The 27th of December, 2016 is a date I will commit to memory so I can relive it over and over and do naught but laugh at the sheer irony of affairs.
After missing out on an entire year of university due to my travels, I came back earlier this year to catch up with all of the pending work. As such, I had given exams during the months of October, November and December for the academic year that I had missed, the results of which exams were declared today- the 27th of December, 2016.
I had done respectably well within my expectations in everything but English.
Some background before I go any further- my childhood was marked by episodes of reading frenzies; sometimes Enid Blyton would have fallen prey, other instances it was either Rowling, Tolkien or Dahl. Fifth grade had me attempting to form my own cricket club a la Swaminathan from Narayan’s timeless Malgudi Days whilst supplementing this initial foray into Indian fiction with as many copies of Asterix and Tintin as I could lay my hands on. The following summer found me nose-deep in my sister’s copy of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, my self-assigned project for the holidays. Then came along the ouster from my school’s Sports’ Day program for my display of insufficient interest in participation, which led to my seeking refuge within the school library, the inhabitants of which were scoured from shelf to shelf with a carnivorous appetite. Growing up meant moving on from Hardy Boys, Artemis Fowl and the Anthony Horowitz mania to Archer, Crichton and MacLean. Soon, Doyle and Forsyth had joined the menu too along with the likes of Tolstoy, Asimov and Austen. By then, Shakespeare had become a regular holiday affair. Finishing school was marked by my first tryst with Dostoyevsky through The Idiot- Notes from Underground and The Brothers Karamazov followed. Eleventh grade was a storm of Hosseini, Saki, and RR Martin interspersed with the casual swim in British and American TV. Twelfth grade witnessed my growing obsession with translated Japanese literature and manga which ended with the best relapse I had never asked for- Crime and Punishment.
I then made the decision of joining a college affiliated to Osmania University, which holds a monopoly in this sort of thing. It was perhaps towards the end of my first year when I discovered the university’s motto, printed on the calendars they issued: ‘A University with Potential for Excellence’. It depressed me to no end, for it reeked of blatant complacency; ergo, the University was well aware that it was within reach of attaining excellence but was satisfied with just being aware of the fact and doing nothing about it.That was when I had departed for my travels- with no clear date of return in sight, for I was dissatisfied with the quality of my education. By then, the term ‘education’ seemed almost like an euphemism for a curriculum which asked for nothing but the mere consumption of data and its subsequent vomiting on the exam paper.
The past two years were very special, for I had managed to expand my reading horizon. Garcia Marquez, Allende, Rushdie, Sabato, Nasreen, Murakami, Mukherjee, Seth and more recently, Beatty, were all enjoyed with mounting relish. I had finally polished off the works of Virginia Woolf and Joyce, accompanied by the occasional doses of Heller and Vonnegut, among others.
So considering all the information I have just shared, you would not totally misunderstand my imaginable disappointment after discovering that I had failed my English exam- scoring an abysmal 30 marks out of 100. The solution is simple- wait for the revaluation dates to come out, pay the fee and have my paper reexamined so I can clear this backlog.
However, I refuse to be comforted by this. What the university has done is not a mere oversight but failing the hopes a student vests in them. This particular English paper had not been a bad one. I had expected to score anything over eighty-five on hundred after possible mistakes in answering questions about the synonyms of Latin terminology and the technicalities of grammar, for I had never made the effort of learning them.
What you are doing is just plain unfair. I do not understand why I have to pay for you to correct your own mistake just like how I do not understand why the system thinks it is okay to ask students to watermark their A4 sheets before writing their records. I have to write seven records this year wherein each record averages at 70-80 pages. Watermarking an entire ream of paper along with the numerous print outs and the mandatory spiral binding is an expensive affair and I don’t understand why it is okay to demand such things of a student. What is the point of making ‘Environmental Science’ a mandatory paper and then making us go through this entire exercise of writing on so much paper, paper which is just bundled up and thrown into storage? What is the point of having us learn coding in different languages and then have us write those codes on paper, where they cannot even be complied or applied? Why this hypocrisy, Osmania?
Thankfully, the marks you have given me for my English paper have cleared any doubts I may have had about the system. 30 marks out of 100 is what I get for having explored literature that is for most of my peers, unheard of. 30 on 100 is what you give me for being passionate about the English language and working for the longest time to only further cultivate this interest. 30 on 100 also tells me why you will always be stuck at just having the potential for excellence, but never excellence in itself. 30 on 100 is also what will be relegated to a dark and dank recess in my brain as I curl up with The Enchantress of Florence by Rushdie.
Disclaimer: Through this post, I do not mean to slander the university in any way. I respect its immense outreach and how it empowers students from all walks of life but that in no way excuses this shoddy handling of affairs. My examinations were postponed thrice. The dates given, in one instance, were not the actual dates. One of my invigilators at one of my centers even asked me for 2,000 rupees so he could give me good marks. And now this, 30 on 100. It is time we let the university know its standards cannot be a set of such vast compromises on so many levels.