Archive for December, 2007

Exam Traditions and stories

Exams seem to be the only constant for me now. I have written them in Calcutta, Madras, Bangalore, Bombay and now, in Madison. So, not surprisingly, when I should be busy pondering over state transition matrices and observability and all, I am reminiscing about Exam traditions and Exam superstitions that I have had for such a long time….

Two particularly longstanding memories of exams during school (the non-board one’s), are amma shouting, exactly, bang, as the clock strikes six,”Kaushik, Vidya, come home, you have to study”. Thankfully, amma and appa, unlike many other parents, decided that our study productivity can be maximized if we are allowed to play in the evening. Often times, only the two of us would be playing by ourselves in the evenings just before the exam. 6PM was the hard deadline. And the memory remains.

The other lasting memory was of the morning of the exam. Both of us (without amma compelling us) would wake up at 6AM, and start the final revision. We chose to do it, sitting right at the entrance of our kitchen, studying by the light thrown off from the kitchen bulb, as amma would be preparing tea and breakfast for us. Appa, named us the ‘dwarapalakas’ (I think it means guards) of the kitchen. I had a peculiar revision schedule too. The previous night, I will have made a sample question paper, complete with all marks assigned to the questions and all, and the next day, I would solve it. Amma, would in the mean time, be throwing questions at Vidya. But, the whole revision thing, would last only for an hour or so, after which we will start chatting useless stuff.

A fetish I had during school was to see how much ink I consumed during the exams. I will dutifully mark two pens, one for studying before the exam, and the one for writing them. After the end of the examination, will mark the place till which the ink got over and all.

Appa’s theory about preparations always involved watching lots of T.V. the day before the exam. He totally hated the last minute preparation thingy, and used to motivate us to remain calm and enjoy the day before the exams, by recounting stories of going to cinemas to watch the night show before his college exams. Evenings before exams, for us was mostly studying till Appa came back home, and then watching Tamil movie of Sun TV till sleep overtook us. The extreme case of such fun was the day before the Social Sciences board exam ( I don’t remember if it was my SST exam or Vidya’s), we watched a full movie (Pre 2003/4 CBSE 10th SST exams were everyone’s nightmare).

Another interesting story involved the 12th Standard Math exam. It was on the 2nd day of the epic VVS Laxman 281, India-Australia test match. On the first day, Shriram had come to my home for joint studies. The whole day was an exercise in concentration, as TV’s all around us was in it maximum volume. Appa and Vidya would switch it on periodically to follow the score. And, when Bhajji took that hat-trick, the whole of Calcutta erupted, and that was that for our concentration. On the eventful 4th day, when VVS and Dravid, bat through the day, there was not much hope. As we drove to the exam, the wager was if the match would still be alive, after we finish our hindi exam. But, the events that day was so magical on the ground, I woke up all night to see the ball-by-ball highlights of the match, and spent the next day see India win, sending my Chemistry boards to the back-bench.

I don’t recall having any exam superstition in School, except for the pen fetish.

College exams were completely different. Anshu and I had formally made a superstition, and we were steadfast in sticking to that. It begins by me buying a foot-long scale (note that I never used it any exam). Anshu would remind me, if don’t buy that. It was exam-tradition. It would then start with me taking a shower before him, and arriving in the mess at exactly 12 noon. After lunch, we would walk to the mandir right outside college, and pray for a smooth paper, and then loiter all around college, making sure we do not answer any question related to the exam to anyone. After the exam, I would wait (I always finished in 2 hrs) for Anshu to come, and we will go and pay a visit to the temple again, to thank all the Gods (or curse them). The fetish for me was of wearing formals for the exams.

There are a lot of memories associated with VTU exams. I remember the day in my second semester, because of the packed schedule due to my carry-over exams from the first semester, I was too tired to study for my Computer and programing basics paper. I told Anshu, that I will ‘Bunk’ the test and write it in the following semester. Anshu, talked me out of it, by teaching the course to me, over cold coffee’s and sandwiches in DL (the dhaba outside college).

VTU, in its infinite wisdom, gave a month of holidays before the exams for studying. And, having so much time to spare, it was more of just holidays rather than study holidays. There would be plans for movies, dinners and rented movies and daroo parties etc etc. But the lasting memory, was the F.R.I.E.D.S. watching spree in the third year. It was like, we study (or pretend to) for 15 minutes, and then watch (and later revise) an episode of friends. We (by which I mean my entire wing) saw most of the 8-9 seasons that were available then, in less than 10-12 days (with 15 minute spurts of serious studying in between as well).

By the time, we came to the final year, exams had lost their reverence. When even the weakest student in college realized that even Kunal Kolhi with an I.Q. of -140 (see his movies, I rest my case)cannot flunk VTU exams, studying was just another way of having fun. In the final year, most of the Hostel Chemical junta would assemble in one room, and each of us will take turn to read a page out of the S.I.T. notes, and that was the preparation.

By the time, I came to I.I.T, I was a veteran of exams (we actually celebrated the 50th VTU exam that we wrote). But, I remember, the tough day, that I had in 2006 spring exams in april, because I did not wear formals to it (cannot pull that off in the April Mumbai heat). But, apart from that, IIT days saw the daily quota of movies to be watched before the exams increase from 1 to 2. It would mean, the late night aloo-paratha and tea, followed by a length discussion on World politics and science and technology and india and other such arbitrary junk with Bhatta and Haddi, and it would mean, sleeping at 5AM and making it, groggy eyed to the test at 9AM, and sleep the whole day off after the test.

And now, this is the first end-terms for me in Madison. I think, it may as well be defined by blogging, although I managed a couple of movies in the weekend, I spent most of the time reading blogs.

The time for the exam is today is right now. I sign off, with the mental count that after todays exam, I will have at max 10 more end terms before I am done with all the exams I ever write in my life…..