Books

Every student’s nightmare

A TIMELY TALE Jitendra Jain presents an important issue with humour

A TIMELY TALE Jitendra Jain presents an important issue with humour  

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Jitendra Jain’s novel Chasing 33% brings to fore how the fear of examinations has taken away the charm of learning

As college aspirants wait with bated breath for the cut-off lists, Jitendra Jain’s novel Chasing 33% (Notion Press)could not have been better timed. The novel traces two 16-year-old boys, as they navigate through the most crucial examination of their lives, the Class 10 board examinations, highlighting their trials in a funny and satirical manner.

Talking about the theme of board exams dealt in the book, Jitendra says that he was surprised with the hype surrounding board exams. “I grew up in a small town in Assam and there was no pressure of board exams there, but Delhi was very different.” While it is true that most students in the city take these exams as the decisive element for their future, what disturbed him immensely was the rate of suicide among these students. “I heard reports about students who secured 95% but even then were unhappy and committed suicide. I just wanted to make the students aware that the exams mattered but were not the end of life.”

The protagonist of Chasing 33% is funny and extremely identifiable, reeling under the constant fear of flunking his exams while pining for the love of his beautiful best friend. When asked whether the book was based on his own life, he decisively says not everything. “While writing fiction, it is quite natural to draw on life events. Some events are real, others are definitely fictional.” He does mention that he associated with the protagonist to a great extent. “I do identify with the protagonist. Even Swadhin, one of the characters in the book, is loosely based on my friend who is now heading the IT department of a major firm in the Northeast.” The biggest similarity between Jitendra and his protagonist is that they both hail from a small town in Assam, which according to him was a fun experience.

The novel is a potent critique on the education system and the structure of board exams. Jitendra does not believe that the existing education system is a good metric for evaluating students. “The pressure to be part of the merit list forces the students to focus solely on academics.” He recommends a system which encourages students to participate in extracurriculars along with their academics. “Students focus more on memorising and less on the learning process.” More importantly, he is strictly against declaring anyone a failure.

Interestingly the author has given name to only one protagonist while the other who narrates the story in first person is unnamed. Jitendra says, he wished this novel to be everyone’s story, therefore he did not give the protagonist-narrator a name. “I wanted this to be everyone’s story since all of us have gone through the trauma of board exams at some point in their lives.”

The suspense about the protagonist-narrator continues as one does not know if clears the board exams. When asked if the protagonist-narrator does secure those elusive 33%, he simply says,“You should wait for the next book which will be out soon.”

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 11:49:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/every-students-nightmare/article18965133.ece

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