Chapter 17:



Bangalore CityBookmark here

Karnataka StateBookmark here

IndiaBookmark here

Two minutes left in the game.Bookmark here

Indra PU College 78 – Bengaluru PU College 72.Bookmark here

Bengaluru PU College’s (BPUC’s) coach was aghast. He called his final time out and started giving his team orders. “Make the shots! Steal the ball! Get back on defense!” His team listened, not listening, swaying like palm trees and not acknowledging his voice.Bookmark here

Lokesh Kumar was watching the proceedings closely. He’d been watching the opponents, their play style, and their weaknesses. Suddenly, he had a plan. He decided to take the risk and approach the coach. Bookmark here

“Coach?” he said politely. The coach whipped around to see him. “Yes, Lokesh Kumar?”Bookmark here

“Sir, I noticed something about them. Their three point defense is very strong, but their interior defense in the paint is very weak. I could score easily with my dunks. Can you please let me in, sir? I promise we can win!”Bookmark here

“Yes, as I was saying,” said the coach. “We need to attack the paint as their interior defense is weak. Drive in and score. Stop the three-point shooting and attack the interior!”Bookmark here

He shot Lokesh a nasty look. “Go back to the bench, Lokesh Kumar.”Bookmark here

Lokesh returned to the bench dejectedly. “Why won’t he let me play?” he thought.Bookmark here

BPUC went down to Indra PU College 82-72.Bookmark here

*Bookmark here

Lokesh went home that day frustrated, upset, and angry. The loss stung like a bullet wound, and the coach’s lack of faith in him hurt like hot coals on his skin.Bookmark here

“Why?” he thought. “Why won’t coach put me in? Am I that bad?”Bookmark here

But the most insulting part about the day was that the coach had repeated exactly what he had said, and sat him on the bench again.Bookmark here

“Zero,” he mused. “He’s let me play zero minutes all year!”Bookmark here

“Hey, son. How are studies?” asked his worried mother.Bookmark here

“Good, mom. All good.”Bookmark here

“You’ll crack the JEE exam, won’t you?”Bookmark here

“Lokesh’s stomach did a backflip. “Umm…yeah, sure!”Bookmark here

“Good, because your father is really worried.”Bookmark here

Lokesh’s stomach was now catapulting and rolling in his abdomen. “Well, mom. See you later!”Bookmark here

He ran to his room, overcome with emotion and frustrated by the unrealistic expectations. He opened his wardrobe and pulled out something round, orange, and worn out.Bookmark here

It was the old basketball, given to him by his school cleaners.Bookmark here

He then escaped his house, and made his way towards the public playground, where a basketball hoop was installed. He charged into the small court and flung his ball towards the backboard in a moment of frenzy.Bookmark here

“AAAAGGGHHH!!!” he screamed. “WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY?” Bookmark here

He catapulted into the air and dunked the ball ferociously into the hoop. He then steadied himself, recovered, and recovered the ball. Then he leapt back up and dunked it again, and again, and again, and again, all the while bawling. “WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY?”Bookmark here

From that day forth, he would go to the court every day, and dribble, shoot, and dunk the ball until he was exhausted. He practiced his ball-handling and dribbling. He ran and ran until he couldn’t move anymore, all out of exasperation that he was never, ever, allowed to play.Bookmark here

Whenever his relatives, especially some of his mother’s brothers, paid a visit, his mom would blather on and on about JEE preparation and which IIT (1) he was going to join. His uncles, all tall men of 6’2 and 6’3 (188 cm and 191 cm respectively) would then ramble about their kids and how they were successful in the IITs and NITs (2). This would rile up Lokesh’s parents even more and they would force him to study longer hours.Bookmark here

Lokesh hated every moment of his life.Bookmark here

India’s extremely toxic academic culture was killing him.Bookmark here

As his second and final year of Senior Secondary (PUC) School came, Lokesh’s continuous tirades on his local court had slowly transformed him into an athletic young man. He was now faster and more physically fit. He wasn’t very strong, but was fit and had seemingly limitless stamina. He had also grown slightly taller, and now stood at about 5’11 (181 cm).Bookmark here

As his exams slowly drew nearer, all basketball activities stopped, including his benchwarmer role on the BPUC Basketball team. But, the team had helped him. He’d received enough attendance to be allowed to write his exams.Bookmark here

Lokesh heaved a sigh of relief.Bookmark here

His board exams were an unqualified disaster. Mathematics, once again, was the worst. Lokesh nearly cried as he filled the answer sheets. The other important subjects such as Physics, Chemistry, and Computer Science were about average. But nowhere near good enough. His languages such as English and Hindi were decent. “I guess I’ll pass!” thought Lokesh happily.Bookmark here

But finally, the dreaded day arrived.Bookmark here

A nightmarish day for ninety nine thousand Indian engineering aspirants.Bookmark here

The day of JEE-Mains.Bookmark here

Lokesh sat in front of his PC to give his exam. As time went on, it became extremely clear to him that he didn’t even know one answer in the entire test. He started to panic, imagining his father’s furious face and his mother’s crying face.Bookmark here

A bell rang, signaling the end of the exam.Bookmark here

“Time’s up!” yelled an invigilator. “Please hit the submit button and sign your names on this paper. Once you’re done, leave the hall in an orderly fashion!”Bookmark here

The students who finished their exam came out in hordes, lumbering like zombies. It had been a long, long, day. Months of preparation, hours of studying, and two years of pure torture were finally over.Bookmark here

The JEE-Mains Exam had concluded.Bookmark here

And Lokesh’s hopes of cracking the JEE exam had been officially desecrated.Bookmark here

He hadn’t answered a single question in the entire test.Bookmark here

EndnotesBookmark here

1. IIT: Indian Institute of Technology: One of the finest institutions for engineering in India, if not THE finest.Bookmark here

2. NIT: National Institute of Technology: Another set of institutions for engineering in India. Very high-ranked college, but considered to be slightly inferior to the IITs.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.