I was a student of primary school then. It was the time of the annual examination. That day, we had the Science exam. I was an above average student. I had never indulged in any of the wrong means to secure good results. I was always self-dependent. I always believed in my strengths. Two days before the Science exam, fever beckoned me. I did try to muster the best of preparations from my side. On the day of the exam I was still subjected to the after effects of the antibiotics prescribed by the doctor. The exam was for two and half hours. The first two hours and fifteen minutes went on fine. Though I had performed reasonably well till that time, so much so that I would end up getting about 75% marks, I felt bad that I could not make it to 80%, which was my usual target. I did not know the answer to any of the other questions. I just sat in my allotted seat, revising the answers and giving final touches to the diagrams. Every now and then I would lift my head and get a overall view of what is happening in the exam hall.
There was this one question, that I had left, asking for a neat labelled diagram of a Human Heart, which I knew partially. In one of my occasional observations of the classroom, I accidentally happened to look into my friend’s paper and fortunately or unfortunately he was answering the same question. I looked at his diagram, and the next moment without my knowledge, I began to copy it. There was a catch though. He was drawing a completely different version of the diagram, different from the standard diagram available in the textbook. Nevertheless, I copied it and felt happy that I will be able to touch 80% this time too. I submitted the paper right after this happened and left the exam hall five minutes earlier. Nothing happened to me that day, except that I was happy about how things had transpired.
The next day when the paper was being discussed, I came to know that my friend, my saviour, was the only person who had drawn the different version of the diagram. Somehow, I could not gather the courage to stand up and announce that even I had done the same. Now, I was in a dilemma. The teacher, who knew the fact the my friend was the only one who had drawn the different version, would be sure that I had copied it when she would valuate my paper. More than the fear of being caught, I felt very sad that the teacher, who had a very good opinion about me, will now look down upon me. It hurt where it hurts the most, the fear of losing one’s integrity.
The ensuing week, which was also the first week of the summer holidays, after the incident, to this date, has been the worst in my life. I couldn’t understand whether I was sincerely sorry for what I did or just that I was feeling bad I couldn’t lie and solve the problem. I was lost and I felt haunted by the treachery I had committed. Fever relapsed, and I was bed ridden for a week. I was all the time alone, resting in the bed, which meant that my mind was stuck with the same thoughts appearing again and again. Mom and dad easily noticed the change in my behaviour. They could make out the difference between me being ill and me being ill and lost, though all I did was sleep the entire day. They asked me, one day, as to what was the matter. I began to tell the truth, and once I started, I realised how, on certain occasions, muscles of the eye push more of the transparent white liquid down the cheeks, the more you are trying to resist it. My father smiled after I was done narrating my tale, gave me a warm hug, which I felt, even though I was already warm with fever. He said that on the day of the results he would talk to the teacher and explain.
I was asked to confess to my friend and apologise. I did it on the day of the result. I was always a hefty guy, but I felt so light that day. School reopened. I ran into the teacher, who knew a secret of mine now, in the corridor one day. She gave a smile and said ” Your heart is just fine, full marks for what you have done.” I understood what she meant. What makes me happy even today is the fact that I have never ever repeated that mistake, and I know for sure that I felt sad because I had done something horribly wrong and not because I could not hush up the whole incident. It gives me a great sense of relief, every time this incident flashes very vividly on the imaginary screen inside my brain, that I did the RIGHT thing.