Hugs. Victory signs. Thumbs-up gestures. Selfies. More hugs, followed by long waves of hand, and eyes glued to the figure departing hurriedly through the gate. Family members from a small town saying farewell to a youngster taking a maiden foreign trip? Bidai ceremony of a bride? Toddler’s first day at school? No, no and no. The toddler has all grown up and is appearing in the Board exams. And anxious parents cannot believe that their little one is already taking the first steps into the competitive world, where, like it or not, exam scores still play a prominent role in carving your future.
The scenes outside the examination centre may look like chaotic, but in a way, it shows what’s meant by unity in diversity. Amid all the confusion lies clear focus, revealing at the same time how each child is different. So you have strapping boys, with hints of fuzzy upper lip, trying to tear themselves away from last-minute fatherly advice. Some shed every sign of parental company hundreds of metres before the gate, talking long strides to join some friends and finding comfort in banter such as ‘bro, don’t lie… of course, you didn’t watch a movie last night’. Then there are those hunched in a huddle, discussing probable questions, and flipping pages to look at something, anything, one last time.
A few of them gingerly carry more stuff than books, like a Yelakki banana that mom had thrust in the palm a few seconds ago, when it was too late to refuse. A stark contrast is presented by those who stroll in calmly, with a stationery pouch casually dangling from one hand, and the admit card from the other. There invariably is also someone who has forgotten to bring that all-important piece of paper, making everyone jump around in frenzy, which gets energised further as a bike screeches to a halt two minutes too late. The parent feebly mentions the Hebbal traffic jam, but as hushed voices meet loud reprimands about how it’s the parents and not the child who should be held responsible, you realise that no two parents are alike either.
Some mothers follow the child right till the point where the guard starts objecting, while some others prefer to catch up with those they had met at the last PTM. A few make plans to spend the entire three hours under a tree, with an hour in between spent sipping avocado milkshake at a nearby cafe. Some parents go back to their cars, and laptops. Amid official emails, what’s also accessed is social media, and the selfies taken in the morning are posted with captions like, “The little bundle of joy is ready to fly. Need your blessings as the star of our life appears in the first board exam.”
Three hours later, the scenario is no different, the anxious faces no more relaxed. The bell rings and dads wipe sweat from their balding heads. A group of kids emerges, discussing the answer to Question no. 8. Another bunch is animatedly discussing a visit to the mall on the last day, which is a good three weeks away. Everyone is peering at the approaching horde of students. Doting parents may not admit it, but it’s tough to recognise your child among the uniformed troop of little soldiers. Another war has been fought. Valiantly.
Senior Asst Editor email@example.com