Monday, March 26, 2012

Drabbling About Exams


I finally managed to get the ghost called SSLC out of my house. Well, not completely, seeing that the results are to come in May. And looking back on ten (twelve?) years of slogging, I feel as if the weight of the sky has been lifted off my shoulders. And I'm bracing myself for the 'more to come' part.

However, I'm enjoying the present, before I'm packed off to Plus One this June. One full month of pure bliss: ice-creams and sleep. And of course, storybooks. My poor darlings have been neglected for a long time... and four new ones are waiting to be rescued from my mom's ultra-secure wardrobe.

Then back to the results in May, the subsequent hungama of admissions, blah, blah, blah.

Won't. Think. About. It.

Enough of the rambling. Now, the SSLC exams provided a lot of stuff for me to brood on like adults' general attitude towards the exams, how students face it and so on. My observations inspired me to write a few drabbles - really brief works of fiction (or in this case, fictionalized reality). This is my first attempt at 'drabbling' and I hope you like it.
She had, until the eve of D-day, managed to keep her cool.

But then the phone wouldn't stop ringing. Even the doorbell. And as the number of posts on her Facebook wall skyrocketed, her heart raced.

Nosy neighbours. Relatives she didn't even know existed. The local greengrocer. She lost track of the number of "All the best!" she had received.

They meant well, she knew, but where were they during her 9th standard Annual Exams?

"My pens were blessed by the priest of the temple near my house!"
"Oh yeah? Mine was blessed at Mookambika."

As they fought over whose pen was more blessed, the bell rang. The question papers awaited them in the exam halls. The aura of blessing evaporated  from their faces in the sweltering heat.

Art has no survival value, but rather it is one of the things which give value to survival. - C.S Lewis

Then, wasn't writing exams the opposite of art? It determined their survival in this madhouse of mark-obsessed parents, school managements and recruiters. It determined whether they'd be able to keep their sanity or lose it in the Labyrinth of career choices.

But it certainly, definitely, did not make surviving worthwhile.

Option A? Option B?

Must be B, seems logical! Even A seems possible. Choose B. Strike it off! A is the answer!
Her mind went back and forth between the choices like a clock's pendulum, even as the Titan watch on her hand ("You need to pace your writing, dear!") ticked away like a time bomb.

Her head was spinning in circles, triangles and cyclic quadrilaterals.

Formulas and proofs raced in her mind at the speed of light - no, that's physics, moron, focus on the question - and flowed through her veins instead of blood. Her hand was numb with writing out all that her mother had drilled into her head the past month.

Five minutes later she gave up the paper in relief, trying to gather the energy that had drained out of her in the past two and a half hours just like the blue ink out of her ball-point pen.

Though the final bell had rung, their exam wasn't over. They had yet to cross examine what went wrong and what didn't. Where did the marks die and how? Analyze what led to the death, prepare a report and then present it to the all-powerful jury of two members - their parents.

But could a dead exam return to life?

As soon as the bell rang, she ran.

She ran like the wind, scattering her worries and troubles away like fallen leaves. She left behind the hours of tensed revising, the 'tactics for saving time' lectures from her mother, the confidence-boosting quotes on the Post-Its, the countdown until this day.... the day she'd been waiting for. The last day.

Who said Independence day was August 15th???

Her parents sacrificed their sleep. Her sister sacrificed her time for watching Phineas and Ferb. Her brother sacrificed his hobby of listening rock music at full volume. Her grandma even sacrificed her 24/7 ritual of nagging.

She, of course, took it for granted.

But when the housemaid braved a crippling backache and came on time so that she wouldn't have to write the exams on an empty stomach, her throat choked up in gratitude.

She wasn't her anymore.

She wasn't the apple of her parents' eyes. She wasn't that girl who'd read anything she got on her hands, be it a railway timetable or a torn newspaper. She wasn't the girl who loved country music. She wasn't the 'nerd' who watched quiz shows on TV, instead of the dragged-out soap operas.

She was the girl with a new identity: That girl with 9 A+ and an A.