He couldn’t climb the steps to the third-floor examination hall but Arpan Bose had it in him to scale the peak. On Tuesday, his was one of the big success stories of the ISC exam.
Wheelchair-bound Arpan Bose, 18, has aggregated 95.7 per cent in ISC science after battling muscular dystrophy — a degenerative disease that weakens the muscles — for much of his life. His next target is an engineering seat.
The first thing about this student of Mansur Habibullah Memorial School that strikes you is how composed he looks despite his achievement. “I am happy but I would be happier if I am able to crack the engineering entrance exam,” Arpan said.
Arpan has been on a wheelchair since Class VI, and his determination to succeed has increased with each health setback he has had to endure since. “I was diagnosed with the disease when I was just a year and a half old, and it has gradually got worse. But I don’t want to allow my condition to get the better of my ambition,” he said.
Arpan owes his academic excellence as much to elder sister Suparna’s support as to his unbeatable spirit. “I enrolled for engineering coaching in Class XI and found it hard to cope with the pressure. But my sister would constantly push me to succeed, saying I needed to be patient,” he recalled.
Mention Suparna and Arpan’s eyes light up. “I can’t wait to tell her about my exam result. She is doing a project on remote sensing in the Netherlands and I am unable to get through to her,” he said, after trying to call her for the 15th time on Tuesday.
Lokesh Sarda’s world seemed to turn upside down when he heard the words “emergency surgery”. No, this can’t be happening, he thought. That was two months ago.
On Tuesday, as words of praise echoed in his ears, the fortnight that he spent in hospital battling pain and worrying about his future became a distant memory.
The ICSE examinee from Delhi Public School Megacity wrote five of his papers from a hospital bed following emergency appendectomy, aggregating 93 per cent with higher scores than some of his friends in as many as seven subjects.
“I used to curse myself after landing in hospital with an appendix problem. I could not believe that I was in a hospital bed recuperating from surgery in the middle of the first important exam of my life,” recalled the 17-year-old. “I feared being left behind by my friends in academics.”
Lokesh underwent surgery on March 3 and wrote his environmental studies paper the next day. Math, history, geography and Hindi followed.
What makes Lokesh’s achievement greater is that he could barely open his books to study while he was in hospital. “I was constantly on drip and the catheter prevented me from sitting up,” he said.
When he did manage to open his books, Lokesh would quickly feel tired. But he never gave up. “I am grateful to my father for instilling confidence in me and glad that I have been able to do my parents and school proud,” he signed off, basking in the adulation of family and friends.
Life has been a continuous examination for Priyanjali Pal since early 2009, when the teenager from Modern High School for Girls was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer originating in the white blood cells. She lost an academic year, was forced to join a batch of students “whom you have seen as juniors for your entire school life” and handed a set of health-related restrictions that prevented her from leading a normal life.
Tuesday saw braveheart Priyanjali win one of her battles — with 92.75 per cent in ISC arts.
“The first year was tough. I was on chemotherapy every alternate week and would feel very weak for almost the entire week after that. Had I decided to write the exam last year, I would have done disastrously. My principal told me that I had the potential to do well,” she said.
So how did Priyanjali plot her comeback? “It wasn’t a cakewalk juggling studies with trips to Mumbai for treatment. The new English and Bengali syllabi made things harder. I had to cover a year’s syllabus in six months. I managed because of the extra hours put in by my teachers,” she said.
For Priyanjali, success has brought with it opportunities she is determined not to let go of. “My health doesn’t permit me to do the activities I am fond of. So I have told myself that I must do well in studies.”
Her next goal is to study mass communication and videography at St. Xavier’s College.
Accident victim Amritakshya Dey had started practising how to write with his left hand two months before his ISC science examination, determined not to lose a year. For all his resolve, even he couldn’t have imagined then that he would not only write all the papers with his left hand but also score 81 per cent.
On Tuesday, the student of MP Birla Foundation Higher Secondary School sat with a smile reminiscing how it took an accident to bring out the braveheart in him. “It was the night of November 26 (last year). I was in an auto that toppled over because of rash driving and I fell on my right hand, fracturing my radius and ulna bones (a little above the wrist),” he recalled.
When Amritakshya. 18, underwent surgery on his injured hand to insert two steel plates with eight screws, hardly anyone expected him to recover enough to get back to studies soon, much less write the ISC exam. But the boy was made of sterner stuff.
Amritakshya had first put pen to paper with his left hand to practise signing forms for the state joint entrance examination. Once he managed to legibly sign with his left hand, the Class XII student graduated to writing numbers.
His worried doctor cautioned Amritakshya with a question: “What’s your priority, your hand or your career?”
After the plaster was finally taken off, Amritakshya started practising writing with his left hand for up to three hours a day. Mother Purnima was his strength, lifting his morale whenever he felt low. “Such was the physical stress that I carried painkillers to the examination hall. But I popped a pill only on the day of the math paper,” Amritakshya said.
So does he look back in anger at what happened to him for no fault of his? “Had this not happened, I wouldn’t have realised the potential of my left hand,” said the spunky teen.
Text by Jhinuk Mazumdar, pictures by Sanat Kr Sinha