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Exploration Challenge 3


By Neel Anil Panicker

Remember students, you need a fantabulous vocabulary… eschew, virago, déjà vu, venal, rectitude…you must be able to roll off the meanings of these and words even more tougher in a jiffy, without batting an eyelid.

Besides, your understanding of the grammatical syntax needs to be perfect; modifiers, subject-verb agreement, adverbial clauses, conjunctives, subjunctives, hypotheticals, gerundial nouns et al.

Remember, you can bell the CAT if and only if you are the undisputed King of the Queen’s language.

If you do so the doors of the best B-schools will open for you. Otherwise…

Seated at her desk, two rows from the back, Roshni simply stared out to the front,

her face lost of all emotions, head bobbed to one side, eyes hooked to the front, transfixed at the white board and the man in front of it, desperately trying to make sense, latching on to every single word that was being uttered.

The last time she had heard such fine oratory was when she had inadvertently stumbled upon the CNN news channel only to hear the last few sentences of Barack Obama’s impressive speech as he addressed the US Congress days before relinquishing the office of the President of the United States of America.

Diction, pronunciation, inflection, intonation, enunciation, grammatical sense, style, prose, beauty and power___you name it the person delivering the lecture had all of this and then some more.

“So, dear students, if you dream about clearing the CAT with an enviable percentile and by that I mean above 99.95 percentile, a score that will open the doors of the Big Three IIMs of the country, and thereby begin your journey in the highly competitive corporate world, then make sure that you work towards improving your English.

Remember one thing: Your absolute mastery of English, both spoken and written, will ensure that you not just clear the CAT and bag a seat in one of the management schools in the country but also clear the decks for you to set sail and ride the crests and troughs of the rough seas, ultimately steering your ship safely and successfully to multitudinous ports of glory.

As the words of the teacher trailed off and long after the class had ended and the class emptied out, a shell shocked Roshni sat affixed to her chair, her mind a melange of conflicting thoughts and emotions.

Not for the first time since her arrival in Delhi a month ago she realised to her horror that she may not be as good as she believed she were.

Back in her hometown Jabalpur, she basked in the warm adulation of her teachers, friends, and family members.

For them she was Ms Know All, academically bright with a great gung ho spirit. She was the one who always topped her class and was the favourite of one and all.

But a month into living in the big city and reality had struck. The once sprightly girl who had landed in Delhi with the express intention to fulfil the dreams of her parents that their eldest child get into the IIMs, become a top notch corporate professional, and bring glory to not just them but also the entire town was finding that achieving all that was not a walk in the park. There were other things that need to dealt with besides studies. Surviving in a big city with its attendant issues was a Herculean task by itself and increasingly, as the hours elapsed into days and then into weeks and then months, Roshni found herself grossly ill-equipped to find her feet in the big, bad world into which she had parachuted barely a couple of months ago.

All her twenty-odd years of life had been one blissful cocooned existence; loving parents, appreciative teachers, gloating friends, an army of well wishers_an entire ecosystem that had nurtured and raised her and made her the person that she was __a bubbly, bright, topper who was destined for further glories, one who would not just do her parents, teachers and friends proud but also bring glory to her small village tucked away in the back of beyond, a place still pure and unadulterated by the filth and grime of modernity.

Living in Delhi, the capital city, the political, cultural and educational hub of India brought home the stark reality that there is more to life than just leading a cocooned existence in a small village.

Here, there was a new zing in the air; the young walked with a swagger and spoke with an ease and confidence that she had never seen or experienced before.

Every single hour brought home to Roshni the stark contrast between her own impoverished self and the lives of the big city denizens.

As she trundled in and out of her class, she watched with a stupefied look at her classmates at the coaching institute where she had enrolled by way of her B School preparations; watched and heard them speak with a flair and confidence, a sophistication and style that she had never known ever existed.

Everything about them spelled class__their sanguine walk, the poetry of their language, their dressing sense, their choice and range of words, the power of their personalities all added upto a drop dead confidence that she found at once both intimidating and exhilarating.

Suddenly she found her world had shrunk and shrivelled, her plight not different from that of the frog in a small well who mistakenly believes that this is the world and she its queen.

Suddenly, the size and scale of the world had changed and Roshni found herself utterly lagging behind, pitifully inadequate and incompetent to face upto to it.

Much later, back in her hostel room, long after the lights had been turned off and her room mates surrendered to sleep, weary after an entire day choc-a-bloc with classes, library, studies, and some socialising, Roshni tucked herself under the bedsheet and cried her heart out, silent tears wetting her face and moistening her bed, cursing the fate that had befallen her.

