The About-Turn

The About-Turn

Aarti Natarajan Sharma 

It started out as a normal morning, like any other. Except for Kajal it was the day that would decide the course of her next few years, and maybe even her life. It was the day of the Class 12th Board results. 

Kajal had never been academically inclined. Till Class 10, she breezed along as a mediocre student, sitting comfortably in the percentage grid of the 60s and 70s. While she enjoyed certain subjects and hated others, there was never a passion for studying anything in particular. Her Class 10 Boards results thus came as a complete surprise; for, she ended up scoring really well. This proved to be a turning point for her and therein started her love affair with academics. For the next two years, throughout Classes 11 and 12, Kajal could be seen with her nose buried in books. It also helped that she was finally studying subjects she loved; something that was reflected in her consistently ranking among the Top 5 in class, with Political Science turning into her absolute favourite subject. 

Kajal emerged from her Political Science Board exam beaming ear to ear. It was without doubt, the best paper she had ever written so far and she was confident of scoring extremely high in it. 

Fast-forward to the day of the results. As Kajal gathered along with other nervous students, she spotted her roll number and moved her finger along the scores—English, economics, history, home science but wait. What was this? 64 in Political Science? She blinked; convinced she had read it wrong. She checked and rechecked but the number remained the same. A dismal 64. Kajal felt as though her life had come to an end. Her dreams of studying psychology in college came crashing down along with her overall percentage. 

The next few days seemed to pass in a haze of tears and recriminations and anger at the injustice of it all. Kajal railed against Sai Baba, angry beyond measure. How could Baba have let her down like this? To make matters worse she discovered that Home Science, in which she had scored the highest, was not counted in Delhi University among the best of 4, leaving her with a 78% overall; not qualifying her to any of the good colleges for a psychology degree. 

Kajal found herself at cross-roads. Her faith had been shaken, in herself, in her god, in life. She wanted to take a gap year but her mother put her foot down. Over the next few weeks Kajal went from North to South Campus’ filling up forms, hoping against hope that somewhere she would qualify for admission in psychology. An alternate option of subject was English Honours, which sounded dreadfully dull and dreadful to her. Her mother, being a Literature student, convinced her to at least sit for an entrance exam for English at Gargi College. In defiance against the universe, Kajal prepared nothing and gave the exam half-heartedly. She was determined to fail. So, there was no one more surprised than her when she got a call for the next round, which was an interview. 

Kajal’s mom prepped her for the interview by making her learn some lines from one of her own favorite poets. The words resonated with Kajal’s state of mind. She walked into the room with three professors and made it clear to them that English Literature was not her first choice. She did recite the lines and her natural command of the language shone through. 

“We look before and after

And pine for what is not.

Our sincerest laughter,

With some pain is fraught.

Our sweetest songs are those,

that tell of saddest thought. “(Percy Bysshe Shelley)

When asked why she had chosen those particular lines, Kajal replied that life was not always fair. She continued to be angry with Sai Baba. For her, faith had not proved to be her strength. 

Kajal secured admission in Gargi College for English Honours. Before she knew it, the orientation day arrived and then it was time for her first class, which happened to be a play by William Shakespeare. At the end of 60 minutes, Kajal exited the room in tears. There was no way she could see this programme through. She was miserable. She hated literature and everything associated with it. 

The next day Kajal went to meet the college principal and begged her for a transfer to psychology. She was willing to even miss six months and join later if a seat became available. The principal promised Kajal that if a seat fell vacant, she would be the first to know, on the condition that Kajal keep attending English classes. The principal told her that in life we don’t always get what we want, but sometimes what we want is not necessarily what we are meant to have. Kajal heard her out without registering the meaning. She was just biding her time. She was determined to control the reins of her destiny herself. It was only much later in life that she realised that what Baba had ordained for her was something greater than her own plans. 

Days passed, friends were made, plays read, novels discussed and poems analyzed. Three weeks into the programme, Kajal was called into the principal’s room. She congratulated her and told her a seat had fallen vacant in psychology. Kajal stood there dumbfounded. Here she was, being given what she had dreamt of for over two years and yet her heart was sinking. She sat there for a long time and finally told the principal that she wanted to stay with English. The principal wasn’t surprised. As Kajal was leaving the principal said “Sometimes you need to give a new thing a chance in order to fall in love with it. “

Today Kajal is an education counselor who meets scores of confused, scared children with have no idea what the future holds. She gives them her example and tells them that what seems like the end of the world at a particular moment, becomes insignificant after a few years. 

The important thing is to hold steadfast to one’s faith and trust the higher powers that what is happening has a larger purpose; often one that isn’t fathomable or visible to us.