THE TEST CASE

Translated by: Bibekananda Choudhury

The summary of the news is: “Mr. Indranil Sandikoi, one of the world’s richest person and considered the pride of Assam, will launch an Academy to be run under his direct guidance. Coaching will be imparted to students for IIT Entrance and AIEEE Entrance Examination. Only thirty students will be picked up from amongst the ones securing at least eighty five percent marks in the Class X final Examination. The entire course will be provided free of cost. Starting from Entry Form to Selection Test and then all expenses covering Tuition Fees, Boarding, Food, Books etc. for the selected ones will be borne by the Academy i.e. by Mr. Indranil himself. Rather these thirty students will be provided with scholarship. Services of experienced and reputed faculties from all over the world will be hired who will devote themselves wholeheartedly to prepare the selected thirty students to the maximum possible extent. Parallel to that, a select group of senior teachers from the State will prepare them for the qualifying examination. The selection process for entering into the academy will be in two phases. Preliminary and mains. Questions for the Preliminary examinations will be in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics of Class X standard. Top hundred examinees from those appeared in the prelims will make it to the main test. The mains will also be written. Total marks for the main exams where only brief answers will be sought for will be hundred and there will be hundred questions to be answered altogether. But no details about the mains will be divulged beforehand. Finally, thirty students will be picked from the results of the main examination.

A sense of emptiness always plagues Indranil in spite of being counted amongst the richest people in the world. He could not become a technocrat though he was gifted with brilliance and multi-faceted personality. He failed to make it into the merit list despite two consecutive attempts in the Entrance Examination for Indian Institute of Technology. That was some twenty-two years ago. Even now in spite of his busy schedule, Indranil often gets engulfed by a feeling of non-achievement making him melancholic during his work. He feels life is incomplete amidst plenty.

Indranil remembers everything vividly. He is the grandson of great scholar Tanushyam Sandikoi. His father Basanta Sandikoi was also an avid reader. An ambience of learning had always been there in the family. Indranil was a step ahead as regards garnering knowledge. He has immense command over all the subjects apart from the course materials. Everything that had been happening around the globe was at the tip of his tongue.

After passing the school final examination with flying colours Indranil moved to Kota in Rajasthan to study under the experienced teachers and started preparing for the IIT entrance which was his dream objective.

Indranil’s multifaceted capability was unfolded there also. Starting from getting the gold medal in a prestigious quiz contest hosted by a television channel, he was adjudged best competitor on many occasions in All India Youth Festival Quiz Competition, Group Discussions, Speech Competitions, Art Competitions etc. In spite of being bestowed with so many qualities the fact that he could not qualify to get a seat in the IIT disheartened him totally. He started suffering internally from the pang of non-achievement making his life seemingly rudderless for him.

Indranil’s life changed dramatically by this incident. His desire to get enrolled in any other Engineering College of Assam or even in the country met a rapid burnout. Rather he became a student in the faculty of Arts in degree course. He closed his chapter of academic pursuit after completing graduation and ventured into the arena of business. Once he started, there was no looking back for him in this field. Knowledge, intelligence, honesty, diligence, hard work and practice made him rise to this level and ultimately amongst the top few richest persons in the world. But his wish of becoming a technocrat remained a distant dream as he could not achieve his main objective of his life.

There is however, one aspect in which Indranil has reasons to feel satisfied. As on date, several thousand extremely meritorious technocrats are working in his organisation. They are providing their expertise against fat pay packages. Still, he harbours a feeling of jealousness towards those technocrats under his pay cheque. How advanced are they in respect of merit than himself!

Every year he routinely scrolls through the list of successful candidates clearing the IIT test. And he feels dejected immediately after. But this time his sense of sadness is for another reason. He observes that only a handful of Assamese students could make it. His feeling of dejection becomes more acute as he observes that even in the AIEEE entrance test no Assamese student could make it amongst the top few. It is altogether another matter that he could not make it himself. But what happened to all these people in the upcoming generation? It is definitely nice to make it for IIT; he will still feel happy if someone from his State could qualify to study in those few top ranked colleges by securing proper position in AIEEE entrance test. A thought flashed across his mind and then it materialised into a concrete plan soon after. The objective was to promote the extraordinarily brilliant ones from the new generation who will fulfil his aspirations of a job left undone. He decided to launch an academy under his command and to coach selected few students for IIT and AIEEE entrance test.

Action was initiated immediately. A notice was published in the media targeting the brilliant students. The news drew wide attention.

The people welcomed the announcement made by Indranil without prejudice. He is a person generally respected and liked by all and naturally has wide acceptance among the masses. There is always something or other from him in the field of education. Now with this announcement for the brilliant students the respect and affection towards him increased manifold.

