The Name board was clearly legible at-least a 50 meters away from the Gate, “Government Higher Secondary School, Akkur.”. A funny combination of white letters running on a Blue background. Mounted between two concrete pillars, on top of that giant old creepy entrance gate. It was nothing but another typical Government run institution in the state, with no special history or achievement to list out. 3 Old, painted almost a decade ago concrete buildings at the north e, 4 medium sized sheds with cement sheets on top and a recently built Higher Secondary Laboratory building, those were the total man made area that had resorted the classes from 9th to 12th. 6th to 8th standard classes were under the tree tops in that maxi 10000 sq.ft open area amidst of the buildings. No compound walls around, Hence pupil could enter and exit anywhere.
The school was precisely 300 Meters apart from his House and located at the other end of that ‘inverted L’ shaped street. On any working day, one can see him walking like a lazy tortoise, with a school bag on back, Evenly paced, looking sluggish, with a blue bottom and white top school uniform which is common in every government held school in the state.
He topped his Class in all the subjects and in all the standards, competitive and good at extra curricular activities. He had a sense of responsibility and self discipline which is quite unusual for his age. He is a capable boy with clear sense of responsibilities, vision and Goals. His friends observed him with boundless energy and focus, his records support the thought very well. He was working hard to get a reasonable rank in his board exams ahead and was turning every stone expected to be. His parents were school teachers and never micro-managed him about his studies as he was evidently self organized and they had just let him cherish the pressure-less world of boundless dreams.
Today he had started 5 minutes earlier than his usual time, walking slowly. Its very common for a Indian School going Kids to get occupied with the dashing clouds of different thoughts that the whole society emboss upon – “Marks and Ranks”. He was no exception and On that day, he was dwelling on his own pool of thoughts jogging back and forth.
The Annual Day
He observed something different and welcoming at once he entered the School. The whole premise was adorned with color papers and flags stuck on ropes that run on top of tall Bamboo sticks stalled underneath. He got surprised seeing his friends on multi color attires and quickly recollected that day was their school Annual day and also the fact was “No dress code to be followed on Annual day”.
He felt pity of himself as he would go to stage to collect prizes for the events he won on regular school uniform. Posing photos in school uniform is something no kid would desire. Quickly pull up from thoughts when one of his friend asked with a funny tone “Hey hero, Prepared well, huh?”. As it was a government run institution, notably in a village, if anyone who can recollect and speak at-least 10 lines in English at a stretch, would be a Hero and You know he was very good at it.
He was on back stage, sitting nervously. Addressing at a crowd is not his cup of tea, but he was expected to do that at every School event, Just as no one else was ready to bear that task in such a under privileged Village school. The Price distribution was about to begin in 15 minutes and his slot to deliver his note was in couple of minutes.
The moderator announced in mike, “Next we welcome Mr.Arunkumar of 10th Standard ‘A’ Section to speak on the topic, ‘Children, the pillars of future India'”.
He moved towards the stage with tumbling legs, trying his level best to look pleasant. There was little applaud from a small cluster of crowd – should be his pals. Standing in front of mike which was a few inches above his mouth. With the pounding heart, when he about to begin, his Physical Ed. staff jumped in front of him, before guessed what, he adjusted the mike, positioned for him. As a note of support, patted him gently on his back and left the stage.
A big round of applauds erupted once he completed his speech, written by his dad, he should have done well. He slowly gathered himself and left the stage with a smile of contention.
He was seen as a hero among his friends circle, he got almost 7 prizes for different events in the morning and no wonder he was on cloud-nine till evening reminded off the appreciation and prizes. He was not aware that a stranger, sitting around, was even on clouds-nine looking at him with pride. It was evident from her eyes that it was more than a friendship.
Clock ticked, 04:00 PM. The school Head Master was on his own flow on the stage, covering every topic on the earth he was aware and making unwanted statements irrelevant to the current situation. The creepy voice on air resembled any typical Indian political rally. He was sitting just a few rows from behind in that maxi 10000 sq.ft school ground, hearing the speech passively. Over the air, “You know how I built and brought up this institution” .. “You know the importance we pay on every ward in the school who have exceptional potential to perform well” .. Suddenly something hooked and brought him back to listen his speech. “I promise you people that our school will get the honor of having the State Top Rank this year. I bet on Arunkumar of 10th Standard ‘A’ Section and I know for sure he is gonna make it for us” .., applauds and cheers erupt from the crowd and lasted almost a minute.
He found uncomfortable instantly when every pair of eyes started poking at him and murmuring. “Hey this is the guy, will he make it?, he is talented but who knows ., might be overrated .., but one need luck” different mix of opinions, he could hear around. He felt embarrassed to see himself as a matter of discussion. Just with the statement of school H.M., everybody looked at him as he had already achieved the rank. He felt the burden of expectations right on his shoulders, array of thoughts started to weave, “Why he talk these things on stage?”, “what one will think if I fail to get the rank?”, “How will my family and friends take it?”, “I will be treated as a failure, ain’t I?”. Very first time his sense of focus was distorted with the awkward pressure of uninvited responsibility, bearing the burden of expectations.
From the next day, things went weird. Every teaching staff treated him as a VIP. The special focus had split him away from the rest. His friends were no longer in reach. Special tests, exams, dictations were made only for him. He was pushed to study even after the school hours while the rest of the class was on play ground. If he was seen without a text book on hand, he was questioned. He could no longer sit with his pals, a special seat at the front row. Stress, started to build up. He no longer had the boundless freedom to work independently, no longer allowed to be self-organized but blindly controlled by the directions of ‘eagle eyed’ teaching staffs. The pressure was mounting exponentially every single day right then.