I got 72 per cent. The release of Class 12 board examination results is an Indian ritual. Every summer, CBSE, ISC and a plethora of state boards successfully paralyse households nationwide in anticipation of these hallowed numbers. Teacher, student and parent become one in the waiting. Neighbours, family friends and relatives follow closely in tow, ready to spring into inquiry at the slightest hint of new information regarding the results. As an event, the release of these results is paradoxical: For all the sensationalism, it is perhaps one of the most plebeian events to take place on the annual calendar — after all, each of us must experience it.
The common narrative holds that you get a good score, which gets you a good college, which, in turn, brings distinguished professors, intelligent peers and a world of opportunity — essential stepping stones towards the fulfillment of, it would seem, any conceivable dream. Conventional ladders of success — corporate jobs, research, engineering, finance, law, civil services — are imagined to be unscalable without a glowing Class 12 score to propel one upwards.
Several popular examples are circulated annually to bolster the credence of this tale. Want to be an actor? Enroll for a degree in Economics from Delhi University, that’s what Shah Rukh Khan — the King of Bollywood himself — did. Want to go into comedy? Biswa Kalyan Rath, national “mast aadmi”, was an IITian before he was a comedian. Want to write books? Even Upamanyu Chatterjee slogged through the system all the way down to clearing the UPSC before letting his trenchant tongue loose in literature.
This is just the story every student likes to believe shall be his or hers, when the time comes. A belief bolstered by the farcical ease with which thousands score over 95 per cent in these exams, every single year. With college cut-offs dancing dangerously close to 100 per cent, one would think perfection is merely the norm for high school academics in India.
But then again, perfection, in any context, is such a coveted ideal because it is so elevated above what’s normal. Translating this in terms of board results, it means that there are lakhs — 10,88,800 students, to be exact — who performed below this quasi-norm. Does the story end here for all those who failed to live up to society’s expectations? Or is there, perhaps, more to the spirit of human endeavour than validation in the system’s eyes as one comes of age?
If you think you fared poorly, know that it is you who legitimises any evaluation the system has to dole out to you. Buying into it is completely your choice. Irrespective of whether you think you deserve your score, remember the hundreds of videos, articles, online statuses and conversations which have told you that you are not defined by the two digits the board has to present you with for your efforts (or lack thereof) — because they’re all correct. School is over and your life has finally begun.
Biographies of eminent individuals rarely delve deep into the high school years of any of them, because kids are invariably idiots and that’s normal. Sure, Ram Jethmalani passed the bar at 17. In the Cold War decades, a young boy called Vlad was fantasising about being a spy, like in the movies. He was ranked the most powerful individual in the world by Forbes for the 4th consecutive year in 2016. A few decades prior, across the Atlantic, Charles Bukowski was romanticising alcohol as a teenager. He went on to become a literary icon of his time.
If you want an example from the motherland, no board could prevent Narendra Damodardas Modi from going on to rule the world’s most ascendant nation even though he had been accused of presiding over
communal violence on his watch as chief minister of Gujarat. For crying out loud, the US State Department denied him entry in 2005. Under a decade later, the internet was rife with memes about the bromance he shared with the US President. He managed to pull that off; it’s impossible not to admire the professional hurdles he has overcome.
This is the world we live in, where they tell you, this country is your oyster: Believe that you can live your dreams and that if you work hard enough, one day you will.