Letter to the examiner

Letter to the examiner

I went to a school where my father taught. The privilege I enjoyed as the son of a teacher was not available to even the sons of government officials.

Excluding mine, most other pupils’ seats, calves and palms bore scars of the cane. As for fees, I was exempted from paying even the small annual fee of Rs 12. The other children from my class envied me intensely.

Another important benefit I derived from being a teacher’s son was the opportunity to correct students’ answer papers on my father’s behalf. I utilized it fully, rewarding those who lent me their bicycles, passed their answer sheets to me in the exam hall, bought me sweets and baby mangoes from their homes. 

When I was studying in the tenth grade I helped my father in valuing answer sheets. Hundreds of papers were to be corrected within a period of a fortnight. My father had to seek my assistance for tackling the herculean job. Many of these answer sheets contained “letters to the examiner”. These tear-jerking stories used to entertain me. One student said, “I am running a high fever as I write this exam— my hands are shaking, smoke is coming out of my nostrils, my fingers are so burning and I am afraid the answer sheet may catch fire any moment”. Another said, “my father just passed away last night and I came straight from crematorium after lighting the pyre.”

One more explained that, “only yesterday I was in an accident yet I am writing with my left hand and right leg in plaster.” Who cared for the answers? I liked these letters that contained sweet lies to the examiner.

The more the colour in the letter, the more marks they were awarded. One boy who wrote a two-page letter describing his suffering at the hands of his step-mother got an 80 from me in place of just the 30 marks that he actually deserved. Had I been a movie director I would have made a blockbuster movie based on his script! 

May be due to their blessings I also got through a difficult-to-pass advanced accounts exam by virtue of a fictional letter that I wrote to the examiner. I had two hours on my hand to recollect all those ‘letters to examiner’ I read while I assisted my father. The examiner proved more liberal than I was when I valued papers. So much so that, I decided to become a writer. Such a wrong decision! It was not long before I realized that editors are not as sentimental as examiners and pseudo examiners were.