But soon there had been resentments too. It is unfair that only those securing more than eighty-five percent will be allowed to appear in the exam. It should be extended to at least those securing seventy-five percent. They do also possess a burning desire to become a technocrat. It will be gross injustice if they are deprived. showing due respect to the desires and requests of the students, guardians, educationists, intellectuals, critics, parties and organizations Indranil finally brought down the cut off mark for sitting in the selection test to seventy-five percent.

Students from all over the State started working zealously to get selected in the academy. Their guardians also became equally involved. “They will be coached by reputed faculties from the country and abroad as well. And it is absolutely free. How can one afford to forego such golden opportunity?”

The top hundred was selected without any hitch from amongst the meritorious students involving all the educational institutions of the State. They started preparing single mindedly for the main exam to be held after fifteen days. A war like situation prevailed in every household of the selected hundred. Who will be those thirty lucky ones! The concerned guardians sat with fingers crossed. Their wards got drowned amongst a sea of course books, reference books, guide books, notes, model question papers, and to top it all most of them got full attention of personal tutors.

The main exam was held as scheduled. But it was a disaster waiting to happen this time. The students were flabbergasted as they read through the question paper. What is this? All the questions appeared to be from a high level quiz competition, some even surpassed the toughest questions from the BBC quiz contest. There was nothing from physics, chemistry or mathematics. What is capital of Bolivia, full name of Rajiv Gandhi, name of the Satradhikar of Auniati Satra, who is Maria Montessori, name of the forest in Assam where wild horses are found, name of the river flowing through Majuli are some examples of questions asked. “Perhaps Indranil Sir committed a mistake”, the confused students voiced their doubt. But he is unperturbed. The questions were personally set by him. He further informed that this time he is going to check the answer script himself.

The examinees staggered out of the hall sweating profusely unable to attempt even ten percent of the questions. Most of them broke down, crying out loudly. Guardians also became vociferous, “Is the entire exercise designed as a mockery ridiculing us for the hard work of the last thirteen years? We did not allow them to spoil a minute even in unproductive works. We only know how much sacrifice we had to make. How can he fathom to what extent we had to turn self-centred and selfish. We cannot bear if our wards are insulted in such manners.”

“Just because Indranil is a quiz maniac he also wants to turn our wards into a quiz master each. What is the use of learning those?”
“He flopped in his studies and now he is jealous of our ward’s merit.”
“Raving mad.”
“He definitely has some hidden agenda.”
“Just jealous”
“Mahammad Bin Tughlaq”.

“Indranil should actually start a training centre for Kaun Banega Crorepati, BBC Quiz, Staff Selection Commission, Union Public Service Commission, Assam Public Service Commission etc. rather than spoiling our children’s future in his Academy in the name of preparing them for IIT & AIEEE.

“What is the use in learning the educational qualification of Condolizza Rice, Bill Gates or Osama Bin Laden?”

“Look, he has asked about Watergate scandal. Actually we did all forget about this Watergate scandal of President Nixon. And Mr. Barthakur, did you notice, he has asked here why this scandal had been named Watergate?

“Madcap you know, Indranil is a lunatic beyond doubt. And again, he has asked what sport was Dilip Sardesai associated with. It would have been somewhat normal had he asked about Dilip Vengsarkar – they could write cricket as the answer.”

“I fully agree with Barthakur. Look Sonowal, here he has asked about the second city built by the English after London. Here he has provided four options even. And see, one of them is Kolkata. My son has earned a slap from his mother because he has ticked at the option Kolkata. What is the point in choosing Kolkata, in a backward country like India by the English to build as a city next to London?

“If our children are to get deeply involved in delving these, they will be thrown far off the main track. They will not find time to go into depths of finding the finer information hidden beneath E=mc2. “

As a whole, the people of Assam turned vociferous against Indranil Sandikoi. Everyone unequivocally condemned him. Waves of protests blew across the State. Even posters appeared against Indranil. He got featured in Cartoons in popular newspapers.

“Hi Dristanta. How did you do?”
“So so.”
“How much could you attempt?”
“All of them. Let me see.”
“So you expect a cent percent score.”
“The answers are correct to the best of the knowledge.”

“But I shall score a big zero. Look, he has asked about the day of death anniversary of Khargeswar Talukdar. I have never even heard of him. And I have been asked to write his day of death anniversary. How can I remember the day of birth anniversary of Lal Bahadur Shastri? It would have been a different matter had I been asked the same question about Mahatma Gandhi. Could have written October 2 without any hesitation.”

“There seems to a couple of easy looking questions but I could not remember the proper answer. These are Dristanta’s domain. For example, questions like name of the present Vice president of India, Home Minister of Assam, surname of Swahid Kanaklata appeared somewhat familiar.”

“What is the use in learning the cause of death of an artist named Vincent Van Gogh? Sheer waste of time!”

“I attempted at least one question correctly. The question that asked to write the name of the country lying nearest to the southernmost point of India. I wrote Sri Lanka. Am I right, Dristanta? Because, you see, it is Kanyakumari that lies at the southernmost point of India and Sri Lanka is definitely nearest to it. It is so obvious in the Map of India in the atlas.”

