Chapter 8: Smiling after a slap in the face

Pain and Sorrow Ajtihkumar

In the last chapter, I spoke about how smile can set everything straight, but it was not always right. For instance, imagine smiling after getting a slap in the face, then think of doing it twenty-four hours a day. It is easier said than done. During this phase of my life, I tried to be as positive as possible but life was not kind.

For a student in India, Class 12 is the gateway to his career. However I was way too distracted during that phase. That year my father quit his job and spent all his time at home. It became so uneasy for me to spend all my time at home with my father around. I tried hard for a month or so, to study hard, but it didn’t work out. I was unable to study, as every time I picked my book up, he would call me to help in the kitchen (as he took up the cooking duties from my mother after he quit his job) or would send me to the grocery store to buy something.

Pain and Sorrow AjtihkumarI was not averse to do the household chores, however the problem was not about working for him, but despite doing the work getting beaten up for not doing it up to his level of expectation. From cutting onions to grinding the batter for idly, I got beaten up for everything. If his recipe had 15 ingredients, then he would send me 15 times to the grocery store to get every single item, instead of sending me once. Ever since my father quit his job the fights between my father and mother became stronger and more eventful. My sister had the privilege of having asthma, so they never beat her or scolded her, and I eventually became their only venue to vent their anger and frustration. It became very difficult for me to study after being beaten up so badly for no mistake of mine.

This went on for a few months, everything in the school was smooth, I was given more marks than what I deserved. However I found it very hard to sit in the school for 8 hours before going back home to face the music. I wanted a change after leaving home in the morning and the school did not provide me with that change. So I started collecting money and once I accumulated 10 rupees, I skipped the school and went to movies during the school time. If I had sufficient money then I watched two movies in a row.

The bicycle that I had was an old one without a lock. Once I went to a theater nearby, I parked my bicycle and went to the movie, and when I came back my cycle was missing. It is very difficult to explain my state of mind at that point of time. I was so scared, sweating profusely and my whole body became heavy, making it difficult for me to move or think. There was no way out for me, I could not go home and tell my father that I lost my bicycle. He would ask me where I had lost it, and I had no possible answer for that question. Had I said I went to a movie skipping the school he would kill me, and had I lied that I lost it at school, then he would have gone to the school and would have found out the truth anyway. In addition to that he would have found out that it was not an isolated incident. I was contemplating all the possible options and was at the verge of breaking down. Then I told the cinema authorities about my missing cycle, then the security person came and told me that he has placed the bicycle inside as there was no lock on it. With a mighty relief, I fled that place as fast as I could thinking about all the possible eventualities had I lost the cycle. Suddenly another bicycle  which was going ahead changed its course and crashed on mine, I fell down and broke one of the front teeth. My right calf got badly bruised and with great difficulty I reached home. When I thought that it could not get any worse, I was proved wrong. My father noticed the extensive damage in the mud guard of the cycle and beat me severely. I was beaten so badly that my body became almost numb.

I tried to sleep that day, but it was really hard to sleep when you are in so much pain both physically and mentally.  There was no logical solution for my miseries, I could not elope and lead a happy life, as I had no money or a job. I did not have the courage elope, At the same time I could not be the punching bag for my father and mother for the rest of my life. The only logical solution for that was death, however I was scared of dying. I spent the whole night plotting a way to die painlessly. I was unable to find a way out, but by then it was dawn and I started getting ready to school. When I brushed in the morning I noticed the extent of the damage of my tooth. We had a session at out chemistry lab that day and I got an idea. There was seliniumdioxide bottle with a poison symbol. I took two pellets of it and dropped it in my pocket. I thought of swallowing it then, however I changed my mind and took it home. I swallowed it before going to bed. I was so scared and terrified to sleep and was wondering if I would ever wake up again, if I sleep. Since I did not sleep the previous day, I could not control my sleep and I slept.

The next morning I woke up alive, I did not even experience a bad stomach. I then decided not to do any such activity again, as fear of death is far worse than the pain that I endured. Few days later there was a seminar by IIPE (it was a training institute for students taking up common entrance exam for Engineering and Medicine). It was then that I learnt about the break ups, cut-off marks and the specializations available. I was so keen in joining that training institute. I told my mother about it and requested her to send me to that institute. The main difference between my mother and father is, my father with say ‘No’ straight away, so I will not build any false hopes. However my mother is different; if I ask her for a note book, she will promise me of getting 10 notebooks, but would not even buy a piece of paper. If I try reminding her again about the notebook, she would then shout at me so badly that my father would come and slap me twice to calm her down.

So, the moment she said ‘Yes’ for the training institute, I knew that it would never happen. However I had a faint hope (mostly illogical), of joining the preparatory course. I put in some efforts for the public exam over the last few days and did them reasonably well. The exams were over and I did not join any preparatory course, while all my friends went to some or the other institute. Without much preparation I took the entrance exams, I did reasonably well as I was basically strong in maths and science.

The results came and I scored 92% in the public exam (Which is not a great percentage in Tamil Nadu), scored 99.5%  in math.  I was not happy with the marks, however the marks were a fair indication of the kind of efforts that I put in. The entrance results came and my performance was better than anyone else in my school and despite my below par performance in the public exam my overall rank was 1700 (around 99th percentile). I out ranked all of my school mates except Ashwin and Sudha. Ashwin also had a good total and opted for BITS Pilani, instead of the colleges in Tamil Nadu. Sudha joined a dental college. My only aim then was to leave Chennai and my home (I wanted to join REC Trichy). However my father had a few conditions, he wanted me to opt for a govt college so the fee would be minimal, and that college should be in Chennai so that I could remain as a day scholar. That pretty much reduced the number of possible colleges to one, I could only opt for Anna University. He did not accompany me and asked my mother to take me to Anna University. I went for the counselling (on the second day), I had good number of seats in many top colleges, I was confused between opting for Chemical Engineering and Textile Technology. There were two seats for Chemical Engineering in BC Quota and but Textile Engineering seats were not opted by anyone until then. I never wanted to use my quota anywhere, back then I wanted to be a big fish in a small pond rather than a small fish in a big pond. So I chose textile technology.

Thus my complex school came to an end. I had the experience of studying in 12 schools, sharing the class with hundreds of classmates, pure misery, and unforgettable memories. I also had few very good friends.