Siddhartha Gunti

The day a middle-class family almost didn’t crack JEE

The year was 2010. I just gave my JEE exam and rushed to watch a movie. When I returned home, my mom told me that they tallied my answers. I got 3/30 correct.

What happened next was a rare sight in our house.

My dad broke down.

It then hit me how much my lower middle-class family counted on me to crack JEE. They hedged all their bets on this one kid. They thought the kid would make it to JEE and the family will move up a class. Suddenly they realised all the battles they fought might result in nothing.

My dad tolerated an abusive job to put food on the table. The work stress that he took made him diabetic and hypertensive.

Home owners knocking on the door on the first day of the month. And my mom not knowing how to delay the rent was a common occurrence. She learnt to be a beautician to aid my dad.

What hit me most was how much they believed in me. I remember my friends' moms advising my mom to be strict with me. “Or else he won’t get into IIT”. I still remember her reply- “he knows what he’s doing”.

I felt I had broken that irrational trust they had in me. The only thing I muttered was, “Sorry”.

Then as the tears dried on my face, I started tallying against the answer sets. Slowly my face changed from sad → smile → anger. I got 29/30 correct.

While I was angry at my parents for checking incorrectly, they were beyond happy for being wrong. I got an estimated JEE rank of <500. (A few months later, the actual rank was 191).

JEE question papers start from set 0, and my parents cross-checked my answers against set 1.

13 years after that incident. My parents have settled in the same city they dreaded every day. They retired and settled down in a house they own.

My mom still works as a beautician at home. Not because the family needs her to. But because she likes to do it.

Back then, we were a family with a negative bank balance and crushing debt. A few months ago- Here’s my happy family as they walked me down the aisle.

I count myself lucky to have such an amazing family. Without them, I wouldn’t be in Singapore, overseeing Marina Bay Sands while I type this note. :)

Their irrational trust in me never fails to surprise me. After IIT, I took up a job at Goldman for a year. Just when they thought I started earning, I told them I would start up and go penniless. Guess what they said?

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