Ordeal of an Examination
When the store
was closed the question arose: what next? A candidate successful in the sixth standard
examination would be eligible to become a teacher. A person had to be seventeen years of
age to sit for that examination. The examination centers were in Bombay and Satara, far
away from Dhondu's village. Going to Bombay meant a journey on the sea. To go to
Satara, the Sahyadri Mountains had to be crossed. So to attend that examination one had to
sail on the sea or cross the mountain!
It was the time of the examination. It was the rainy season
and so ships did not ply. Dhondu and the other students thought over the problem of their
journey. Finally they decided to go to Satara. There were no cars or buses at that time.
The journey had to be made on foot. Four days before the examination they slung their
baggage on their shoulders and started on foot. They had to walk one hundred and fifty
miles in the rainy season. On the first day they covered thirty miles. Eating and resting
on the way, they reached a town called Patan. From Patan to Satara it was
fifty-four miles. By a short cut it was eighteen miles. But the journey by the shorter
route was very difficult. The examination was to commence the next day. Therefore the boys
chose the shorter route. They missed the way. Darkness fell. They rested in shepherds'
colony. Next day they ascertained the route and continued their journey. It was five in
the afternoon when they reached Satara! A large number of students were taking the
examination that year; so the registration of the names took up the entire day. The
examination was therefore postponed by a day. The hopes of Dhondu and his classmates rose
again. The Chairman of the Examination Committee noted down the names of the other
students. But when he saw the short, lean Dhondu, he said, "you are not yet seventeen
years old. You are lying about your age. You cannot take the examination."
The interview was over; for Dhondu, only disappointment was
in store. He had walked a hundred and fifty miles - and it was all useless. Although he
was seventeen the officer had pushed him aside saying: 'You are not yet seventeen.
Dhondu sat for the examination next year from Kolhapur
center and was successful.
By then Dhondu was also married. When he married Radhabai,
he was only fifteen years old! In those days child marriage was common.