During my childhood summer vacation was a whole long tedious period of two full months. More than a month would go burning in the anxiety about the annual exam results. The system was not at all student-friendly in those days. During the ten months at school the students would be made to memorise a whole lot of things and caned mercilessly if their memory failed. The evaluation process of exams was as severe as the caning. The teachers were more eager to find out the mistakes in the answer sheets unlike their counterparts today (which includes me too) who go out of their way to reward whatever happens to be right in answer sheets. Passing exams was quite tough in those days. It appeared that the only purpose of exams in those days was to make as many students as possible fail.
The only thing that made me forget the anxiety about the ‘result’ was the fairly long visit to all the maternal uncles some distance away. I loved the bus journey in those days. I was sorry that the journey was short: ten kilometres by one bus and another ten by another. The first ten was an adventure. The road was very narrow and never suffered any maintenance of any sort. The bus would crawl on and take about an hour to reach the destination. Since journey by bus was only an annual affair, that ride was a dream come true.
Climbing up and down the mountain on which my uncles lived was another adventure. It was a trek in fact. The path wound up and down the mountain among rubber trees or tapioca plants or massive granite rocks. Then there were the mango trees all full of fruits. We plucked them and ate to our hearts’ content. We played hide and seek on the mountain. A lot of uncles means a lot of cousins. Cousins are usually fun. Uncles become tolerant parents when nephews and nieces are visiting. So our visit was an added boon for the cousins. Finally when we had to take leave of each other we would struggle to hold back our tears. The anxiety about the impending doom called ‘result’ helped to make the good bye less painful.
I never failed in any class. Running the risk of sounding boastful, I was one of the toppers in the class. Yet the fear of ‘result’ haunted me like a vindictive ghost every year. Such was the system. You could never predict your destiny which depended on the caprices of many elders.
As a man rushing toward the honourable age of ‘senior citizen’ I feel very humbled to say that I have never remembered my childhood as a happy period. A lot of boring lessons at school and then even more boring Sunday school classes, all taught by people who looked sterner than the saints whose pictures or statues adorned the church walls and alcoves. Worse, I was ill-fated to live with a lot of such people for the most part of my life. No wonder I lost my faith in religion and religious people and the summer vacation was no joyful affair with all these saintly people around.