imagesOf the several things that you are born with, one is your surname.

Like your hair colour, eye colour, you are born with a nametag that labels you- right from the time you are a newborn in a hospital cot, to being a toddler in playschool to a teenager in high school, your surname stays with you. In most cases, like your hair colour you cannot change your surname until you are an adult. So whether you like it or not, you are stuck with a tag.

Well, sometimes this tag can be a bit cumbersome…

Only someone who goes through life with a surname that begins with A knows the pain, the trials and tribulations that go with being Roll number one.

Yes, all through school and college, this ‘A’ makes you the first one to be called, the first one to answer, the first one to respond. If you have always been NUMERO UNO, read on because

One is such a lonely number.


Here are some pains that one has to suffer being a Roll number 1:

  • It starts with simple things like attendance in class. You can never daydream or sleep like your classmates. You are always on high alert, because who knows when the teacher will call out your name! ‘ROLL NUMER ONEEEEEEE?’ the teacher calls out. Yes, that is YOU!
  • For everything- from poetry recitation in primary school to submission of work in college, you are always the first- the first to go up in front of the class, the first one providing entertainment to the class….while your classmates relax knowing their turn may never come if the bell rings or they can do it for next time or because they just have more time to prepare and can take hints, tips and lessons from your mistakes!
  • Your exam paper is always the first to be snatched away by the exam invigilator…everyone else gets a few more micro minutes to write a few more words, check a few more lines, recheck if the roll number is in place, tie the pages. But never You. You have no such liberties.

But looking at the positive side, you always get the question paper first.

  • You are always the first one for VIVA / Oral exams…always the first ‘bakra’ or sacrificial goat. You have no idea who the examiner is, what their favourite questions are. …Nothing. You just go in bravely and find out for your classmates who pounce on you the second you exit the exam room. They just hound you to find out what the examiner asked you, what specimens were on the examining table and so on. Again the positive side to this is that the examiner’s mind is completely fresh, when YOU, the courageous Roll number 1, goes in there to open the match. It’s like our openers, the first ones to bat. The examiner usually begin by asking basic questions for roll number one; maybe a few difficult ones and even when you answer the easy ones, they nod their heads as if impressed. As the day passes by and more people enter and exit the VIVA room, the questions get tougher as the examiner gets more and more irritable. But not for you. For all your bravery at entering the dreaded room, the reward is a little leniency, a little sympathy… c’mon let face it…it is a plus in a way!
  • Everyone knows you are Roll number one, so when results are put on a notice board and its no names, just numbers, you are never Miss/Mr. Anonymous. Everyone knows that the one at the top is YOU… you just cannot hide your marks. The others can blissfully escape this disclosure! Not fair!
  • You always envy the “J’s, ‘M’s and ‘Z’s and wish you had a surname that didn’t begin with ‘A’…. Must be so stress free in the middle, away from the glaring lights and the constant spot light on poor you, the number 1!
  • When they assign you partners for lab work or a project, you always get teamed up with Roll number 2. Always. There are no options, no other combinations…it is always with the same person, through out the year. But the others who are in the middle always get a nice jumbled mix. So a ‘J’ gets to be with ‘K’ at some times or with an ‘H’ at other times. They make more friends just by virtue of their roll number!
  • After marriage if you do change your surname to your husband’s, one of the things you secretly thank is that it doesn’t begin with ‘A’. Unless of course you end up marrying roll number 2!!

To be fair, there are a few advantages to being Roll number 1:

  • You can never forget your roll number: yes, it will always be 1 or sometimes 2 or 3. But if you are in the same institution, it will be the same and you will always remember it.
  • After vivas/ oral, you feel like a mini celebrity when your classmates gather around you to hound you for the list of questions and specimens. You cannot help but bask in this attention!
  • You always get to sit right in front, straight under the examiner’s nose, so you can ask for extra sheets from the comfort of your front row which is always the airiest seat in the whole class.
  • YOU are always the first to finish the orals/vivas. You can relax while your classmates get increasingly nervous with the exam tension building up as the numbers roll by.
  • People will always remember you…. yes, when your class is planning a reunion after 40 years and trying to collect people by roll number, no one will forget YOU. You can be sure of that!
  • If you are good at studies and you are Roll number 1, the VIVA examiner expects everyone else to be like you…. so poor roll number 2 suffers as a result and so do others…this is a very subtle, finer point…. only roll number 1 or 2 can comprehend this one!
  • The best part of being roll number is being a TREND SETTER.

Yes, whatever you do, the others will copy.

Seriously! For instance for attendance roll call, when you answer ‘yes, Madam’…others say ‘yes, madam’!

You say ‘Present Ma’am!’ in an enthusiastic, loud voice, you can be sure the whole class will pour in all their energy into declaring ‘Present Ma’am!’ It’s fun and it’s true, if you are Roll number 1,  YOU are the pioneer in more ways than you know!

Instead of complaining and wallowing in self-pity at being ROLL NUMBER 1, YOU the numero uno, should enjoy the adulation and attention that comes with being right at the top. Remember, YOU are the show stopper, the opening batsman, the person who goes where no one has gone before…

So what if your grades are not always A or your rank is not always number 1, everyone knows that by virtue of being the first to be go into dangerous territory, by being the first to enter the portals of vulnerability, YOU have conquered the fears that your peers have no idea of.

YOU, roll number one, are the TRAIL Blazer.

The others merely follow…





  1. My mom was a genius! After considering how my roll number would effect my life she named me starting with a B. She thought I wouldn’t have to be the first one to face a viva examiner and at the same time I could go home early as I would be finishing those viva in the first set!!

    Haha and guess what happened. My 10th grade teacher screwed up my name with passport initials as I was attending my boards from Bahrain. And in all my records I became K S Bilna…and the college viva I ended up to be the last one on first day!!!!!!!!!
    Hihi too clever mom! She felt so bad about it!


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