By: Shikhar Garg (Rank 16 – CLAT 2013)
Exactly a year ago, I was at a point in my life where the future looked bleak and the chances of happiness bleaker. I refreshed the page that bore my AIEEE rank, unwilling to believe what the screen said. I wasn’t going to college this year. Not a good one, anyway. My parents stood over my shoulder, and I watched in horror and sadness as their smiles turned into frowns and grimaces, and shame burned in the pit of my stomach.
After three torturous years of working my butt off, I was about to go through what every engineering aspirant dreaded. The drop. The year that would test your determination, tenacity and most of all, your character. Where everybody would seem to be from a different species, a different race. While my classmates and friends were happily discussing the day they would start college, I decided to disappear. I was ashamed of what had happened. My pride was hurt, and I needed some time to lick my wounds. Scathing and taunting messages on Facebook from my peers didn’t help. Everybody was gleefully enjoying the fall of Shikhar Garg, the boy who seemed destined to go to IIT. Forget IIT, I had failed to secure decent marks in my boards as well, and some of the few friends I had quickly decided that I was no longer worthy of their company. It seemed that people enjoyed nothing more than the fall of someone from whom great things are expected.
And so I disappeared, still unable to fathom what had happened and why the boy expected to get a rank in the top thousand in IIT failed to make it anywhere. I checked and rechecked everything, unable to come up with a reasonable explanation for why I managed to mess up each and every examination I appeared for. My mom, teachers and relatives concluded that I hadn’t studied properly, and just to maintain my sanity, I accepted every word they said. A small voice in my head told me that maybe I wasn’t supposed to do engineering. So I started looking for alternatives, like economics and law.
I avoided meeting anybody from my school for the next ten months, barring the handful that still seemed to support me. My family members masked their disappointment and managed to lift my spirits throughout the year.
Exam time came again, and this time I was prepared for the joust. I dealt with the boards in a rather planned manner, parrying every thrust and attacking every time I had an opportunity. Round one to me.
Then came the engineering entrances. The first few seemed to go pretty well, and I was expecting good, if not amazing, results. Round two to me as well.
AILET, however, didn’t go well. I made some incredibly bad calls during the exam, which I realised the moment I stepped out of the exam centre. Round three to the exams.
The next week came with me taking a huge blow. JEE (Mains) [formerly AIEEE] results were out, and I had somehow managed to screw up again. With CLAT less than a week away, the result couldn’t have come at a worse time. Round four, and potentially, five, to the exams.
CLAT, however, went exceptionally well. I was incredibly happy with how the examination had gone, but I still was apprehensive. I didn’t trust my judgement and assessment anymore, and I wasn’t entirely confident about the result. Round five seemed to be tied.
The remaining engineering exams went badly as well. I would get into fairly decent colleges, but not the elite. Round six to the exams again.
Then came the board results. And finally, I had some good news. I was going to make it to DU. Things were definitely better, if only marginally, than last year. Round seven to me.
31st May: the day of reckoning. With the CLAT result postponed to late afternoon in the very least, I was edgy, agitated and angry. Time seemed to move so slowly, I could’ve sworn that the minute hand of the clock had stopped its never-ending journey around the dial (I later found out that the watch’s battery had run dry). But when the result did come finally, for the first time in over three hundred and sixty days, the shouts that echoed through my home were of joy, and not a frustrated mother screaming at her seemingly worthless son. The worst year of my life, and the best thing that ever happened to me were at an end. Round eight to Shikhar. Game, set, and match.