Pre-monsoon showers had cooled down the blistering heat of summer. After the routine sibling squabble at the dinner table, the entire house had retired to bed. The calmness of the night was shattered by the loud sound of the phone constantly ringing away. The muffled voice of the husband answering the phone, the tap of the hurried footsteps and the bang of the front door worried me. The sense of urgency had ensured that there was no goodbye or see you soon farewell.
Amidst the lost sleep that clouded my reasoning, I tried to recall the date. Realizing the month of the year, I closed my eyes and prayed. The sleep was gone. I waited for the husband to return and silently prayed that my fears hadn’t come true. A couple of hours later, the husband returned. The tears had dried up, there was only sadness and silence; the silence that was uncomfortable and unacceptable.
As we sat sipping tea in the wee hours of the morning, he said ‘that was the 3rd in this month’.
He continued ‘He was a smart boy, aged 16, sensitive, caring, cheerful and I knew him personally’.
I could sense him choking over as he continued ‘His parents worked in a garment factory, he was their only hope and he had promised a better life for them. Their eyes question the identity of the murderer and I did not know what to answer them’.
I couldn’t do anything to allay the husband’s distress and I wondered would this ever change. He was a forensic expert and we both immensely feared the month of May in the country. The tenth metric exam results had been announced just a day before and all hopes for an uneventful month was gone.
My early education taught me many things in life. I was convinced I was good for nothing if I did not stand amidst the top 5 in class and that to be popular at home or school. I had to constantly bask in the glory of scoring 99% in my exams. But looking back today, I realize none of my patients who seek health care from me is curious to know my numbers in exams or for that if I ever topped in any subjects while pursuing medicine. My intense love for geometry or an amazing passion for history does not guide my life today. In fact, my patients want to know how empathetic and communicative I am towards them, none of which is ever taught in our current education curriculum.
And as I watch the siblings grow and argue over who’s more intelligent, I often wonder why our education tests children’s memory than their potential. How do marks which test my retention power measure me as a person or test my abilities in life? Why do we as parents and teachers stigmatize children of being wrong? Why is scoring in an exam a deterministic factor of life and death for an innocent soul? Who is to be blamed – an education system that prejudices children based on their score, a teacher who kills creativity by discouraging original thoughts or a parent who pushes the child to be part of the rat race?
My thoughts are suddenly interrupted by a dear friend who announces to me ‘We finally procured a seat into the IIT coaching centre for our little boy’. I exclaim in despair ‘but he’s only in sixth grade’ and it goes unnoticed.
As I open the morning paper, the list of exam toppers, their hardships, their photographs, and their experiences run into pages. I search frantically for any mention of a lost soul but the third cold-blooded murder at the hands of education goes unreported again!