Sometimes you wonder how a certain event happened in your life. You run it through your head many times over. You analyze various probabilities. You brainstorm with friends and family. At the end of it, you accept that it happened and get on with life. If it’s a good event you reminisce and smile. You start believing in the Divine Hand.

One such event is my securing a winning spot in the National Talent Search Exam. This nationwide exam for 10th graders tested one’s skills in five subjects. You chose two of the five subjects and the three compulsory ones being General Knowledge, Mental Ability and Mathematics. I think I chose Civics and Biology as my optional subjects. I’m a little fuzzy on the exact details but you get the gist. The test is considered extremely competitive. I believe 2000 students are chosen from the Exam for an in person interview and 500 out of that get the winning spots. The prize is a 4 year undergraduate scholarship that covers tuition. Sweet indeed!

After the written exam, I looked forward to the summer vacation but my friend Sriram would have none of it. He insisted that we discuss various questions and assess our performance. I knew I had done quite poorly. There were so many questions that made me feel like I was all alone on Mars. With twenty minutes to go in the exam, I went into random mode and started guessing answers. There was no penalty for wrong answers, so guessing was a workable strategy.

With the end of summer vacation, I was glad to get back to school and resume normal life. A few days in, while getting ready for the afternoon session, a peon peeked his head into my class and signaled to the teacher. With a series of gestures looking at me and then looking at her, he conveyed the message. The Principal wanted me at the main office immediately.

With a racing heart, compounded by 2 flights of stairs, I staggered into the office. There, sitting at the table was Principal Miss Meenakshi and across him was a balding gentleman, whom I immediately recognized as my father. “What the heck is he doing here”, I gulped. He broke into a smile. That confused me even more.

“Congratulations, GK, your father has brought you good news”, said Miss Meenakshi with her enthusiastic smile. Before I realized it, I came to know that I had secured an interview spot for the NTSE. It was unbelievable. How could that happen? It was a terrible mistake, I thought. But, adrenalin got the better of me and I instantly erased my doubts. My friends were happy for me and I didn’t know how to process that.

The Dosa was hot and the chutney was fresh. A cool breeze blew in as we ate our tiffin at the Woodlands restaurant. Within the hour, I would be appearing for a group interview. A day earlier, my parents and I, accompanied by a close friend of my father, had driven to Madras for the interview.

At a large circular table sat three gentleman and a lady. They were very polite. They asked me about subjects I was taking for ISC. They asked me to cite a habit I was proud of. Without batting an eyelid, I said it was reading the entire newspaper quickly every day, thanks to my grandfathers. The questions came quickly. They asked me about world affairs. They asked me what I thought about India’s role as a non aligned country. I said it was a worthwhile role. They asked me what I wanted to do as a career. I had no doubts that I wanted to be a doctor. There were some topical discussions. The rest is fuzzy.

In a few months, I was the proud recipient of the NTSE scholarship.

To this day, I remain completely clueless as to how I passed the exam. The interview was however a success.

As a not so brilliant performer in college, everyone must have wondered how I became a NTSE scholar. Their guess is as good as mine. It’s the Divine Hand. Or the random answer fills! When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.