The headmaster of a better-known school persuaded my father to move me to his institution. As I was switching from middle to high school, the key argument was that superior education would be greatly in my interest. It was a larger school with a bigger building located on a major avenue. The big sign proclaiming its pretentious name certainly made me aware that I was in a different circle.
A curious factor reinforced the awareness. I had always been a good student, kept company with other good students, sat in the front bench (an individual desk was an inconceivable luxury in India) and was recognized as a brown-nose ‘good boy’ by teachers and students alike. But, before joining the new school I was required to take an admission test, and the result had somehow placed me in the lowest quartile of the new class. Much to my parents’ anguish, I had to join the fourth and lowest-ranked section of my class in the new school.
I craved to be one of them in the class, to be, in fact, one of the recognizably naughtier ones, and wear the prized halo of a wicked lad. If it meant to remain mute when the teacher asked a question of the class, I elected to do so despite an inner good-boy urge to pop the desired answer. I gained credit in class standing instead by doing naughtier things, like ascribing witty names to teachers or writing off-color limericks about them. My standing peaked the day I sketched and circulated during the math class a picture of the well-endowed girl who stood occasionally at the window of a neighboring apartment to the everlasting prurient interest of our class.
After that I longed to do something more dramatic and gain the adulation of the class. The best opportunity was the practice of Shorty, our literature teacher to encourage us -- doubtless to spur our reading habits -- to bring a favorite story to the class, read it publicly and lead a critical review of the story. Through diligent search I identified a short story by a reputed author that begins innocuously as a family story and ends in a shattering, literal account of an abortion. In the next literature class, the moment the teacher broached the idea of a story several classmates pointed to me on a cue and yelled that I had been skipping my turn.
Shorty looked mortified, not just from the story, but also the inappropriateness of such a story read by a student to all other students. Almost incoherent, he muttered, “Well, well…That’s not the kind of story I expected!” After a pause, he declared, “I don’t think today we will have a discussion of the story.” He didn’t, couldn’t say any more. He got up and left.
I had made my mark. I became the hero of the class.
At the end of the year, based on my results, I moved to the best section of the next class. I returned to my erstwhile role of being the good student and good boy.