He and I were both in the same section in the same school, in class XI. We were both studying Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics as the main subjects, besides English and Punjabi as the the auxiliary ones. Both of us were also coached by private tutors, in order to prepare us for entrance examinations for engineering courses. We even lived in the same sector in Chandigarh.
However, his father worked for the government and mine for a private company. They had their own house and we lived in rented accomodation. My father owned a beat-up, second-hand car, while his had a spanking new model. I used to go to school on a bicycle and he had a motor-bike. I asked my parents for money only when I had to buy something essential, while he used to get a lavish allowance. His father obviously managed to earn some 'extra income', being a highly-ranked official involved with granting permits, licences, etc., for which he was said to charge a certain 'fee' from those whom he 'obliged' with his signature and official rubber-stamp.
Still, my class-fellow and I were friends and visited each other's homes often, after school. We were part of the same gang and often hung out together, along with all the other guys, or went to the movies, trips to the Sukhna Lake, etc.
Two years went by, almost in a flash, and soon it was time to appear for the various competitive examinations. Over these couple of years, I realised that although I had taken up the subjects that I had, I did not really have a head for calculus or trigonometry, which was reflected in my below-average scores. Anyhow, I decided to appear for the Combined Entrance Test for admission to engineering and architechture courses in Punjab and Chandigarh (which is a Union Territory, even though it is the capital of the states of Haryana and Punjab). I was placed around 10,000 among approximately 16,000 candidates. Since there were only about 2500 seats available in all, I saw no point in filling in the admission forms.
So, I was obviously surprised when I found him filling up an admission form, even as he had been ranked around 10,500. When I asked him about it, he said his father had told him to do so and he was complying with that. It was only later that I learnt that he had been admitted to the best architecture college i.e. the one at Punjab University, Chandigarh, in the reserved quota, because he belonged to one of the Scheduled Castes.
Later, when I had earned a B.A. degree from a local college and was to leave for Indore in the state of Madhya Pradesh to pursue an M.B.A., he was in the second year of his course, having finally cleared the first year examinations after several failed attempts. It was too bad that there was no reserved quota that could have helped him clear his B.Arch. examinations, as there would have been for promotions in the (reserved) government job that would have been waiting for him as soon as he graduated, so as to ensure that he retires as a high-ranking government official!
I am reminded of all this whenever I read a news report about some politician having made a statement against the directive issued by the Supreme Court of India for excluding the 'creamy layer' i.e. the economically well-off among the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Castes from reservations in admissions to courses of higher education as well as selections for government jobs and promotions while serving therein.