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Student, 74, fails to make the grade again

For Shiv Charan, taking exams is nothing less than a ritual. Every year he enters the examination for school-leavers, every year he fails and every year he vows to come back and try again. At the age of 74, he may be the world's worst student but he is certainly its most persistent.

Mr Charan, from a village in Rajasthan, is apparently inspired to continue not just for the reward of seeing the matter through to the end but by a vow he made only to marry once he successfully completes the test. He has specified he only wants a bride under the age of 30.

"It is not in my nature to change. I will fulfil my commitment and continue taking the exams until I pass, no matter how long it takes," he said after learning recently that he had failed again. "Success is not merely about clearing the examinations. It will also throw open the doors of marriage."

Somewhat suprisingly, Mr Charan has a private tutor to help him with his maths, English, science and Sanskrit. Even more suprisingly, he has employed the same tutor since 1997 and stuck with him. But now even the tutor, Mehtab Singh, believes Mr Charan's chances are fading. "I feel his IQ level has gone down owing to his old age," he said.