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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 24 page 02


student exam paper crossed with large X

Zero Marks

by Ajay Tulsiani

Kamya couldn’t stop smiling. She even giggled a few times. She turned the page and was met with another set of half-complete answers. Moving her hand she marked a big X on each answer.

Her maxim was clear. A half-written answer is equivalent to no answer at all. She pictured the situation when she’d distribute the answer sheets back to the students. They’d come crying to her and beg her to give them some marks, and Kamya didn’t believe in charity.

She marked the fifth zero on the paper and went to the first page where she wrote the total marks the student received in the History paper: 12 out of 50.

“Did a student write some joke?” asked Cathy. “I see you can’t stop smiling.”

Kamya turned to her colleague. Her gaze fell on the stack of greeting cards on Cathy’s table. Similar stacks lay on the tables of other teachers in the staff room.

She walked to Cathy to get a glance at what the cards were for. She picked up the topmost one, a pink card with yellow flowers and “Best Teacher” written at the centre.

“Nice card,” said Kamya. “I received a similar one.”

“Oh really,” replied Cathy, browsing through an answer sheet and putting checkmarks next to answers. “The students must have copied from each other. These kids are experts at copying. I found these cards on my desk this morning. The students must’ve posted them.”

Kamya tossed Cathy’s card back onto the stack then returned to her own seat. She hadn’t received any cards at all. She reasoned it was because this was her first year at teaching. Maybe next year I’ll get some cards, she thought.

The staff room door opened and two students walked in. Kamya arched her eyebrows as the students ran to Cathy.

“Happy Teacher’s Day, Miss Cathy” said Siya.

“What a pleasant surprise!” replied Cathy. “What are you doing here? You should be at home enjoying the vacations.”

“We went to Mahabaleshwar for the vacations and returned last week,” said Siya.

Sitting at her seat, Kamya rested her chin on her raised palm and leaned toward Cathy.

“Teacher, I came here to invite you for the singing competition,” said Siya. “I’ll be singing there. Please come to support me.”

“Congratulations,” replied Cathy. “I’m so proud of you.”

Kamya grinned. It was just a flimsy competition and not some televised event that Siya was so happy for. Kamya had already returned to mark the next answer sheet when Siya walked over to her.

“Good morning, teacher,” said Siya.

Kamya frowned and continued checking the answer sheet.

“Teacher?” asked Siya.

Kamya looked at Siya over her glasses. “I heard you the first time. What do you want and why have you come here?” She looked at the other student, the one who had accompanied Siya and now stood next to Cathy, probably too scared to approach Kamya. This sent warmth through Kamya’s body. She liked people being scared of her.