A long long time ago in a galaxy not so far away, there was a kid in kindergarten who was not yet introduced to the concept of the exam. Life was a playground, life was a dream. In that dream, he was a doctor one day, a plumber that evening, then an armyman at night, and an actor the next morning. School was synonymous with a few hours parting from his parents and being forced to stay in a classroom and being fed with ideas a grown-up was spewing out. But it was fun in a way, because the grown-ups would show the kid weird new things and ideas he had never seen at home, and his mom would be delighted when at the end of each weekday, he told her all about what he had learnt in school. And there were other kids to talk to and play with and share food.
Then came class I, and twice a year they made him sit in a room on a desk by himself, forbade him from talking to other kids, made him regurgitate the contents of his mind, and then scribbled numbers on his papers. And his parents looked at the numbers and were unhappy if they were too low and their mood was visibly brightened if the numbers were large. He was confused at first, but learnt soon enough that if he merely imitated the very words his teacher had spoken in class, the results were mostly good - and this was ironically the first real thing he learnt in school by himself. Soon, he was used to this, and devised ways to maximize his potential marks like buying lots of copies and taking down notes. It was a new experience at first and although painful, there was a sense of achievement there. He took his exams with a mix of fear and anticipation and awaited the results with excitement and sometimes even anxiety.
The years flew by and exam after exam passed. By class 5, he was used to the two exam a year notion. However, the sense of achievement and a lot of creativity had died down - exams were plain boring to him now, an unwanted responsibility, a burden on his fledgling brain, a merciless and useless cut on his playtime. But, he was good at it by now, he would mostly finish top of class. That is when in class 6, they introduced the weekly test.
A test every week? With marks to be added into his ? His first reaction was panic, despair. He reciprocated with more sincere effort - spent the first six weekends studying for the following dreaded Monday Test. Sincere effort soon gave way to mere mechanical slogging, and then to laxity and finally apathy.
He was in class 10 now, and the board exams hung heavy in the air. They told him his future depended on this! So all his efforts uptill then had had no meaning? An exam which could affect his life? He thought over it and mulled. The Monday tests continued meanwhile, as regular and going as unnoticed as his heartbeat. The month of the big exams finally came and he sat through them and wrote down pieces of his future with pen on paper. He eagerly awaited the results. They were random enough.
It was class 12 now, and another big exam awaited. His previous experiences had taught him the tricks of the trade. Writing exams was by now a totally emotionless, taken-for-granted act. After he wrote his last board exam, he celebrated with all his friends. He no longer cared for the marks.
His hobbies had taught him more than school, and he now believed that the real world was far removed from his exams. As he went into college, his belief only became stronger and stronger with each passing course, each passing exam (no pun intended). Exams were now about beating the system - about the only enlightenment they provided him anymore.
He was just sitting at his desk one day, thinking about how to go about the department quiz the next morning, when his mind wandered away. He remembered how he had chopped time off his playtime, his story books, his drawings, and the system had swallowed it all away without as much as emitting a burp. He wondered if he would have been different if he had pursued any of those interests further. He wondered if he had actually been the one writing his own destiny all the while. He thought when it was the last time he had done something truly new and unexpected and showed all his friends. He wondered, and he lamented.
He had been a doctor, a writer, a plumber, a sportsman, an engineer, a scientist, an artist, an actor, a dancer, an architect, sometimes all of it at once ... but they had taken it all away from him and given him a sheet of paper which summed up his life.
It had 8.14/10 written on it.