It is that confusing time of the year. The heat leaves you exhausted when you return from work. Yet, you are hesitant to pack off the thin blankets as there is still the nip in the air in the late evenings. And you toss and turn all night — waiting for it to turn into a more respectable hour when you can wake up. But then you realise that it is not the weather, but the board exam fever which is keeping you awake. Incidentally, I am not the examinee, but a parent who is having to endure the board exam.
The examinees of this generation, of course, are another category altogether. Calm, composed and clueless about the pressure. Because what you score in a board exam has ceased to matter at all. And like me, if you have been ingrained with the notion by your own parents that you have to score ‘cent percent’, God help you.
The first flutters arrive when you catch the young lad studiously poring through Organic Chemistry two days before a Hindi exam. You can’t even yell at him, because he is not whiling his time away, but seemingly enjoying a YouTube video where someone is teaching some complex chemical structures. But why! — you ask helplessly. “Because Bua, Hindi is so boring, and this seems much more interesting.” Now how does one counter that?
For this generation, Physics, Chemistry and Maths constitute the staple diet which needs to be chewed and digested. The remaining subjects, especially languages, are treated with perfunctory disdain. A few weeks ago, palpitations set in, on knowing that he hasn’t even skimmed through the language textbooks once. I’m trying to figure out his thought processes, when I find out that he’s planning to sail through the exam by doing grammar, essays, letter writing and comprehension of the unseen passages, without reading through any of the recommended texts! Panic sets in. My calm disappears. All that bottled up pressure dissipates in a furore. How can you! Just you wait!
Finally we compromise on a schedule which ends up with me reading out four chapters like stories, at breakfast, lunch and dinner, so that he at least knows what the question papers are referring to. The first paper arrives. I’m more nervous about metonymy, alliterations, metaphors, paradoxes and similes than he is. He comes back saying he didn’t bother even trying to attempt the two mark question on creativity. “Writing poems is not my cup of tea,” he proclaims calmly. I gulp down my disappointment quietly. One more language paper to go. The rest of course, is not my responsibility and he will clear them in his sleep.
On the morning of the exam, I discover that he’s decided not to attempt a four-mark question which involves writing Hindi terms for technical and legal words in English. Such as: typewriter, keyboard, management, fossils, genetics etc. It is another matter that hardly anyone uses them. “Cramming is not my idea of learning, and I’m not doing this,” he declares. But like the clucking mother hen, I insist it is possible. So over omelette and toast, I run through the list, trying to create mnemonics which will help him remember. The Hindi for supervisor is ‘paryavekshak‘ and I’m conjuring up images of a guy doing parikrama in the exam hall with shak (suspicion) on his mind about people copying. ‘Notification’ is translated as ‘adhisoochna‘ and I tell him how notifications are half (aadhi) information (soochna) which you need to click further to access the complete information. I invoke images of a ‘magistrate’ holding a stick (danda) as he is called ‘dandaadhikari‘. I also tell him for final measure, that given my past experience, whatever I teach him this morning will definitely appear in the question paper.
He returns from the exam to tell me he did well. “I left a four mark question as I didn’t have time,” he follows nonchalantly while I almost have a frothing fit, “Since I felt I needed to explain that Rahim couplet better, I wrote a one page treatise on it.” But that was just a two mark question! No point arguing now. “But you know Bua, I wrote that question on the Hindi term for ‘notification’ that you taught me,” he says triumphantly, “I wrote adhisamachar — remember, half news?” You should have seen my face crumble.