A boy who lost his mother a day before his English exam, a girl who studied through six cycles of chemotherapy, a son who spent exam-eve by his hospitalised mother’s bedside and a girl who underwent surgery between two papers.
Nirvik Sen Sarma
National Gems Higher Secondary School
Nirvik didn’t go home after writing his English Paper II on March 3, he went to a crematorium where his family was waiting for him with his mother’s body.
“Ma had been hospitalised 48 hours before my test and she passed away the next day. Skipping the last four papers did cross my mind but my mother wanted me to do well in ISC,” said the 18-year-old student of science, who scored 88 in English and aggregated 81.5 per cent.
Nirvik remembers feeling “lost” on the day of the English test with his mother still to be cremated and his elder brother yet to arrive from Canada.
“Suddenly, there was this void in my life. I was writing the most important examination of my life but my mother was not around to encourage me,” he said of his feelings that day.
On March 11, the day of his maths paper, Nirvik performed his mother’s shraddha in the morning before stepping out for the 2pm examination. He scored 69 in the subject.
Nirvik’s mother had survived breast cancer and was active until a day before her death, when she was hospitalised because of breathing trouble. “She had been healthy and able to do all the household work herself. The suddenness of her death made it even more difficult for me to accept that she was gone,” he said.
St. Xavier’s Institution, Panihati
A swelling in Ishita’s neck was diagnosed as Hodgkin’s lymphoma in January 2013, just when she was about to embark on her most crucial year in school. “You think about the treatment, I will think about my exam,” she remembers telling her father after her doctor broke the news.
The student of commerce not only battled her illness with equanimity, she never lost sight of her goal. What her ISC aggregate of 83.75 per cent doesn’t say is what the 18-year-old went through during the year-and-a-half leading to the exam.
Between February and September 2013, Ishita endured six cycles of intravenous chemotherapy, followed by radiotherapy. The 96 injections she took in both arms were so painful that she could barely write for an hour at a stretch. She couldn’t attend classes on most days because she would feel fatigued and her head would start to ache if she tried to exert herself even a little.
But Ishita never gave up, drawing inspiration from cricketer Yuvraj Singh, among others. “My doctor would tell me that there were many others in a worse condition and so weak that they were bedridden. I could at least sit through my exam,” she recalled.
Ishita refused to take the option of writing her papers in a separate room. “I didn’t want to be segregated. I wanted to be in the same room as my batchmates because I thought that by seeing them write, I would get the confidence to do so,” she said.
Her father’s advice helped too. “Death comes only once. Don’t die before death,” Subir Ghosh had told his dear daughter.
Swapnaneel spent the entire day before his political science paper on March 20 at his mother’s bedside in a Wood Street hospital. She had felt a shooting pain in her abdomen while at home in Lake Town in the morning and her son instantly knew he couldn’t take a chance with her health.
“She has undergone chemotherapy and her condition that day suggested it was an emergency,” recalled the arts student, who lives with his mother and maternal grandmother.
Swapnaneel couldn’t come back home from the hospital until around 9pm, by which time he was as exhausted as he was doubtful about writing his exam the next day. He sat with his books post midnight, banking on a close friend to help him “revise over the phone”.
“I was exhausted and my mind was preoccupied. It was only after midnight that I could collect my thoughts, and for the next couple of hours I was on the phone with my friend Siddhartha Sengupta to revise what I had studied earlier,” he said.
The thought of quitting did occur to him a couple of times but he didn’t let it linger. “I had to go to the bank the next morning and there was a point where I thought I might not make it,” Swapnaneel said.
Not only did he write the political science paper after “sorting out everything”, he scored 92 in the subject and 90.5 per cent overall.
On Saturday, when the ISC results were released, Swapnaneel’s mother was in hospital undergoing a cycle of chemotherapy. “She is very happy,” said the 18-year-old, who has decided to continue his higher education in Calcutta because of his mother’s illness.
Sweetlin’s economics paper was scheduled for 2pm and she was to leave for school at 10.30am from her home in Barrackpore, where her family was mourning the death of her grandmother the day before.
Around 8am, Sweetlin noticed that she was bleeding from her chest. “There was no apparent injury or even the slightest hint of pain. But I was bleeding profusely,” she recounted. “I told my mother that I wouldn’t skip my exam for anything, so she bandaged me and I went to school.”
On March 10, two days after her economics paper, Sweetlin underwent surgery to repair a ruptured blood vessel in her chest that had caused the bleeding.
“When I returned home after my economics paper and opened the bandage, blood had spurted out. My mother took me to a doctor and I was told that surgery was unavoidable,” she said.
Post-surgery, Sweetlin requested her doctor to discharge her in a couple of days so that she could go back to studying for the two ISC papers that she was still to write.
“I would open my books but doze off because of weakness and the medicines I was taking. Otherwise, I would have done much better in the exam, I think,” she said.
Sweetlin scored 92 in economics and aggregated 92 per cent, topping the arts section of her school.
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