Thursday, May 11, 2017

Exam Fever




I gave my final exams of my school in 1982.

My son will finish his exams in a few days, a gap of 35 years separating our pivotal moment in life.


I fill most of my blogs with events from my life, often exaggerated, and with what I observe around me.

As I watched my son going through the preparatory stages and the actual ordeal of the exams themselves, I was transported to how I handled mine 35 years ago, and I was taken aback at the differences.

Read on.

1982:

The whole year was crammed with non-stop activities by the school to ensure that you always stayed in touch with your subjects and exams.

There were the monthly tests, the surprise tests (that are usually announced a week before 😃), Quarterly exams, half-yearly exams, mock tests and the much awaited “Study Holidays”

In 1982 I did not know the meaning of the word oxymoron, even if someone had mentioned that word, I would have thought it to be a higher grade of a moron, but of all the oxymoron I have come across none is better than Study Holidays!

It was about a month long!

If the year in preparation had been a marathon, this period was a 100 m dash.

And the organisation was quite elementary!

30 days and 6 subjects.

So 5 days to each subject.

The order was not relevant. What mattered was that I covered the first exam subject as the sixth and last during the study holidays.

We studied all day and most nights.

I had an uncle who told me that the early morning was the best time to study. 

My brother told me that late night was the most ideal. Another piece of advice was to stagger the timing.

Study, read some comics, play outside, sleep a little and then study again.

Now I realise that everyone suggested to me what they tried (and failed at)

I remember studying mostly during the nights well into early morning hours.

It had two advantages. No one disturbed you during the night. And if I slept during the day, everyone thought I had studied the previous night.

The state board syllabus and the structure of the examinations tested your ability to rote learn. If you could memorise vast amount of material, and remember to reproduce at the right place within the given time you topped your class, district, state, etc….

Application oriented studies was not common then.

It was hard but not a matter of life and death.

In addition to that I was not distracted by
  • Computers
  • Internet
  • Mobile phone
  • Tablets
  • Whatsapp
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • American and French elections
  • Climate change
  • Cow worship / mafia
  • YouTube
  • Television
  • Twitter

The only two possible distractions were
  • Newspaper
  • Radio

And no one played the Radio in the house when I was studying for the finals.

And newspaper was an enigma! It was bought, kept neatly folded, and at the end of the month sold to an old man who came and collected the papers weighing on a balance that was more crooked than the one the lady in the court holds.

I never understood this enterprise. This was for me a clear charity. Buy at full value, sell at 1/10th after never using the product.

Fast forward to 2017.

Jesus Freaking Christ!

My son withdrew from social life a good 14 months ago.

The family built a home and moved residence and he did not even know. For him it was simply he slept at residence A on 28th and residence B on 29th.

Usually miserly in conversations, he became more miserly.

Words replaced sentences, mumbling sounds replaced words, gestures replaced mumbling sounds, a glance replaced gestures and suddenly like the cat in Alice in Wonderland, he was just present for a while and retreated to his kingdom.

His room resembled a minefield. You were scared to enter lest you disturb something, and having entered you had to navigate your way, as if on a minefield, through the mere 5 meters from the door to his study corner.

You usually scared him, as he was always with his headphones on.

It was nerve wrecking to sit in the hall and listen to various sounds that emanated from behind his closed doors.

  • Thud.
  • Curse
  • Shriek.
  • Footsteps.
  • Loud Noises.
  • Long monologues.
  • Metronomic banging (what against what was never clear)
  • And the worst sound of them all
  • ………………..silence.

He finished talking to his family and relatives on the Christmas Day in 2016.

Being an art student, there was nothing one could do to help him. His syllabus was strange and his methods stranger.

And the school, which made me doubt if they were actually licensed to teach in all the preceding years, suddenly appeared to have tightened up as if to make up for the lax displayed before.

I initially did not mind much, thinking this could be the difference between Europe and India.

One day he showed me his program.

It was more a pogrom.

The regular readers of mine have always blamed me for exaggerating.

Look at this.

And it is not a typo showing two breakfast. It was two breakfasts. Lunch consumes more time. Sorry. No time.

Most days unfolded like this.

A tentative knock, a pause, peek into the room and “ hello, could we talk for a minute?”

A startled look, nearly having jumped from his seat, and a vigorous shake of his head accompanied with frantic gestures and a “later, during the break” with a dismissive head nod or a hand chop.

We are so used to having someone loiter in the house, stamp around, move from one room to another, switch on lights, soliloquise and wake you up at closer to four in the morning to tell you to wake him at 0930, that once he leaves for his university we would not even stir if a band of burglars broke into our home.

The breaks mentioned in the pogrom were filled with multitasking.

Laptop open on facebook, with seven message windows popped up, food plate in front of him, music on his headphones and either the Guardian and John Oliver on his mobile.

The silver lining to this dark cloud is “I will come biking/trekking with you once the exams are over”

Which is three days away.


But, in all probability, I would need to start with introducing myself.

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