The art of public speaking was now fascinating Aamir. During the Literary Club activities, he started using every opportunity to participate in Elocution to get rid of his stage fear.
The Inter-House Literary Competitions had started. This was the first time Aamir was witnessing such events and, naturally, he was very eager not to miss even a single one. Dumb Charades, Just A Minute (JAM), Quiz, Debate, and Elocution were some of the events being held. Being a member of the Literary Club, he was also given the responsibility of assisting in conducting Dumb Charades and JAM, a responsibility he thoroughly enjoyed.
But what fascinated him the most was the Elocution Competition. The topic was Children’s Rights. There were 12 contestants in all – some were good, some were bad, and some, indifferent. But there was one speaker who stood out head and shoulders above the rest. His language, voice modulation, accent, and content – everything was – at least to Aamir’s untrained eyes – perfect. This speaker was none other than Aamir’s bête noir, Shantanu. After finishing his speech as Shantanu walked back to his place the first to applaud and to applaud the loudest was Aamir. Shantanu, of course, was too much of a snob to even acknowledge this gracious gesture on the part of Aamir. Aamir attended the Inter-House Debate Competition too and here again Shantanu was ahead. He was declared the best speaker and his House, Buddha, the best House.
The art of public speaking was now fascinating Aamir. During the Literary Club activities, he started using every opportunity to participate in Elocution to get rid of his stage fear. His progress was painstakingly slow but he felt he was steadily losing his apprehension of going on the dais and addressing a crowd.
The First Term Exams were to be held in the last week of September and Aamir got down to some serious study. Sagar’s schedule did not change much. The exam fever seemed to have barely touched him.
A week after the exams, the results were out. Shantanu had topped while Aamir had got the 11th rank. In Maths, however, Aamir had created a sensation by achieving 100%.
“Fantastic bro. You are the first guy in ages to score a century. Vishnu sir is such a miser he never gives a perfect score. He somehow always manages to cut a mark or two. Look, even Nagarjuna, who is considered a Maths wizard, could manage only 97.”
“Thanks, Sagar, but in spite of a century in maths, I have still not managed to get a single digit rank in class. English and Social Studies have pulled me down, just as I feared.”
“You’ll have to concentrate even more on these two subjects. But considering that this is your first term in this school, I think you have done quite well. By the end of the year, I am sure you will be in the top three.”
“I hope so. What about you, Sagar? Are you happy with a 15th rank when you jolly well know, with some effort, you can definitely be among the best in the class?”
“I am not sure. Anyways, if I make it to the top of the class, the expectations will be too high and, along with the expectations, the pressure. Now, my parents are reconciled to my being a teenager – in terms of ranks that is. If I do well even once they will be after my life. And, believe me, I feel I am better off this way with enough time for cricket, athletics, a little bit of TV and some net.”
Aamir was sitting in his room reading. It was after dinner on Saturday. Having exhausted Enid Blyton and Harry Potter, Aamir had graduated to Agatha Christie and was reading Murder on the Orient Express. He heard a gentle cough and looked up, a trifle irritated.
It was Lingayya, the cook in the school mess. Behind him was his son, Gopal, who worked in the school canteen. Gopal was around Aamir’s age. He was tall and gangly with short hair. He was clad in khaki shorts and a shirt which was a size too large for him. His father was shorter, stockier, with a gruff voice which belied his gentle nature.
Aamir got up and pulled a chair for Lingayya and a stool for Gopal and sat on the bed.
“Babu, you know Gopal, na?”
“Yes, of course. I have seen him in the canteen. And whenever I go there I get the cleanest glass, thanks to Gopal.”
“Babu, he was studying in the village school in Class VI. He was a good student and always stood first or second in class. I got him here last year and, since then, he has not been able to continue his studies.”
“Why did you get him here?”
“To work. We need the extra money. Apart from Gopal, I have three more children. The eldest is my daughter Bindu, who is to be married this year. I brought Gopal here and got him a job so that he could add to the family income.”
Lingayya looked at Aamir and hesitated. Aamir gave him an encouraging smile.
“Gopal wants to study. During the day he can work in the canteen and in the evening he can study. He can then appear for his Class X exam privately.”
“What about the books? Where is he going to get books from?”
“Sharma Sir said he would organise the books. If you can teach him…” Lingayya looked at Aamir hopefully.
“But I am only in Class VIII! How will I be able to teach him?”
“He will be starting with Class VII books. And you will only be teaching him Maths, Science, and English. He will manage the other subjects.”
“English and me? I am quite weak in English myself. You should look for someone better.”
“Babu, Sharma Sir himself suggested your name for these three subjects. He told me that you were one student who had impressed him the maximum with his sincerity. He also told me that you were working very hard in English and therefore it would be good practice for you.”
Aamir sat in deep thought.
“Babu, Gopal will not take much of your time. Every evening, after dinner, he will spend half an hour with you.”
Aamir looked at the expectant faces of the father and son and nodded his head.
As Gopal bend down to touch his feet, Aamir got up and putting his arm around Gopal said, “We are friends, aren’t we?”
Read on to Chapter 8
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