By Rohan Seth:
It was the summer of 2007. I’d fared relatively well in my Class X Board exams. I was hardly a topper, above average at academics, but had scored enough marks to be afforded the ‘freedom’ to choose the stream of my choice. I studied in a South Delhi school, and while there was the occasional prod from my father to take up Science, no freaking way in the world was that going to happen. I don’t know if it was self-awareness of my limited ‘scientific’ ability or simply wanting to have a social life, I knew that Science toh humse na hoga (Science isn’t my cup of tea)!
So in this carnival of deduction, I was left with opting for either Commerce or Humanities. And how did I make the choice? I didn’t go to any career counselling hack, nor to any Aryabhatta/NTSE overachieving PCM (Physics, Chemistry, Maths) neighbour for advice, and definitely not to my parochial ‘computer course kar le’ relatives.
I opted for Commerce with Math even though I knew I had a flair for Humanities (I’d scored a 100 in Social Studies in Class X). Why?
Because my school offered all the ‘extra-curricular’ opportunities to the Commerce section. Because the Humanities section only consisted of the school accredited ‘gundas’. Because I believed I could and would study day and night to secure 90% to get through SRCC or a college in Delhi University. Because I wanted to be the first comrade in my family to have taken up Math in Class XI and XII (both my parents had taken up Humanities back in the day). And last but not the least – because I really thought I could pull it off.
You might find some of the reasons I listed as bizarre but they essentially were THE reasons why I did what I did. The decision came to haunt me much later in the future and in hindsight, I write this with regret.
I didn’t know DU cut-offs were higher for Commerce school graduates, particularly if one wanted to opt for a Humanities undergraduate course. I certainly didn’t know this decision would plunge me into an unending struggle to get to a ‘good’ college.
So what was the result of this Commerce ‘experiment’?
I excelled at extra-curricular activities but failed all Math examinations in Class XI until the final, where I, for the very first time, resorted to taking a neighbour’s answer sheet and copied everything. Exceptional times required for exceptional measures and this was my Math-induced exceptional moment. I managed to pass the final examination but then it was the same story all over again. I failed all my Math examinations in Class XII too – in the first term, the pre-pre board and the pre-board. I remember how I used to submit my examination sheet to the invigilator in a mere 30 minutes – because that was the minimum mandatory time to be spent in the examination hall.
I used to strut out of the exam hall in a ‘John Travolta- Saturday Night Fever- I’m too cool for school’ gait (in my head of course) with relieved eyes gazing at me. ‘Relieved’ because my classmates now knew that they had company if they royally fucked up in the exam too. To my relief, the mighty board examiner took mercy upon me and I managed to score a shockingly good 55 out of 100 in Math!
End result? Didn’t qualify for any A-list DU College and took up Political Science Honours in DCAC (Delhi College of Arts and Commerce) after the 5th cut-off list. I remember sitting in the corner of the dilapidated DCAC building on the very first day of college with a couple of friends who had royally fucked up in their board exams too, wondering what we could have done to change our present fate. As much I respect DCAC’s pedigree, even its most optimistic students would testify to the fact that it was alienated from the much integrated debating and sports culture of Delhi University; something that I aspired to be a part of.
It was a struggle to spend a year in an unstimulating environment. I escaped the un-inspiring atmosphere of DCAC by joining a number of off-campus societies. But there was a twist in the ‘Humanities’ tale. The first year results came in and I’d scored a first division in Political Science Honours, a Humanities major! This meant that the string of uninspiring days were going to change.
I kick-started the process of college migration and after much dealing with babus, teachers and the principal, I was able to successfully migrate to Sri Venkateswara College. There, I went on to play football for the college and even the university, and had a formidable ‘college life’.
Makes me wonder that maybe, just maybe, all this could have simply been avoided if I had taken up Humanities in senior secondary school. Who knows, maybe even life today could have been much different. Here’s a big thank you to hindsight for being the perfect source of regret.