Somebody was having fever. High fever. High exam fever. It was none other than Lord Ganesha, who lived in the small temple under the arasa tree at the street corner. In the last one week, dozens of boys and girls had assailed him, begging to be promoted to the next class. To help them get through in maths, history, geography, civics. Ooh! How much could a god remember?
Lord Ganesha’s brow began to feel hot and clammy. He felt very feverish. Exam feverish. Something had to be done about this. Fast!
Gangadharan went and wrote VI Std for the third time on the small Pillaiyar temple wall. He did this without his mother Sitamma’s knowledge.
“You cannot pass by writing your class on the temple wall or by promising coconuts to god. You have to study,” Sitamma would yell if she got to know.
Gangadharan or Ganga didn’t care much about being scolded. All he wanted was to pass and go to class seven after all, how could he be separated from his best friends? Wouldn’t he be left behind if he failed? And who wanted to be friends with Nattu and Rangan of class five chee! They still played hand cricket and even did underarm bowling. Shameful!
“Pillaiyar appa, you have been the scribe for Veda Vyasa and written the Mahabharata and all. What is a mere Class VI exam for you? Please make me get 35 on 100. I am not at all greedy I just want to pass. Are you listening?” Ganga asked eagerly, opening one eye to look slyly at the trunk god to see if any of his flattery had had an effect. He was dismayed to find eight other small figures writing I, V, VI, IV and other such class numbers on the wall.
“Dai ! What are you all doing?” Ganga demanded.
“Mmm? Same thing as you were! In fact we got the idea from you, anna,” said the youngest kid in the group.
Ganga had nothing to say to this and so quietly went home to spend the rest of his study holidays wondering how to pass.
“Will you start studying now at least?” asked Sitamma. Since morning Ganga had done nothing but sit at the study table and stare blankly into space.
“Yes, amma. First, I’ll arrange my bookshelf and then I’ll start,” Ganga said. For a full one hour he arranged his books to kill time. When Sitamma was not looking, he played book-cricket and admired his large collection of stickers which he had traded, won and earned by chewing innumerable bubble gums.
An hour later, Sitamma checked on him again to see if he had started his lessons at all. Sure enough, Ganga was still arranging his books.
“Enough of that Ganga, open your book now,” commanded Sitamma.
“Oh! I just remembered that Chakkarai has my maths notebook. I’ll just run across to his house and get it,” said Ganga and scooted before his mother could say anything. By the time Ganga returned, it was time for lunch. After lunch (which consisted of his favourite koottu and thuvayal), Ganga felt so full and satisfied that his eyes started to close slowly and he began to nod. The bed looked cosy and inviting.
“Why does everything seem more pleasurable before the exams? Almost everything seems better than this wretched study table,” he said to himself. He was about to doze off when Sitamma barged into the room angrily.
“Ganga! You have not read a single page since morning. Just what do you think of yourself?” she thundered. Just then, the skies outside rumbled and broke into a sudden summer shower. Ganga jumped up, grabbed an umbrella and ran out. He ran in the direction of the Pillaiyar temple.
“If the VI Std I wrote has not been erased in the rain, then I will surely pass; if not aiyo! No it can’t be erased,” hoped Ganga. Before he got there, eight small figures were already standing with umbrellas outstretched to protect their handwriting on the wall. When they saw Ganga, they all smiled impishly, some a little foolishly.
“Have you all studied anything?”asked Ganga.
“Yes I did,” said Paramasivam of Class V.
“What?” asked Ganga.
“I studied the school pledge and the national anthem. I thought maybe there will be a surprise oral test on that,” Paramu said innocently while the rest of the group laughed.
“What about you da?” Ganga asked Vichchu.
“I don’t have to study, I think I am going to get fever. My head is already spinning,”
said Vichchu very seriously.
“I too am going to get fever and vomit,” said Krishnaswamy of Class I.
“What do you think I can get?” asked Ganga hopefully.
“You are going to get three hard raps on your head,” said a voice from behind, hard as thunder.
The terrified gang of boys turned to see a figure dripping with water from head to toe, with hair scattered all over the face.
“Mother!” Ganga was the first to react.
“Why have you come without an umbrella?”
“Mmmm? Your father has taken one umbrella and you have brought the other. I just
had to find out what you were up to. So all of you are planning to get fever and vomit,
is it?” asked Sitamma angrily.
“So what have you promised to the god?” she asked, looking at Rangan.
“Hundred sit-ups,” he said timidly.
“Three coconuts,” said Kishmu.
“All of you just march behind me. I have something for you,” Sitamma commanded angrily. Everyone obeyed.
Once they reached Ganga’s house, Sitamma made the boys sit in a row and went inside. When she came out, two girls were with her. Both looked like they were in college and they looked alike. Looking at the boys’ wonder, the girls said in unison.
“We are twins. We belong to Padippaal Uyarvu Sangam (progress through education).We are going to help you with your studies and make you all pass with good marks.”
The boys looked at each other skeptically but were glad that help was at hand. They all ran home to fetch their books. Soon everyone began to assemble in Sitamma’s verandah every morning to learn their lessons from the twin sisters.
The sisters placed a huge Ganesha idol in the centre of the group and said, “Look at our Lord Ganesha. He is the embodiment of learning. His ears are so large. It means He listens better and understands better. He is the world’s first scribe. He knows how to write very well mainly because he never writes anything which he does not understand. Look at his trunk which looks like an ink pen, it is full of knowledge. If you know your lessons well, your pen will automatically seem to write better and flow faster. And last but not the least, look at his broken tusk it means you must learn more and munch less!”
Day after day, the sisters drilled and coached the entire group of boys. In fact they did it so well that the boys were actually looking forward to writing their exams. On the day of the examination, the boys did ten sit-ups before Lord Ganesha, wished each other luck and left for the hall accompanied by the sisters. (Vicchu actually had fever (really!), yet he went to take the exam.) When the results came, the boys were exultant. They had all passed with distinctions. There was great jubilation in the air. They bought lots of sweets and went to the Padippaal Uyarvu Sangam to thank the twin sisters. At the Sangam, they asked to see the twin sisters.
“There are no twins working for us. What did you say their names were?” asked the officer.
“Siddhi and Buddhi,” said the boys.
“How strange! There are no twins by those names here!” exclaimed the officer.
The surprised boys went home and told Sitamma about what had happened. Sitamma was totally nonplussed. She looked at the Ganesha in the centre of the hall and then at the boys.
“Boys, did you know that Lord Ganesha’s wives are called Siddhi and Buddhi? Siddhi means successful completion and Buddhi means intelligence. It seems like the trunk god himself sent them to help you with your exams. I am sure they will visit us to find out about your results,” said Sitamma.
The boys were surprised too. But soon their happiness surpassed their surprise and they all ran out to play with sweets in hand. Only Sitamma kept sitting in front of the Ganesha idol not knowing what to make of the entire thing. Was this a mere coincidence or were the twin girls a real godsend?
Can the Chatterbox readers guess?
Ganesha never fails was published in Chatterbox magazine. Incidentally this is my first story ever published for children.