In the hinterland of West Bengal, a large makeshift marquee is swaying mildly in the pleasant spring breeze. Under the shade, hundred chairs have been arranged in neatly formed rows for guests to sit while delectable country chicken meat is cooked on a large pot a few paces from the tent. The occasion marks not an engagement ceremony or marriage of a family member, but to celebrate a remarkable feat, the eldest boy is appearing for board exams. Yes! You heard that right. Rajabh Ali, owner of the house in Bhagawangola, Murshidabad is elated as his eldest boy is appearing for the state board exams, held from March 12-22, 2018. Rajab, employed as a mason, says, “My elder son is appearing for class X exams. The feast is organised for him. I won’t be able to retain my dignity if there is any flaw in arrangement”.
Banquets of this nature are not uncommon in the remote villages of West Bengal. Villages on the periphery of the state and sharing borders with Bangladesh like Lalgola, Bhagawangola, Farakka and Lalbagh have been following this ritual long since. Jahangir Alam, Principal of Lashkarpur Higher secondary School says, “Board examinations create tension among parents and students alike. The feast helps to conceal the fear in the students appearing for the exam.” A similar arrangement was also seen in Lalgola’s Padmapar where Sharjeman Sheikh, owner of a motorbike showroom, organised a grand spread at his house to acknowledge his elder son’s feat. Over 150 guests were invited and treated to sumptuous Biriyani. The parents left no stone unturned to acknowledge the feat achieved by their children and make it known that their offsprings are the first to reach higher secondary.
Rajabh Ali could not cross the threshold of primary school while wife Roopsena Bibi studied till class seven. The eldest son Samim Sheikh is the first member from his family to appear for class X exams. Rajabh was collecting money for this day all along. For this grand event, Rajabh printed invitation cards to send invites to guests. Rajabh, a proud father, said, “Please pray for my son, wish him to be successful.” Children appearing for secondary and higher secondary examinations are lauded by teachers and parents from these parts as Lalgola, Bhagawangola are infamously known for trafficking, heroin or counterfeiting currency. However, a wave of new students from the modern generation are studying hard to change that tainted reputation of their villages. In the last few years, students appearing for secondary examination has increased significantly. This year, 86,333 people are gaining secondary education from Lalgola district. An encouraging 53,196 of them are girls.
According to Jahangir Alam, the students are breaking barriers and redefining borders. Despite the economical and environmental obstacles, the students have braved the difficulties to rise above them. Alam asserted that as much it is difficult for the students it is hard for their parents and the feast will increase their hunger to achieve success in future.