False Impressions

This story is a satirical take on the state of the Indian educational sector today.
Here, I would like to take this opportunity to ask an important question-why are exams held? The answer should be- “To test our knowledge.” But what has become the general trend is not anywhere near this. Today, teachers teach us in a manner that would help us fetch the maximum marks, and not in a manner that would help us attain a greater state of mind. Students study for the same reason.
This story is a small attempt from my side for you to open your eyes, and look around you. I hope I succeed in this endeavour of mine, and inspire you to become better professionals, better engineers, better doctors, better artists, and most importantly, better individuals, who can think for themselves, instead of being led by an unexplainable web of illogical, degrading, and de-humanizing practices.
Renny woke up with a start, a strange smell filling up his nostrils. He blinked, trying to block out the sharp white light that filled him with pain. Instinctively, he tried bringing his hands in front for cover, but nothing happened. A horrible thought entered his confused mind-had his arms been cut off? He tried moving them again.
He got some comfort from the knowledge that his arms were still attached to his shoulders, though chained behind the back of the chair he was sitting on. He frowned as he tried to remember how he had come to be in this situation, while he looked around himself, trying to figure out where he was. It looked like an old storehouse. Cartons and wooden boxes lined up the long, cemented walls.
He spotted something shiny kept on top of the carton nearest to him. “Focus, Renny,” he said to himself, “Focus!” He knew that the formula for focus was: 1/f = 1/v – 1/u, where u and v stood for the object and image distances respectively. After all, he was an engineering student. But he knew this was not going to help. Not here. When he did focus, he saw that it was a small, rusted key. Iron reacted readily with atmospheric moisture to form ferric tetroxide pentahydrate, usually called rust. He had topped the competitive exams. People said he knew everything. What he did not know was how he had ended up being here.
“HELP!” he yelled. Sound waves travelled at the velocity of 330 m/s in air, approximately. His cries would soon reach the outside world. However, in-spite of yelling at a frequency of about 7 cries a minute, for the next five minutes, no help arrived. He tried moving his hands again. They didn’t budge. A tube-light on the wall in front of him began to spark. He took a deep breath. The strange smell filled his nose again. He looked around, searching for its source, until his eyes came to rest on a small cylinder. In three bold white letters it said -‘LPG’. Liquid Petroleum Gas. A highly combustible mixture containing liquefied methane, ethane, butane, and some other gasses at a considerably high pressure. “Oh, no!” said Renny to himself. “The gas is leaking!” His eyes came to rest on the sparking tube-light. “Help!” he yelled, yet again. He began clawing at the wood of the chair in a frantic attempt to break free. After doing this for quite a considerable amount of time without any apparent result, he got an idea.
Balancing the chair on his lower back, he stood up in an awkward manner. Taking small steps, he started heading towards the big window on the left. He tried pushing it open with his forehead. It did not move. “Crap!” he said to himself, “It’s locked.” He started looking for a switchboard to switch off that sparking tube-light. “Help!” he yelled again, now he went towards the door. “Help!” a tear rolled down his left cheek. He let the weight on his back fall. The chair came down with a thud. Renny sat back, crying.
Suddenly, the door banged open, and two men came rushing in. They freed him from the chair, and gave him some water. Then they made him stand up, and took him out into a well maintained corridor. Strange. Renny had been here before.
The men finally stopped in front of a door, and signalled him to enter. Renny did as he was asked to.
He couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw Mr. Lajoie sitting behind a heavy oak desk. Now he knew where he was. He had come here about 6 days back, to give an interview for this reputed research firm. Mr. Lajoie had been the interviewer.
“Take a seat, Mr. McCarton!” he said, with a gentle smile. Renny couldn’t grasp what was going on. “What is the meaning of this?” he asked, infuriated.
“Have a little patience, Mr. McCarton! Here. Have a glass of water.” The man moved a half-filled glass towards him. Renny drank down the water in one big gulp.
“I hope you remember who I am, Mr. McCarton?”
“You bet I do. I’m going to inform the police about this.”
“Hmm, ” said Mr. Lajoie, “do you want to know what just happened?”
“You kidnapped me!” cried Renny.
“No, no!” said Mr. Lajoie, “You’re getting the wrong idea about this.” He moved across the room to a portrait on the wall behind Renny, with his hands behind his back. “Did you get a letter informing you how great your interview had been?”
“What?” Renny asked with a disgusted face. “What does that have to do with any of this?”
“Everything, Mr McCarton!” Mr. Lajoie said, turning a little to face Renny.
“Everything! Remember we had told you of the possibility of a practical test?”
“Yes…” said Renny, light slowly dawning upon him.
“Well, this was it.” said Mr. Lajoie with a gentle nod.
“…and how did I do?” said Renny, flabbergasted.
“Well, see for yourself.” said the man, and pointed a remote towards the TV on the wall. It switched on, and started playing a video of a boy, that he recognised as himself, sitting on a chair.
The boy kept struggling with the chair, and crying for help. After about 10 minutes of fruitlessly beating around, two men enter the room, and take him out.
“As I hope you can see, Mr McCarton, your result wasn’t very impressive. It was, well, disappointing, to say the least.”
“But what could have I done?” cried Renny. “I was chained to a chair in a strange room with a sparking light and a leaking cylinder of gas!”
Mr. Lajoie remained silent for a few moments before pointing the remote back at the television, and saying-“I would like to show you another person’s test-video as an answer.”
Instantly, there was another video playing on the television set. Renny could see a similar picture-that of a boy chained to a chair in a familiar room. When the boy got up, his reaction was quite similar to his. But within a minute of shifting his hands around in different ways, he was finally able to take them off the chair, though they were still chained behind his back. Then, after a little looking-around, he found the rusted key, that he picked up. That was when the light began to flicker, and he could probably smell the gas leaking.
The boy stood up, and started looking for something on the wall. He started moving across the room, his eyes fixed on the wall, as if following something. He had reached a heap of cartons. He kicked the cartons out of his way, and now, Renny could see a switchboard on the wall. The boy had been following the wiring. He then switched off the sparking tube-light.
The boy now went up to the window, and tried opening it, before his eyes fell on the lock. That is when he used the rusted key, and pushed the window open. Just then, the door banged open, and some men came in. The video stopped.
“This young man, Mr. McCarton, was able to free himself of the chair, switch off the tube-light, and open the window….” said Mr. Lajoie, “..and he took only 8 minutes.”
Renny didn’t know what to say. “May I know who this person was?” he asked.
“As a matter of fact, Mr. McCarton, this is someone you know very well.”
Renny’s eyes widened.
“It’s Mr. Twis Ted.”
“Twis?” Renny cried in disbelief, “That fellow failed in three subjects!”
“He did much better than you here.”
“…but he doesn’t know a single mathematical formula!”
“Maybe. But he can solve the equations when the formulae are in front of him…. and he can always google up the formulae.”
“But..” Renny said, “But….!”
“Mr. Lajoie is a fool!” said Renny to himself, as he trudged down the empty hallway. Renny could work wherever he wanted to. After all, he had topped the competitive exams. But right now, he needed some rest. He had no energy left in him. Mathematically the formula for energy is E = (1/2)*m*(v^2) + m*g*h, where m stands for the mass of the body, v for it’s velocity, g for acceleration due to gravity, and h for it’s height above the earth’s surface, and yes, nothing in this universe is at absolute rest.
Divyansh Prakash


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