by Asifur Rahman Khan
Intelligence is so subjective, yet everywhere in the world, it is measured objectively. Entrance exams, quizzes, half yearly exams, final exams; every test measures the memorising ability of a student, and how much they can vomit at each battle ground to prove themselves. At least that’s how it goes in Bangladesh.
‘Dude, how did your exam go?’ I asked my friend Shuvo after a history exam.
It was 1996, and I had to memorise nearly ten pages of information in that little, dumb brain of mine. Understandably, I was not ecstatic of looking forward to the results, but my friend, Shuvo, was a genius when it comes to studies. He was the top student of our class. In fact, the other top student in our class used to beat up Shuvo regularly for beating his test scores. I remember one particular incident where I had to visit the washroom. There, I met a regular scene.
The tallest students of our class were surrounding Shuvo, while Nafis, the would-be-top-student-if-Shuvo-was-not-there, was punching Shuvo. The way he was punching showed his tenacity of planning, for every hit was in places that would not leave any tell-tale signs of the fight.
‘From next time, remember who you are, and don’t dare forget who I am,’ says Nafis.
As the snickers went around the group, they looked at me standing near the door. They dispersed quickly, because my mother was a teacher in that very school. I picked up Shuvo, and he smiles.
Puzzled, I thought his brain was jarred by the beating he just got. I smiled back, and asked him, ‘Why are you smiling?’
‘No reason. Just felt like smiling.’
I didn’t comment anymore on the subject. As I went to answer nature’s call, Shuvo set to fix himself. We got out of the washroom together, and we went to our respective classes.
‘It went well. I knew all the answers, so it wasn’t a problem.’
I had to try really hard to stop laughing at his face. ‘Of course you knew all the answers. Was there ever an exam where you didn’t know the answers?’
Shuvo started to laugh as well. After all, being the top student in and out of every week, recording high scores in every exam, so to ask him how his exam went is like asking Messi how his game went after he scores a hat trick.
I was intrigued by his dedication to scoring high marks all the time. And by high, I do not mean relatively high, I mean full marks, literally full marks. I was always curious, because my parents always used to tell me ‘why can’t you be like Shuvo? His parents must be really proud of him.’ As much as I hated myself for being compared with someone else, I liked Shuvo for his simple nature. Any other person, I would have hated the person more and more if my parents kept on comparing me with him.
I asked him, ‘Dude, how do you consistently score so high in your exams?’
He chuckles and says, ‘I guess I got the right inspiration.’
‘Which would be?’
He smiles and says, ‘You don’t want to know, trust me.’
‘Trust you to not know the secret behind your consistently high scores?’
I never got the answer. I used to wonder what a lucky person Shuvo is. With such an intuitive brain and memorising ability, life would be so easy. Studies would be a piece of cake, and I would get the respect of my parents. In a big way, I used to be envious of his talent as a student.
Our history exam was on Wednesday. The results of every Wednesday exams used to be given out on Monday, which is why I always used to write ‘Mournday’ to symbolise the coming grief in my life.
That particular Monday, Shuvo got out of the classroom with his history result. I met him up after school. His mother came to pick him up. As I looked at him, I could see his face struck fear. It was not in the way he was walking or talking, it was the way his eyes kept on darting here and there. Normally, he is very cool, but today, he had this restless feel to him.
I was going home, so I couldn’t enquire what his problem was.
Next day, he comes to school with scars on his back and red welts on his hands and legs. After the assembly, I went straight to him. As hard as he was trying to keep his tears away, he couldn’t stop crying once we were alone.
He was sobbing as he was telling the story of his welts and bruises. ‘I tried really hard, but I couldn’t get full marks. When my dad got back home, he took the news pretty quietly. After he had a snack, he told my mother to get out of the room. He asked me why I didn’t get full marks. I had no answer. He went over my script, and found that I lost one mark because I misspelled the name of a king.’
Perplexed at the ridiculous explanation I was getting for his bruises, I ask ‘So?’
‘So he gets up, and locks the door. He takes off his belt, and hits me hard on the back. He hits me again and again, and asks me why I lost that mark. Eventually, he lost his interest in the belt. He takes up the thinnest cane, and starts hitting me again and again. Finally, when I stopped whimpering, he lets go off me.’
Now, that explained the bruises and welts. What I couldn’t get is why his dad had this incredible expectation, I could never get.
Now, 15 years later, he is an established doctor much along the line that his father had dreamt. But he has severed all relationships with his family. It is sad but a true story.