“The correct answer is Indonesia.”
“Indonesia? How come?”
“Indira point is the southernmost place of India. It is in Nicobar islands. Nearest to it lies Sumatra, an island of Indonesia.”
“I wrote down Ravi Shastri as answer to a certain question just out of guess. It seems the proper answer to me. Am I right, Dristanta?”
“Which question?”
“The one regarding the left handed leg spinner and right handed batsman that got enrolled in Lala Lajpat Rai College in Mumbai under cricket quota but did not play even a single match for the college and later became world famous for his misdeeds.”
“It was Harshad Mehta.”
“Who is that? The name appears somewhat familiar.”
“The biggest conman the world ever had.”
“What do you say?”
“It is the fact.”
“Of course there was at least an easy one. It was the one asking to name the month in which the earth remains closest to the Sun. I wrote July straightaway, as it is the hottest month.”
“The correct answer is January.”
“January! But how! It is the coldest month.”
“I got it in details in my class VI textbook. 
“Then say that the year 1900 is not a leap year. It is clearly divisible by four. So I wrote yes against the question if 1900 is a leap year.”
“The century years are leap years only when they are divisible by 400. 1900 is a century year and is not divisible by 400. So it is not a leap year.”
 “So you have discovered a new formula?”
“There is nothing new in it. Actually we remain short of about 15 minutes when we consider a leap year every four years. This accumulates to a little more than a day in a span of four hundred years. To adjust this, only the century year every four hundred years apart is considered a leap year.”
“Oh, Dristanta, you are a true genius. You are such an all rounder.”

The candidate named Dristanta Barua answered all the questions correctly. The boy is smart but docile. He is very keen in keeping track of everything happening around him and also around the world along with sincerely pursuing his studies. He is well versed in serious topics like Electronic culture versus adolescent psychology, economic crisis, student’s role in strengthening national integrity, role of Security Council in controlling Chemical Weapons etc. This young chap can keep the audience spellbound with his perfectly worded speech. It is not known how happy Dristanta Barua will be to be able to grab a seat in Indranil’s Academy but it is the dream of his poor parents to see him as a successful technocrat.

The story thereafter is short. Indranil has assessed over and over, may be a thousand times till now, about the flaws that stood on his way in cracking the IIT entrance. No one else needs to point out to him the reason now. He used to participate in various quiz contests, youth festivals etc. bunking classes in Kota with false excuses even in far off places like Delhi, Mumbai etc. Lots of quality time got really wasted in that. So the road towards achieving the goal became harder and harder for him. So, Indranil had decided beforehand that he will only select those thirty students with lowest scores in the quiz paper set personally by him with the most unfamiliar questions amongst the hundred picked up for the final fray.

But Indranil was in dilemma. He thought, the highest score in the quiz paper would not exceed fifty. But a student named Dristanta has answered all these uncommon questions correctly. The point to note is that the same student topped the list in the preliminary examination.

Actually Indranil saw Dristanta Barua as a manifestation of himself. His mind starts racing at the mention of the word quiz. What is the guarantee that Dristanta would not meet the same fate as him! His inhibitions involving Dristanta stems from within.

Still!

What transpired in Indranil’s mind will be known only to him, but he kept the thirtieth seat vacant after selecting twenty-nine students from amongst the lowest scorers in the quiz competition. He left the question of selecting the truly brilliant student by the name of Dristanta Barua to be decided by the people of Assam.


The news flashed in the media caused a ripple among the students securing at least eighty five percent marks in the class X final examination.


About the author: Ajit Bikash Gohain Barua,Deputy Manager-Head, Quality Control Wing, Assam Petrochemicals Limited, Parbatpur, Namrup, Assam, India, is an M. Sc. in Chemistry. A good badminton player and an avid Quiz Master, he has more than a hundred short stories and a Novel to his credit. The novel Dour (Run) was published in Basundhara, the Sunday supplement of Dainik Janambhumi and later brought out in book form. His stories have been published in most of the major literary magazines and supplements of daily newspapers including Gariokhi, Prantik, etc. [Read More]


About the translator: Bibekananda Choudhury, an electrical engineer by profession, has completed his MS from BITS-Pilani in Systems and Information. He has also earned a diploma in French language from Gauhati University. He has got published works (both original and translated) in Assamese, Bengali & English in popular periodicals and newspapers. His translated poems has been published in 'Indian Literature', ‘Poets International’, Poetry International’, Rupsi Bangla, etc.  'Suryakatha', theBengali adaptation done by him of the Assamese novelette in verse in the same title by Prayag Saikia was well accepted. His English translated publications include – one short story collection and four poetry collections and one Information Book on Kaziranga, apart from few others in manuscript form. He hails from Bongaigaon and presently stays at Guwahati. [Read More]


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