"Look at that Agendra and look at yourself!"- Kishore's father snapped at him. "We all thought that boy was a loafer and now look, he is in Australia. " - Seething his father continued. "Look how proud his mother is. And you! You have disappointed me once again! " - His father spoke sternly . "Come on dear. He has scored 85 %. That's not bad. He came second." - Kishore's mother pleaded.
His father snapped back - "Not enough. My son should top the class and score at least 90 %. Without good grades he can't get into good college and without that he can't become doctor. And besides during entrance he will have to compete with thousands of other applicants and no one would give a damn whether he stood second in ninth grade or not."
"From now on no more hanging out with friends or football practice. I want you to remain in your room and study hard" - His father warned further
Kishore's father, Mr. Keshab Sharma was always hard on him. Ever since his early school days his father always held a high expectations over his son's academic performance. It was natural for any father to wish his son to excel in his studies but Mr. Sharma's overbearing attitude was borderline pathological. This could be attributed to the fact that despite being good at his studies Mr. Sharma was never able to become doctor himself. The one dream which he always harbored. As a result he carried a chip in his shoulder. Time and again he used to deliberate Kishore his own story of how he failed to live up to his own dream. He had repeated the story so many times that Kishore could recite each word line by line.
"Listen boy, when I was kid I didn't have luxuries like you guys have. I used to plough field and had to walk two miles to my school in naked feet. I never had money to buy books or anything to write on. In spite of that, I was one of the best students. I always stood first in my class. But Colombo plan alluded me because your grandfather died during time of my entrance exam. The entire responsibility of family fell on my shoulders and I had to forego my dream of becoming doctor. I don't want you to go through the same. I will provide you with everything so that your dream won't be dashed like mine."
Kishore hated that. He had never wanted to become doctor instead, ever since he first watched Jurassic Park during his second grade, his dream was to become an archaeologist some day. Even while playing with his young brother in the empty yard that adjacent his house he used to dig up dirt and pretended it to be relic of some extinct Silurian fossil from Paleozoic era. He used to spend his free time perusing the chapters from ancient Egyptian civilization and stories of Greek mythology. He used to fantasize that he was indeed the one who opened the Tutankhamen's mummy or the one who discovered the Rosetta stone. But his father would have none of it. All he wanted was fulfilling his own dream vicariously through his son. Sensing that his son is drawn more towards the field that he considered as playing with dirt Mr. Sharma grew worried. He constantly monitored what he read and barred him from reading any fiction.
"I don't want you wasting your time reading those nonsense." - His father repeatedly told him.
"You should read human biology instead. How neurons functions and how heart beats. Those are the topics that should interest you."
This overwhelming pressure put on by his father and the feeling that his own dream fading away Kishore started to fall into bout of depression. He suffered from insomnia, lost his appetite and could hardly concentrate in his studies. His confidence was shaky and spirit dampened Despite this he neither shared anything with his parents nor to his friends. He kept all the anxieties bottled up inside only waiting to be exploded.
Fall came and along with it came new exam's routine. Kisore become scared. He knew deep down that he will certainly flunk the exam this time. The thoughts of his father holding his report cards scribbled with red ink was too much to bear. He was especially afraid of optional math. The portion of Height and Distance was too arcane and formulas of compound angles too confusing. He did practice the problems but something was still off. And the fear finally started to overpower him. He needed to do something to pass the exam at any cost. And he knew exactly whom to contact.
"So you want me to give you the exam questions." - Mukund stared into the Kishore's eyes intently.
"Yes. And in return I will give you 5000 Rs " - Kisore stammered
"Hmm. No good. Too much risk. " - Mukund tried to blew him off
"Just name your price man."
" 10000 Rs" - Mukund asserted.
"That's too much. I don't have that kind of money!" - Kisore remonstrated.
"Sorry kid. I can't help you."
" Ok! Ok! Lets settle for 8000 Rs. That's the money I had saved for buying Xbox and that's my final offer" - Kisore bargained .
Mukund gave a little thought and finally -"Fine it's a done deal. But I want you to pay me upfront and I will send you question in Snapchat. By the way why a good student like you need to steal papers?" - he quizzed
"That's none of your business. Just make sure you remain careful" - Kisore spoke sternly
Mukund was a computer operator at the school. He was a high school dropout and a notorious junkie. He was always on a look out for his daily dope and was invariably short in cash. He would have never gotten job if it hadn't been for his uncle who was the vice principal at the school. All the boys knew he leaked papers for money . And after the deal Kisore felt that he just had made a bargain with devil himself.
The day before the exam Kisore was extremely nervous. It was already nine in the evening and he hadn't still received the message. "Damn that crack head ! Must be sniffing snow somewhere" he thought. After waiting for half an hour more his patience wore off. Putting on the jacket Kisore stole out of his house surreptitiously and went straight to the room that Mukund rented. It was about fifteen minutes walk from his house. Upon reaching the place, Kisore found no one inside the room. Instead he saw everything turned upside down and stuffs strewn all over the floor as if someone had rummaged through them. A shot of chill went through his head and as he turned around to walk away, someone grabbed him by his wrist. It was a police habaldar. He yelled at top of his voice - "Sub-Inspector sahib. Here is that Mukunde's accomplice. Must be here to deliver the snuff!".
"No, I am not his accomplice. I am innocent"- Kisore stammered.
"Oh yeah! Then what the hell are you supposedly doing here at this time? Whatever you have to say , say it at police station!"- habaldar screamed.
Without any further inquiry Kishore was then boarded into van and taken to downtown for questioning.
Kisore cried all the way. He couldn't believe what he have gotten himself into. He was hungry , tired and felt hopeless. After reaching the police station with all the crying he could hardly speak. Upon seeing him hyperventilating Inspector in charge felt pity and ordered the hawaldaar- "Sherbahaur go and take this kid to prisoners mesh. Give him something to eat. Then only we shall interrogate him."
Sherbahadur took him into the large hall inside the prison. The ceiling was made of galvanized roof that overhung above the metal rafters. "Sit here kid while I bring you a soup"- Sherbahadur spoke and left. The place was crowded with all kinds of prisoners. Kisore sat sunken in a wooden bench at the corner. He felt as if everyone was eyeing him. He couldn't even fathom how his father would react once he heard the news.
Suddenly someone patted him in his back, yelling- "What's up kid? You too a fellow inmate". As he turned around there stood Agendra with beaming smile. Looking flabbergasted Kisore exclaimed -"Agendra dai. What are you doing here? But I thought you were ..."
"In Australia."- Agendra interjected smiling. "Well that's something my mother likes to tell everyone, doesn't she? Old hag must be real proud of telling lies."
"So you were in prison all this time?" - kishore asked incredlously.
"Yep. And don't worry soon for the outsiders you too will be in Newyork. And let me be the first one to welcome you to the big apple." - he winked sarcastically.