Plant that the results will be out at 8 am. "I shall be in Plant then. Serve the sweets when IIT results are out." He was sure that I will get into IITs.
Papa had all his faith in me. I was rebelling against him, but he wasn't against me. I was fighting a one sided war, where the other party wasn't fighting at all. He was hyper-confident about my brilliance and thought that I was bluffing about not liking science. My victory soon turned into a defeat. My mother was crying. Seeing her, Gudia also started crying. I was confused. I thought I had my chance to go to Delhi to pursue my own interests. But that box of sweets was staring in my face. That man trusted me and I broke his trust. I did not fail because I could not study. I failed because I did not study. I was cheating him when I kept buying books and study material and kept dumping them. How would I face him now? What would he do with these sweets? He shall be heart broken. I was reminded how he had a heart attack only less than two years ago. I was scared. My feet started trembling. And tears rolled down my eyes.
I went to Mummy's bedroom and cried for hours in front of the Gods. She cried alongside me. The more she cried, the more I realized how much did it matter to them that I get into IIT. I was the first child in our family who had shown signs of good academics and people thought highly of me. Papa was taunted by engineers in the plant that how can a Fitter dare to dream of his son becoming an engineer. He had kept his calm patiently waiting for the day when he would answer back to his bosses that his son did become an engineer. I did not know all this. The more I knew, the more I was filled with guilt.
No one had lunch. Gudia and Mummy kept sulking somewhere and I kept lying on the floor, dreaded with the fear of facing Papa when he returns home. The door bell rang at around 2:30 pm. Mummy opened the door and I could hear Papa asking, "What is the rank?" The man would not be ready to accept that I had failed. Mummy told him that I failed to make it to the list and tears again rolled out of her eyes. Papa asked where I was. She told him that I was not ready to face him. He called me out. I sheepishly came out and stood with my head hung in shame. My eyes were red with and tears were still trickling.
Papa had not seen me crying in years. No one had. I had not cried even when Papa was in the ICU after the heart attack. He did not like the fact that I was crying. He asked me to sit and asked, "Why do you think you did not qualify?" I did not know what to say. I did not feel like a rebel anymore. I wanted to confess. I told him, "I do not like science so I did not study for the exam. I want to go to Delhi to pursue graduation in Hindi. But I am sorry that you had such high hopes of me and I disappointed you."
Mummy shouted at me, "What will you do by studying Hindi? Become a poet? How much will you earn?" I had no answer. Papa asked Mummy to keep quiet. He said, "Did you taste the sweets?" My sense of guilt resurfaced. I said, "I am sorry. I could not make you proud." He smiled again. He said to Gudia, "Bring the sweets, let's have them." I was surprised, so was Gudia. Was he trying to shame me further? Why was he acting so cool?
Sweets were brought and Papa asked all of us to have some. I couldn't. No one could. Then he told me a story. He said, "In our village, there was a very heavy wrestler by the name of Bhoomi Sanghai. He was so huge and powerful that no one could defeat him. Every year during the Kartik Mela, he used to organize Akhadas where he used to invite youngsters to fight him and he would give the winner a big laddoo. No one ever dared to challenge him and no one got that laddoo. Once a young boy challenged him and Bhoomi Sanghai fought him in the Akhada. They guy was no match for Bhoomi and after some struggle he was defeated by easily. Everyone laughed at the poor chap. Bhoomi Sanghai called for the laddoo and gave one to the young boy. the boy asked why was he getting the laddoo when he had actually lost. Bhoomi Sanghai said to him,"Whether you win or you lose, you shall get one laddoo. The laddoo is not for winning, it is for the fighting. You showed courage to fight me, so you earn a laddoo." As you have also shown the courage to appear in this exam, you deserve a sweet, even if you have failed. And you say that you failed because you didn't study. So if you study, you can clear it next time. And if you really do not want to do this, you can go to Delhi and do what you like."
I was silent. My rebellion was withering away. I still hated science. I still wanted to go to Delhi and study Hindi. But I just couldn't do that. I wanted to show Papa that I could clear JEE and that I had no idea that this meant so much to everybody. Had he scolded me and fought me, I would have run away to Delhi the next day. But I decided to stay back and give the exam one more try for the next year. Now, there was nothing else in my life for the next one year. I just wanted to clear the JEE as an apology to my father for cheating on him. I had not earned my laddoo yet. I had really not fought enough.