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Story time: The Spelling Bee

November 24, 2012

Hina and Sarah studied in class 7. They were both very intelligent and hard working girls but unfortunately, they were also fierce rivals. Sarah was the daughter of the school principal, Madam Zuhra. Hina and her friends always felt that teachers showed favouritism towards Sarah because of this relationship.

Whenever a teacher praised Sarah’s work, Hina felt that they were being nice to Sarah because of Madam Zuhra. When Sarah got a role in school play, the girls would whisper among themselves that she was chosen because teachers could not leave out the principal’s daughter. Hence, they were quite resentful and rude to the other girl. Sarah was a quiet and reserved person so others thought that she was proud and arrogant. Hence there was a lot of resentment and bad feeling in the class.

One day, an exciting announcement was made during the assembly. It was time for Dawn’s Spelling Bee and girls from each age group were going to be chosen to represent the school in this prestigious competition.

It was a matter of great honour and all the girls were very excited. Hina was determined to be chosen from her class. After days of preparation, trials were held. To Hina’s great dismay, Sarah was selected from their class. The other members of the team were two senior girls.

That day, Hina went home in a very bad temper. She did not eat lunch and emerged from her room only when her father came home in the evening.

“What’s wrong, Hina? Are you feeling well?” he asked.

“It’s just not fair. I should have been the one chosen. I worked so hard and spent so much time preparing. It’s not right that she gets selected every time,” Hina said vehemently.

When her father came to know the whole story, he looked very thoughtful.

“Hina, no school will risk its reputation for such an important nationwide event. I am sure your teachers selected the best girls.

Spelling Bee is not about memorising spellings of a bunch of words. Spelling Bee is also about handling stage fright, facing pressure and holding your nerve when all eyes and ears are focused on you.”

“But…” Hina tried to interrupt but her father held up his hand, “I have been listening to you, my dear. Instead of a mature girl, you sounded like a very spoiled person and a bad loser. Trials were held to give everyone a fair chance. You should accept the teachers’ decision and move on. Work harder next time and who knows what the future holds.”

Hina could not argue with her father. She ate her dinner in silence, but she was not ready to accept that Sarah might be better than her.

“I won’t cheer for her. Even when she gives a right answer, I won’t clap for her.” With these mutinous thoughts, she went to sleep.

On the day of the competition, some girls were selected to go with the teachers to see the exciting spelling contest. There was a sense of great anticipation in the air as the teams took to the stage to wait for their turn. The auditorium was cool and dim while the lights were focused on the nervous contestants.

And then the competition started! Heart pumping, pulse racing, each contestant faced the judges and tried to spell the words.

Those who answered correctly moved to the next stages. Those who could not get it right got eliminated one by one. It was a spellbinding competition and the audience cheered and clapped for the winners.

Hina could not remain aloof for long. Caught by the spirit of the competition, she too cheered and clapped but not for Sarah. As losing contestants got eliminated, only Sarah and two participants from other schools were left to battle out for the ultimate victory. The words became more and more difficult and the pressure on the contenders was immense.

Hina had to acknowledge that she did not even recognise many of the words that Sarah spelled correctly. Seeing Sarah on the stage, facing the judges calmly and confidently, made Hina realise how much effort the other girl had put into her preparation.

Here there was no favouritism, no bias. Only sheer hard work could have brought Sarah this far.

Suddenly, Hina felt very ashamed of her petty behaviour. She realised how she had misjudged the other girl and had also stopped her friends from being nice to Sarah. She began to pray for Sarah’s victory and cheered and clapped wildly whenever Sarah answered correctly.

The competition seemed to go on forever, but finally it was Sarah who emerged the winner. The girls went wild. They hugged each other and clapped and cheered as loudly as they could.

When Sarah was asked to say a few words, the humble girl gave all the credit to her parents and teachers who had always encouraged her and helped her. There was no sign of any arrogance or pride in her, but she was very happy to have won such laurels for her school.

As the teachers congratulated Sarah, Hina also went up to her and hugged her hard. Sarah seemed rather surprised at this. “You were outstanding, Sarah. Well done!”

“Thanks! I didn’t expect congrats from you,” Sarah seemed more amazed by Hina’s words than her victory.

“I am sorry for being so rude before, Sarah. I hope you can forgive me. I always assumed that you were teacher’s pet because you are Madam Zuhra’s daughter. But you proved me wrong,” Hina said apologetically.

“I know what you girls thought. I always had to put in extra effort so that no one can say I do well in school because of my mother. Well, the hard work paid off today,” she said smilingly. “Friends?”

“You bet,” said Hina laughingly and linked her arm with the stellar speller.