Rishabh was like any other boy of his age. Dedicated in studies, friendly to the people around him and obedient to his parents. Life struck the usual hours in Rishabh’s day. What differentiated Rishabh from his classmates was his activities of interest and a zeal to win in everything. While most of his friends were either singers or reciters or creative writers, Rishabh wanted to be all. Although it was seen as a positive sign by everyone, his parents saw his overgrowing passion as a setback to his academics. They weren’t wrong either.
It wasn’t long that the urge to do everything declined his marks by a considerable percentage. Within a year, the record-setting academic champ of the school was nowhere in the list of toppers. He was a lost name, even among his friends. However, instead of feeling demoralized for his exhausting fame in the Lord’s square compound, Rishabh was determined to utlilize the last chance he had to prove that he wasn’t lost – by showcasing his extracurricular skills.
The Inter-House competitions began in school and Rishabh enrolled himself in all three major competitions – singing, elocution and creative writing. The first day of the competitions came and Rishabh had to perform the song he was well-known for in class. His performance started but suddenly he stopped midway. The lines that he had been practising for so long were complete strangers to him. He wasn’t able to remember even a single word that was meant to succeed the current line he was singing. He was disqualified. Rishabh was demoralized.
The Creative writing competition was organized on Day 2 of the event. Rishabh somehow managed to cope up with his failure on the day before and was ready to flaunt his writing skills. The topic was dictated to all the participants. Rishabh wrote his heart out and inked the last full-stop within the stipulated time. The results came out. Rishabh was no where in the list of the three toppers. “Lobby!“, he said to himself.
The final day saw the Elocution competition. Rishabh prepared the best he could for the title. His House Captains asked him to recite one of his favorite Bengali poems by Tagore. Rishabh staged and recited the poem in front of his mother several times the evening before and she corrected his mistakes. Rishabh, however, had a speech problem since childhood and sometimes his pronounciations didn’t sound clear to the audience. The same problem troubled him while reciting the poem and Rishabh didn’t win this competition too. He was a shame to the Red House! Academics lost and defeated in all competitions, he was a gone case to everyone. That day in school, he cried till his stomach ached out. Rishabh Ganguly was a lost soul, a deteriorated student, a loser. His critics at school started calling him Jack. Jack from the proverb, Jack of all trades, master of none. Class 8 was the most dreadful nightmare of Rishabh’s life.
A year passed. And another.
Rishabh kept himself preoccupied. His parents were unsure what their son was upto as he didn’t reciprocate well with them. The only people he spoke to were his mentors, his English and History teachers. To them, Rishabh was one of the most obedient and beloved students, a special soul. D’Souza Ma’am, who taught English in school and also taught him in private, instructed him to take part in the All India Essay Writing Competition organized by UNICEF. Rishabh was reluctant as past experiences haunted him. She, however, provided him with all the moral support he required to take part in the competition and like always, she was successful. He started writing the essay under the title, ‘You change and the world changes for you‘. 1000 words was the minimum requirement. He wrote thousand and eleven. He handed over the final draft to D’Souza Ma’am who submitted it through the school. It was a month before his final exams, when Indrani Ma’am, the history teacher and the Red House Mistress, stopped him midway as he was going to the Teacher’s office. She handed over his Letter of Appreciation from UNICEF which stated that he was invited for receiving the honorary certificate for being a regional finalist and attend the complementary lunch, that followed, along with his family. Indrani Ma’am seemed more happy for his success than Rishabh himself and blessed him with all her heart. Before he could say anything, she asked him for a favor, a favor for his own House. The Inter-House Elocutions were to be organized early next day and the boy representing Red House backed off at the last minute citing health issues. They were left without a representative in the English recitation category. Indrani Ma’am thus wanted Rishabh to take his place and like D’Souza Ma’am, she too disliked “No” as an answer. Rishabh was left with no choice but participate. He was given over the poem he had to recite by one of his best pals, Adrish, on behalf of Indrani Ma’am. Adrish was also participating in the competition as a Red House candidate but was in the Group recitation category.
The day of the Competition arrived. Rishabh’s hands froze to death, because of immense tension and the fear of humiliation, as he sat in the participants row beside Adrish. The competition started and Blue House being the defending champions of the title was the first to send up their representative. As all the other three house candidates recited their poems, Rishabh’s tension grew into a heart attack. He was able to hear his heart beat with a thumping sound and could feel his head going dizzy. The host of the event called out his name and he stood up with the mic in his hand. He had to dictate 72 lines, having 7 words in average, within 5 minutes. Unlike the other participants, he forgot to take his copy of the poem to back him up in case he forgot a line. 4minutes, 38 seconds later it was all over. Rishabh quitely sat on his seat and Adrish patted him for his performance. Rishabh’s hands were still cold.
It was time to award the winners. But before the judges could say anything, Indrani Ma’am took over the microphone and told the audience that no matter whatever the result was, she was proud of Rishabh for standing beside his house through their period of crisis and delivering a 72 line long poem by practicing within less than a day. She was proud of him for whatever he was and whatever he did. The judges took over the mic and announced the winners of the Group recitation category first. Red House was able to defend their titles. Claps echoed in the hall. Rishabh was contended for being able to be a part of the winning team. He hugged Adrish and congratulated him. The Vernaculars category was awarded next and Blue House were the champions snatching the title from the defending Green House. The final announcement was about the English category winners. Green house was awarded the third position. Congratulations flew in the atmosphere. The judges maintained a pause before announcing the first and second postion holders.
“Runner up of the Inter-House Elocution competition is Rishabh Ganguly from Red House. Congratulations for your spectacular performance and brilliantly showcasing such a tough poem with such less preparation”
“With one point ahead, the winner of the competition is………..”
The sound of the microphone and loud boxes muted. Adrish’s applause didn’t even reach Rishabh. Satisfaction took over his ears and happiness blinded his eyes. He had only one thought in mind that rested the demon taunting him for the past two years, “he wasn’t a lost soul after all”..
Featured photo via incimages.com