How Alok Passed his Exams

How Alok Passed his Exams

Alok’s father hated averageness. “It’s worse than failure.  It stands like an island, in the middle of nowhere and nothing. If you are a topper or a failure, at least you know where you are going: up or down. But average is terrible.” He would say.
And Alok, as his luck would have it, was just that. Average. His academic marks always hovered somewhere around the middle. While his father scoffed at his son’s average marks, he refused to open his eyes to Alok’s obvious artistic talent.
“Fine arts?” he once roared. “It’s for girls and softies.” And when Alok rattled off names of the greatest painters and artists --- who were all men --- his father merely muttered into his beard.

And then, just days before the board exams, he told his son, “Get me 80 %, and mind you, I am being generous here, and I will get you into the Royal College of Arts in London.”

Everyone knew it was a losing battle. Alok’s artistic brains could barely cope with figures, statistics, and rote-learning of the education system. But he was determined none-the-less. And threw himself with vigour into the sea of books, drowning, sputtering, gasping. But determined to hold on.

One night Alok had a dreamless sleep or was it a sleepless dream. He couldn’t make out which. After all, his mind was all over the place, in bits and pieces. While some portions of his brain tried to solve a math problem, another tried to memorize a chemistry formula, while a third was lost in the by lanes of history, a fourth wandered around the globe and a fifth, rummaging through a mountain of words, trying to write an essay!

In such a state of mind, Alok woke up one day at the crack of dawn -- a time he never thought existed until now. He knew if anyone could help him, it would be the gods. And so, he ventured into the Puja room, again a room he had barely noticed, until now.
He sat down nervously in front of the many gods and goddesses in photographs and statues that stared back at him, expressionless. He looked at all of them in turns and finally settled on Lord Ganesh, whom he found most approachable. He said in a low whisper, “I know I rarely pray to you, but I really need your help in the next few days. I need to pass the board exams. You see, it’s very important for my future…and…”
“I know. I was there when your father made you that offer. And you don’t need to tell me it’s exam time. I’ve been getting so many prayers and promises and compromises and even threats, that I’m frankly beginning to get tired of it all.” Said Lord Ganesh.
A startled Alok clamped his mouth as hard as he could to stop the loud scream that would’ve certainly awakened everyone in the house, the neighbouring houses and even perhaps the entire street!

“You’re t..t…talking! Or I…I…am I…aaa…am…am I going mad?” He managed to stutter, and stared at the elephant-headed deity in disbelief.
“Yes, I am talking,” said Lord Ganesh, nodding his head and added, “And no, you are not going mad.”
Alok was still in disbelief.
“You were saying?” Urged Lord Ganesh.
“Ya…Ya. I was saying,” Alok was still uncertain, until Lord Ganesh gave him a reassuring nod. “Ya, I was saying, there’s no way I can do it. My brain’s not wired that way. You should know that! You are a god after all and all-knowing and all that.”
“You have a point there,” Said Lord Ganesh. “It’s going to take nothing short of a miracle for you to pass the exams.”
Both Alok and Lord Ganesh thought for a while in silence.
“Can you write the papers for me?” Asked Alok hopefully. “It would be a cakewalk for you. You are the lord of wisdom and success after all.”
“Now, now don’t you think that’s going a little too far? My elephant head would give me away instantly!” Said Lord Ganesh.
Alok nodded and said, “Maybe we could use a disguise.”
“Too far-fetched,” interrupted Lord Ganesh.
“Maybe with your all-knowing wisdom and future-seeing abilities, you could tell me what’s coming in the question paper?” Asked Alok.
“You mean cheating? Well, my godly status would simply not allow it.” And thinking aloud, he added, “But on second thoughts, I could cheat ‘cheating’, without arousing suspicion of the other gods and help you. But for that I would need you to be alert at all times.”

And so in the next few days leading to the exams, Lord Ganesh with his divine powers began to help Alok in most mysterious ways. For example, while reading through his chemistry book, some pages simply stayed put, refusing to turn; at tuition, when the tutor took up certain math problems “listen to this carefully” would come a whisper from thin air. During study circles as they collectively solved physics problems, he would get a gentle tap from nowhere at particular solutions. Sitting in the library, a place he barely knew existed, certain books and study material would suddenly glow! And sometimes, Alok would hear characters from the classics of literature speak out; and sometimes in dreams entire papers would be revealed!

And thus Alok entered the examination hall with increasing confidence every day and his dreams of London took a clearer form. And then the results were announced.
Alok’s mother had tears of joy in her eyes. His father was openly proud of his son’s achievement, though he continued to mumble into his beard about the Royal College of Arts.
As for Lord Ganesh, he knew he would be going with Alok to see the Big Ben!

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