Sunday, May 19, 2013

Where is my Prize?

In order to encourage youngsters to do well in various activities, promises are made of giving a prize or a gift when the task is achieved.  Such promises are made with good intentions and motivates the child or youngster to achieve the set goal.  The value of the gift or prize in monetary terms may not be high, but the offer drives them to work harder and accomplish the proposed task.  In course of time, the one who offered the prize or gift may forget it, but the one motivated by the offer fondly remembers and looks forward to receiving it.

Fifty years ago, "School Day" functions were simple affairs and held without much fanfare.  There was no habit of conducting such functions in primary schools as is the practice now.  Pre-primary and kindergarten schools were not in existence then.  Middle schools (fifth to seventh or eighth year of education) were the earliest times when a student got the first taste of a celebration.  Inviting parents to such functions was also not done as most of the parents were illiterate and kept a distance from the academic activities.  There was no system of collecting contributions and spending money as most of the students and their parents could not contribute for organising and conducting a function.  This was all the more true in small centers.  The function would often be held below the tree in the school compound and in broad daylight.  There was no place for artificial decorations and multicolor electrical lights.  Many towns and villages did not even have electricity supply.  There were no expensive tailors designated for stitching special dresses for student activities like dance or plays.  A well-known person in the village or town would be invited as the chief guest.  One or two patriotic songs from a teacher or students represented cultural activities.  There would be speeches from the chief guest and head master.  The content of the speeches was also generally the same; to exhort the students to study well and get good marks in the forthcoming examination.

One such "Annual Day" function was held in the middle school of a small town some five decades ago.  A leading merchant of the town was invited as the chief guest.  He was respected for two reasons; his literary knowledge and philanthropy.  He owned a shop selling silverware and gold ornaments.  He was known to help poor students discreetly.  He was also liberal in giving donations for various social causes.  The annual day function went on as usual and when his turn came to speak, he urged the students to do well in the forthcoming examination.  The headmaster in his speech had informed that there will be a taluk level examination for the seventh standard students. The chief guest stated that the student securing the highest marks in the examination will be given a prize by him.  The function ended on a high note with this promise.

One of the students present in the function went to the head master on the next day.  He had a query to ask.  Was the proposed prize to be given to the student getting the highest marks in the entire taluk or was it for the student getting the highest marks from this school?  The head master had not applied his mind on this issue.  The boy's argument was that as the announcement was made in the function of this school, it should be for the student of this school.  The head master told the boy that he would inquire about it from the chief guest and clarify later.  The matter stood there.

The examinations concluded followed by the six weeks summer holidays.  The results arrived on the day of reopening of the school.  The boy who had raised the question had secured the first position for the school as well as for the taluk itself.  The issue was now clear for him; he was to get the prize.  As he had to move to a high school, he obtained the TC (transfer certificate) and got admitted there.  Whenever he passed in the vicinity of his old school, he would go to the head master and ask when the prize would be given away.  The head master would tell him that he had not yet heard from the merchant and would let the boy know in due course.  This went on for about six months.  The head master got fed up and finally told the boy that it was better for himself to go to the merchant and ask him.  The boy went near shop several times but did not have the courage to ask the elderly man.

Finally, one evening the boy went inside the shop and greeted the Seth sitting in his shop.  The Seth returned the greetings and asked the boy what he wanted to buy.  The boy reminded the merchant about the school day function and his promise to give a prize to a student securing the highest marks.  He also said that the Seth can verify from the head master about his securing the highest marks in the examination.  "No, I do not need to check your statement.  I trust your statement and your perseverance in waiting and coming to me.  I am glad you prevented me from failing in one of my duties.  You will get your prize tomorrow.  Come to the school tomorrow morning", he said.

When the boy went to the school next morning, Seth was siting with the head Master.  A silver cup with appropriate engraving on it was ready and the prize was given away after the morning prayer.  The Seth offered another prize for a student for the next year and smilingly said that he would not forget the offer this time!  The boy himself offered prizes to young students later on in his life and did not forget his offers either.           


  1. Wonderfull article , expected from you as usual.


  2. Very nicely narrated. It reminded me of my school days and receiving such prizes and feeling elated

    Dr. Prashanth

  3. This is very nice ending .In one similar incident in Lagos there was a lucky draw and winner would get free return ticket to Indbia as announced by one travel agent .but the travel agent refused to give the ticket to the person who won the lucky draw see the fate