Her mind travelled back in time.

How the wheels of fate had turned. Life was idyllic just a little while ago. There she was, at the small and only railway station, hugging her mother, embracing her younger siblings, touching the feet of her father, receiving the blessings of her uncles, aunts, and the entire extended clan of family members.

It was a big thing, one of their own, the brightest of them all, and a girl child, was going to the big city, to study and be a big shot.

Looking into their moistened eyes Roshni could feel besides the obvious glow and warmth and pride, a deep sense of anticipation that one day, very shortly, this slip of a girl, their own ‘Roshni baby’ would return back a big girl, a highly successful corporate professional, a woman who would be the epitome of girl power, a woman would make them all proud.

And here she was, miles away from her loved ones, unable to grieve, to pour out her sorrows to anyone.

Who would she talk to, befriend, and reveal her problems to?

Most of her classmates came from relatively well off families, dressed as if they were going to or coming from glitzy parties, snootily walked around with a swagger and spoke in an Englishman’s   accent, complete with ooohs and aahs and wows, generously garnishing their talks with liberal spoonfuls of idioms, metaphors, oxymorons, hyperboles and other such artistic tricks of the English language.

A language that they used with a confidence that had long left the shores of arrogance and now reeked of sheer dominance and proof of their perceived superiority as reflected in their condescending attitude towards other students who were not similarly blessed.

As the hours swept away and darkness enveloped all over, for the first time in her life Roshni began to doubt her abilities. Was she really as good as her parents and school teachers had made her out to be?

Would her inadequacy in English really come in the way of fulfilling her dreams?

Would she end up as a basket case, another wayside failure, one more among the multitude to have bitten the dust after failing to cope up with the excruciating rigours of student life in a big city; the never ending demands, the trials and tribulations, the daily rigmarole of classes, and doubts sessions and workshops and then night long studies that were part and parcel of a student who dreamt about belling the CAT, the common admissions test that once cleared, opened the doors for a glittering high flying career in the global world?

If this were so, what would she tell her parents? Her siblings for whom she was Ms Perfectionist, their dear ‘Roshni di’, the one who could never fail? Her teachers in school, her elders, neighbours et al…all who loved her and pinned high hopes on her?

Would she ever be able to show her face, look into their eyes, face the world ever again?

The vibrating sound of the phone broke her thoughts.

She reached out and held the phone placed beside the table stand.

A green light flashed. It was a message.

Groggy eyed, she sat upright and read it:

Dear Roshni, I am writing this to tell you that you are a bundle of talent. Don’t let your lack of command over English ever discourage you from achieving your goals. With perseverance and sheer will power one day you will master English and speak and write with a flair and finesse that will be the envy of one and all. All you need to do is reach out and seek guidance. Remember, you have untapped abilities waiting to be discovered.

Your English teacher,

Prakash Hegde

Suddenly the veil of darkness lifted over and Roshni’s eyes lit up brighter than the brightest of bulbs; here heart began to resound with a new energy, her mind began filling up with a new faith, rigour, and meaning.

That very moment she resolved she would be the master of her own destiny and ride the crests of success for ever.

For the first time in a long, long time Roshni slept peacefully fully aware that a new, beautiful dawn awaited her.

©neelanilpanicker2017 #CATOLOGY #fiction  #shorstory #02 #1710words

5 thoughts on “neelwrites/lifeiswhatyoumakeofit/shortstory/catology/02/fiction/reena’sexplorationchallenge/12/-9/2017

  1. Thanks for joining in, Neel! I felt the pain of the girl in every line. Reminded me of a story by Shobha De, where a not-so-well-off couple goes to a five-star hotel for dinner on their anniversary, and find that they can afford only a mocktail. They are weighed down under complexes, on seeing the people around. Gradually, the romance returns as they have pav-bhaji at a stall outside, and then, curd-rice at home in candlelight, due to a power failure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks a million Reena for your fulsome praise of my short story. The comparison with Shobha De and the fact that my story reminded you of one of her stories has really spurred me further as i am a big fan of writings.
      I am glad that you have started this excellent challenge and i am sure it will be a huge success. I wish more and more readers and writers worldwide participate in your weekly challenge.
      Hope more colleagues and readers and followers read and comment on every short story. Thanks again, Reena for the excellent service that your are doing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Share it in your networks, if you can. Thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

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