What a day to start writing ! The 21st century just turned 18 while I turned 20 ! So out of all the new year wishes, one caught my attention and it read ‘Happy New Year and Happy birthday Topper’. I won’t lie, it made my mind go like wow… is that how people remember me ? Well, I thought to myself, they would be pleased to know that now I am just like anyone else, I don’t even like the field of study that I have chosen. But that gave me an idea to write. I have always wanted to, but meh, never gave it a shot I guess. So here’s my first post ( or blog, I don’t know what it’s called ) – The confessions of a class topper.
Well, let’s start from the beginning, my family is full of academic geniuses – my father a research scientist and my mother a physics professor, and almost all relatives in such respected professions – so there was always a kind of pressure for academic excellence on me. My parents never forced me or anything, but it was more of imaginary pressure that I created myself. I remember that in the second standard, in mathematics I scored the lowest marks and my mom was called because it was not expected from the son of such intellectual parents. My mom was very cool about it and instead of just blindly scolding me, she sat me down and together we found solutions to the problems I was facing. But I was very hurt because I was feeling guilty and so I decided to not just be good, but be the best. I didn’t take a complete u-turn and become superintelligent in one night, but I never gave up and finally in the fourth standard I was the one who every student wants to become – Class Topper. I didn’t just get the highest marks in my standard, but the whole school ( it may seem like I’m bragging, but seriously I am not ). Actually, that is when my topper journey began. Before this, I was just another boy in the crowd, but now suddenly everyone knew me – teachers, peers, seniors(not all, but some, yes) – frankly I was a shy kid but when people ask, you have to respond ! Otherwise, it looks rude. That is when I first started talking to people, otherwise, I was a kid that could not utter a sound in front of others. I was the consistently the class topper till the end of my schooling, and here I’ll stop this boring monologue and include other characters in this story ( of course it will still be a monologue, pfff, cuz I am the one writing it, but whatever ! ).
So, now that I slowly became less shy, I was introduced to a new concept called ‘friends’. Not that I didn’t have friends before, I played with some kids on the ground, sat next to various kids while on the school bus, but those were not permanent in my life. The ones that I made now were like constants in my life – school bus, classroom, birthday parties, playground – they were everywhere. But let me tell you a secret, only two of those were my real friends. See when you are a class topper you have all kinds of friends – let’s go through them one by one.
1. The friends for benefits – These are the people who aren’t your friends but they will act as if they are. They will ask you doubts, often ask for your notes, always be polite to you and try to be as nice to you as possible. It’s like a win-win situation – you are happy because they are being nice to you and they are happy because they are getting notes.
2. The competitive culprits – These are the ones who cannot even fake being friends but they still do. They are always thinking of taking you down. Like they will always praise you and blow air in your bubble of pride, hoping for you to fall at least one rank at least once.
3. The jolly freelancers – These are the ones that are friends of everyone, their relation with everyone is good and they know everything about everyone – including you. But you can be more comfortable with them than the first two.
4. The real close friends – The rare ones. Once you find these, you have found the most beautiful thing in your life. From sharing our lunchboxes to getting scolded for laughing too loudly in the classroom, they were always with me. ( Yes I was scolded, a lot ! Being a topper did not excuse me from scoldings ). So these are the gems that you value the most.
5. The ones whom you respect – There is another category of students who neither try compete nor bother about your score. These are ones whom you really respect and frankly you try to be the friend for benefits here. For example in our class there was a girl who was very good at painting, many of her paintings were displayed in our school’s art room and I was always mesmerized by the amount of talent this girl had, she even stood 3rd in the Intermediate Drawing exams in the whole state. Then there was a boy who was an athletic gold medalist, a girl who played the flute, a boy who was interested in astronomy, these were the ones I admired because they did not let the stunted education system pull them down and excelled in their fields of interest.
6. The more than just friends – This category is almost non-existent for boys because most of us(toppers) are nerds. And when talking about girls, beauty with brains is a popular concept, but most boys fall for the beauty more than the brains ( and obviously no-one would like to be called just beautiful when intelligence is your primary asset ).
So, basically most of the class was jealous of me, some envied me, some showed unadulterated love so it is a happy place to be in. As a class topper, you get to have a say in most of the cases and your point (right or wrong) is considered a valid one. One funny thing is that ( I find this funny today but back then it was a major life issue ) you get all kinds of ridiculous nicknames – topper (the classical one), scholar ( the more abstract ), bookbug ( common ), teacher ka chamcha ( the unrated one, means *teacher’s favourite* ), rattu ( outcome of jealousy, means *one who mugs up*). Everyone knew my name but I was rarely addressed by my actual name because where’s the fun in that !
I realize that it is getting too long, so maybe I’ll do a part two if Y’all like this. Because really, I have written this but don’t know what the response would be.