The Clouded Sunrise
The Clouded Sunrise
(A National Education Policy 2020 has been announced recently. The last policy was framed in 1986, which put pressure on children with heavy curriculum.
Based on that theme, the Story in Oriya language was broadcast in All India Radio, Cuttack on 14th April 1988. )
From a Sunday lazy bed, Shefali asker her mother, ‘when is father coming back from tour?’. Today, said Shefali’s mom. Shefali was not too amused. She glanced sideways towards the TV Screen as if bidding a good bye. Today being Sunday, there were good entertaining programmes and serials. However, father returning home today, she may have to be glued down with textbooks and note books.
Shefali shifted her attention to the bookshelf. Each year the number of books and volumes thereof were increasing. Carrying a bag was getting much tougher each year despite her own growth in strength and stamina. Books grew faster than her. And the contents too got more complex and more challenging with each passing year. Many chapters could not, and were not completed at classroom and they had to do-it-yourself at home.
She had to get up and be by her study table before her father comes home. She got up. The winter chill ran through her spine. And the water was almost freezing. Grudgingly, she forced herself on to the study desk.
There was the sound of a vehicle coming to a halt. Her father steps into the house. Removes his jacket. Comes near Shefali and asks, what are you studying? She replies Oriya literature. Nishakar, her father, gives a frowning look and says, well this can be studied just before exam night just to clear the paper. What you should focus rather is on Science and Maths, the subjects that determine the future career. An obedient Shefali closes the book, and starts the math exercise.
Before she could focus, from neighborhood the sound of a popular serial comes in. Shefali feels like throwing away the book and switch on the TV set. She can not and will not be permitted as exam was drawing near.
Her father comes again to her to see her progress. ‘How many questions completed’ he demands. One only, replies Shefali. Her father gets upset. ‘In exam you have to clear 20 questions in two hours. And here in last half hour you have been able to do one only’ he expresses his disappointment. He calls out for Seema, Shefali’s mother and blames her for not supervising her studies properly. ‘There is no need for going to the most expensive public school, if this was the progress’ he bitterly said.
Nishakar, a senior high-ranking bureaucrat of the town, draws closer. Snatches the math exercise book. Looks at the problem. A highly qualified person like him takes 15 minutes to solve the question.
Next day, as usual, Nishakar drives Shefali to school. But unlike other days, he does not return back and starts walking with Shefali towards inside the school. ‘I have to talk to your teacher’ he clarifies. Nishakar is a well-known powerful bureaucrat of the town. The teacher gets a little surprise over his sudden, unexpected visit. He demanded to know how they have set the curriculum at such level, when basic levels were not covered in previous years. The transition of syllabus from one class to other was chaotic and migration was swift and unnatural. The teacher had no plausible explanation and said, the course was decided by a Board where they have no control. ‘Rubbish and routine evasive reply’ muttered Nishakar and returned.
Exam day drew nearer. Nishakar had big dreams around Shefali, all of which required her to score big. In case she can not score, his dreams of a good career for Shefali will come to an end.
Next day he returned from office really late. Close to midnight. Shefali was burning midnight oil to race against time to complete her preparations. Nishakar looked at Shefali. She was pale, her eyes seemed to have gone inches inside. She was visibly exhausted. He called out Seema to enquire whether Shefali had her dinner. ‘No, she is continuing her studies from afternoon non stop and will have dinner after completion of studies’ she said. He advised Seema to take care of Shefali and help in completion of chapters and retreated.
Next morning was the E- Day, Examination Day. Shefali got up. Felt she had running fever. And body pain. But she did not want to disappoint her father. Tried to get up as usual. Seema came to her room. A mother can feel the daughter with one look. She came closer. Touched Shefali’s forehead. She was running high temperature. She called out Nishakar. Apprehensive. That It might be construed as a resistance to face examination.
Nishakar came. Looked at the daughter. There was no anger. No remorse. He gave a hug to Shefali. Sat down on bed with her. ‘Do not worry ma, missing an exam is nothing. You matter more’ He helped her in laying down on bed. Asked Seema to give some basic medicines and call up family friend and doctor. Gently he rolled over the quilt over Shefali. Tears rolled by his cheek. He sat on her bed and made a call to his office for his not going office. A lot of guilt overpowered Nishakar. Gently he placed his hand over Shefali’s forehead and felt as if his hands were burning.