My whole life can be summed up into a game of truth or dare. Either I follow the laws of being truthful or I take the courage to do the opposite (Hint: I am not adventurous :P). There were three such major incidents in my life so far that shaped me as an individual and have had a profound impact on my life. This story of mine is about one such incident when my morality was put to test. It’s about how I chose to stick to my principles and hence had to face the consequences.
Before I start with them, let me give a brief description of myself. Since my childhood, I have been a very studious girl. People hated me at school as I wouldn’t share my home works with them, and wouldn’t help them during exams. And since I believed in reciprocity, I naturally was inclined to not asking for help. Thankfully, my schooldays passed smoothly by my rules and (as a direct result, I managed to make only two close friends at school).
College days are that period of adolescence which is wrongly depicted in movies to be the best time of one’s life where budding love begins and beautiful things happen.
And then came the intermediate college days (I mean, pre-university). This is that period of adolescence which is wrongly depicted in movies to be the best time of one’s life where budding love begins and beautiful things happen. Since I was a victim of IIT coaching from Sri Chaitanya Junior College (amidst millions of other such victims), such moments were only limited to dreaming of a tea break during the marathon back-to-back classes. As it turns out, I was no more the topper of the IIT Coaching mock tests, and my performance curve dropped down consistently.
And yet, when it came to the Intermediate Board Examinations, I brought back my studious self and started preparing rigorously. Since the success in these examinations depends largely on one’s presentation and language skills more than one’s intelligence, I knew I would ace these examinations. I prepared day and night for these exams for more than a month. Though getting an average score in these exams is a cake-walk, becoming a topper in the state board was very competitive and that’s what I aimed for.
I wanted to prove my worth again, being a 10th board CBSE topper. And also because the state topper gets a direct entry into BITS Pilani without having to give its entrance exam, and that college was something that I aspired to study in back then. (If only someone told me then that there can only be one topper and it all comes down to luck!) I had scored quite well in my 1st year’s Board Examination. If only I could maintain the same percentage in my second year too, there were chances for my dreams to come true!
The paper was easy for me, except for this one question worth two marks whose answer I did not remember.
It was the last day of my second year’s board examination. It was my favourite subject, Chemistry! So far, I had written the rest of the subjects very well and was expecting a good score, with Chemistry being the deciding factor to my score. Since I prepared exhaustively for this exam as always, the paper was easy for me, except for this one question worth two marks whose answer I did not remember. It was a question where we were asked to write the chemical equation for the name mentioned. Chemistry is filled with many such equations named under their respective founders and it’s not uncommon to lose track of them. I calmly wrote the rest of the paper and gave a good half an hour, in the end, to ponder over this question.
Time ticked away and I still couldn’t remember the equation. There were only five minutes left to return my paper to the examiner. That’s when I started to panic. I wanted to score full marks in this paper and here I was unable to attempt my one last question of my one favourite subject! (anything comes after English of course) And then came the saviour, my bench mate! It was as if God heard my cries and sent an angel in disguise. The examinations are held such that people of different colleges sit together in a classroom and take the exam. That means that the person sitting next to me is a total stranger to me, but the person seated in the front or behind me might be from my college.
After all, I never copied in my life before. I only needed help with this one last question of my college life.
There were two minutes left. My mouth went dry and my fingers couldn’t grip my pen anymore. That’s when the guy sitting behind my bench mate asked him the answer to the question that I was trying to recollect! My bench mate confidently whispered to him while I could only decipher a few syllables out of his speech. That was because my brain momentarily ordered my ears to shut down and my eyes to turn away while it recited the principles of student ‘dharma’. Alas, I missed the golden chance!
I looked at him eagerly, but before he could look back at me, I turned away.
But the greed in me kept nudging me to seek help from him. After all, I never copied in my life before and I only needed help with this one last question of my college life. I deserved to know its answer for being righteous all through my academic life. I looked at him eagerly, but before he could look back at me, I turned away. Or rather, my brain ordered my reflex system to do so. It then re-iterated the heinous crime that I was just about to commit. Whatever I was, I was never a liar or a cheater. I should live by my self-made principles and follow the ‘dharma’ of a sincere student.
The bell rang, tears rolled down my eyes. As I returned my unfinished exam paper, my brain cursed my mind. It was an easy paper and all the students were cheerful. They were discussing their long-term vacation plans as they descended the stairs. I spotted my classmate and I asked her to answer this question. As she started to tell the equation I remembered it too! (I would have felt better if I had not known the answer at all) I cried harder, not because I couldn’t recollect the answer in the exam hall, but because my mind refused to commit an unseen ‘crime’.
Before I could reach him, a news reporter and a cameraman approached me.
I passed the gate to see my father looking at me with beaming eyes. Before I could reach him, a news reporter and a cameraman approached me and asked me my opinion on the question paper. I looked away from him while I accidentally revealed my tears. He ignored and went past me to interview the happy students behind me. He must’ve thought that I would have to re-write this paper next year.
I met my dad. He was surprised to see me like that while the other kids were merry and joyous. He told me that he was the one who told about my academic history to the reporter. He wanted the reporter to record my feedback on the paper as I was also an eloquent speaker. My father laughed at my stupidity and meticulousness. He had no idea of the conflict about morality that was going on in my head. Later that day when I narrated this incident to him, he told me that I did the right thing that was to be done. I was satisfied and went to sleep. However, had I written that answer in the exam by taking external help, I too would have been broadcasted on the TV that night and made my father proud.
This is one of the most memorable incidents of my life because this was when the moral science subject learnt in my 2nd standard was put to test. The results came and I scored 2 marks short to full in that Chemistry paper.
In retrospect, I feel that I did the right thing that day. Maybe I would have scored full marks in that chemistry paper by taking that guy’s help (Since he was a stranger to me and did not know that I never helped anyone during exams, he would’ve helped me without hesitation).
It’s analogous to a millionaire who is just 20rs in short of a billion, stealing that money from a poor man.
Not only is that against the rules, but it is also unjust. The guy sitting next to me wasn’t a nerd. All he wanted was to score above average marks in that paper, and he happened to know the answer to that question (which I believe was the right answer). While I knew the answers to the entire paper except for that one question, he might have just answered only half of the paper correctly, and he was contented with that. There was no use of topping my boards by doing such a thing. It’s analogous to a millionaire who is just 20rs in short of a billion, stealing that money from a poor man. Though he’d be called a billionaire from then, his conscience would never let him sleep for the act he had committed.
And that ends one of my three ‘experiments with truth’. I will discuss the other two in my forthcoming posts. Subscribe to my blog to never miss a new post. Let me know in the comments if you ever faced such a situation where your morals were questioned, and if yes, then what was your reaction to them?
Read my previous post about ‘The Inevitable Truth’ here