After completing three years of studies at Meteor Institution, John was to appear in the Higher Secondary Science exams. Meteor Institution was one of the best schools of the state and John was at the top of the list at Meteor Institution — Section-C. Everyone in the school and neighbourhood expected that John would come out with all top honours.
In the afternoon before the first day of exam, John was recapitulating the work he has done so far for the ensuing exam. He heard someone calling his name just near the window of their flat; he looked from the window and found Pavel there. Pavel was one of his close friends; he was also among the top five students in Meteor Institution — Section-C.
‘What’s up?’ John said.
‘Census, John.’ said Pavel, ‘After a couple of months, we would have a census of this country.’
‘Yes, I know’ said John.
‘It is very likely, that in tomorrow’s exam we would have to write an essay on the Census. Frank told me you have already written on this.’
‘Yes, I’ve. May I discuss some of the points with you?’
‘John, I don’t have time to write a full essay on this. Please let me have your exercise book, where you have hand-written this; I would read and return the exercise book to you.’
‘Pavel, I can’t lend you my exercise book now, this contains many other notes, which I need to recapitulate this evening.’
‘Please John, It won’t take long. Please let me go through your essay.’
‘Pavel, you must understand that we, both are among the top students in this exam. Each of us should write original essays, I don’t like to leave a chance to the examiner to think that we have memorised the essay written by someone else. This one is my original work, I would like to get credit for that, you may write for the other alternative topics set in the exam; if not, I would give you some of the main points, but the essay should be composed by you using your original styles.’
‘John, please, please…’
‘No, Pavel, No’
‘John, please, please…’
‘Pavel, please don’t waste my time as well as yours. Please leave now. If you are so desperate, why don’t you go to Arien?’
John shut the window, so that Pavel got no chance to speak any more.
After half an hour, there were more knocks on the window.
Who is this time? — As John opened the window he found Frank waiting.
‘What could I do for you, Frank?’ John asked.
‘Sun has not set yet, why don’t you come out and we would go for a walk?’ Frank said.
John was a bit hesitant; a few minutes ago he shut the window on Pavel. Everyday John used to travel to school together with Frank and Pavel; he didn’t know what Frank might ask for this time. Usually Frank gets more help from John, because Frank and John had studied together in the co-ed school before and Frank is not as bright as Pavel and John.
Martina just appeared in the room, and when she found Frank asking John for going out, she said, ‘Why don’t you go out in the open air for a while. You are reading throughout the day; go with Frank and relax for a while.’
Off went John with Frank. They did a brisk walking for ten minutes and reached the maidan, when the sun went down, darkness prevailed and before the street lights were on, a violent storm started. Frank and John had no other options but to run for some shelter at the far end of the maidan; while running John fell down, glasses went off his eyes and got shattered. John picked up the broken frame of the spectacles and they rested for a while below a veranda of a house nearby, when it started raining — raining cats and dogs. After another half hour the rain subsided. Frank and John came home back.
Martina scolded John for taking the risk of running in the storm, but checked the scars near his eyes and applied antiseptic cream, asked him to wash his head and body as required. But there were no possibilities of getting a new pair of specs before the exams starting on the next day. John had to go through the exams without any glasses on.
* * *
When the results of Higher Secondary exams were published, everyone at Meteor Institution was shocked to find John was not in the list of top ten candidates. There were four students of Meteor Institution in the list of top twenty candidates: Arien, who usually was second to John, stood Eighth in the merit list, Nardek stood Fifth, Subba 17th and John 20th.
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