The education system has undergone a sea-change as compared to what it was in the days of yore. In the mid-1930s, I appeared for the Class IV board exam. What gave this exam more importance was that it was not held at our school, but at a different school, at a different location. I was studying at Khalsa Collegiate High School, Lyallpur (now Faisalabad), in Pakistan. Though Lyallpur was a district headquarters, the exam was not held there, but at an insignificant place called Gatti, which was the first railway station from Lyallpur towards Lahore.
Today, it is unthinkable to accommodate Class IV students of all district schools at one small place. But in those days, the number of schools and students was 90 per cent less than what we have today. Besides, now no one would travel 5-6 km by train, as other modes of transport are easily available.
The events of the exam day are still fresh in my mind. After a night filled with exam dreams, I woke up at 4 am and went through the morning routine with a tinge of anxiety. The Lyallpur railway station was about three miles from my home. Those were the days when a horse-driven tonga was a popular mode of transport. Jamna Dass, a help who was to accompany me, and I, collected all the stuff that had to be carried and left for the station.
There was a lot of hustle and bustle at the platform because all my classmates were in the process of arriving. Meanwhile, the train arrived and our two schoolmasters got us into the train. We reached Gatti in about 20 minutes. After having detrained there, our teachers led us to the school, which was close by.
At the venue, the District Inspector of Schools, with his staff of 15 teachers, took charge and made the students sit school-wise. In about half an hour, the test began by displaying blackboards with questions pre-written on them. This was followed by viva-voce in which each student was asked two questions. Lastly, came the general knowledge questions.
It was a well-conducted exam, which finished in about three hours. It took another hour to declare the result. There were a number of failures, and three from our school figured in it.
It was the month of February and after a roll call by our teacher, he got us into a compartment for the return journey at 4.30 pm. The journey was spent consoling our classmates who were unable to scrape through.
No sooner did the train arrive at the Lyallpur station than I saw my elder brother eagerly waiting for me at the platform. We exchanged a glance and a smile. He began moving towards the compartment at a rapid pace. As soon as I alighted, he hugged me and enquired about my result. Happily thereafter, we travelled in the tonga to our house, with pride writ large on my face, as if I had cleared a competitive exam.
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