TYPES OF PEOPLE BEFORE AN EXAMINATION

The two-hour wait prior to writing an exam is an exam in itself. One always mentally prepares oneself for writing an exam, but it’s these two hours before, that also need preparation. What should one do to perfectly optimise this waiting period? As students assemble outside the examination hall, they lose all composure and dissolve into their animalistic selves, depicting the peculiar ways in which they respond to stress.

Here is a categorization of the different kinds of students one can find in the wait before the exam.

 

THE LONE GENIUS

It isn’t easy to find this person before an exam. They cannot be found amongst the masses. This person finds a quiet, secluded place away from the rest, and revises systematically and methodically. They typically have with them notes that summarise the entire syllabus to simplify their revision.  This allows them to dodge the anxiety and panic in the air, and attain the ideal headspace to write an exam. ‘A clear, cool, calm, confident mindset’- the telos of every student, attainable only by these perfectionists in time management, who stun everyone with their brilliance. They walk into the exam hall with a reassuring smile to themselves and walk out with a satisfied one. If their revision calls for some discussion, then they discuss the paper only with the other students who fall under this category. Within this elite group of intellectuals, they engage in healthy competition.

When the average student first opens their books to begin studying, they envision themselves becoming this person. Only a handful succeed.

 

THE PANIC INDUCER

It is advisable to avoid these people before the exam. On their arrival, they instantaneously impart their nervousness to all those around them. Their mission is to donate their excessive panic to a minimum of ten people, else they cannot sit for the exam. They run around with their arms flailing, yelling out questions and answers in an attempt to revise. A conversation with them results in one doubting whether they have studied at all. With a bundle of the previous ten-year question papers in one hand and a guide book in the other, they notify the other students of their conviction that this year’s paper will be the hardest one yet. In addition to this, they also impart other poorly sourced rumours of corrections being stricter, a sudden addition to the syllabus (unheard of till that moment), and a change in the question paper pattern. These unhelpful, panic-inducing crumbs of information are dropped by them to be naively picked up by the other students, who then follow suit and spread the terror.

 

THE BROKEN DOWN

Exams have broken these students. Exhaustion has wrecked them. Stress has annihilated their will to study. They roam outside the hall aimlessly, trudging from one person to another in search of any semblance of inspiration to care about the exam. The fear of being unable to recall what they’ve learnt exists someplace deep inside them but is masked by layers of weariness. In a venture to revise, they open up their books, but to no particular page. Any page will do at this moment. “There’s no point anyway”, they mutter to themselves, as their sleep-starved eyes try to read what’s before them. Like the category of ‘The Lone Genius’, they may occasionally separate themselves from the group to find a quiet spot to rest their eyes. For them ‘sleep’ is a thing of the past, a memory of a kinder and happier world.

 

THE POCKETFUL OF SUNSHINE

Like the previous category, these people have adopted the ‘can’t care anymore’ sensibility, although it manifests differently in them. This group of people account for the rare sight of smiles and the sound of laughter heard before giving an exam. They engage in conversations circling around any topic other than the exam. They are strictly opposed to revision. Any exam related question directed to them is received with a nonchalant shrug of the shoulders, a laugh at their inability to bother and them skipping away. They refuse to waste any more of their worry on the exam. They firmly believe that they have studied enough, and now their success no longer lies in their hands. In these moments before the exam, they immerse themselves in a new found optimistic and merry outlook towards life. On observing their ‘let’s talk about sunshine and rainbows’ attitude, students are filled with an adrenaline rush to put their books away and live on the lighter side of the life by not revising.

 

THE ALL OF THE ABOVE

Falling under this category are the specimens who exhibit traits of all the above groups. They do not have a fixed plan of action before the exam, and hence imitate that of the others. In an initial attempt to revise, they sit aside and lay out a few books. Midway, they realise that group revision is more helpful, and hence run off to join ‘The Panic Inducers’. After spending a significant amount of time with this category, their thought processes begin malfunctioning due to the sheer overload of panic, and they embrace the ‘can’t care philosophy’ of the ‘Broken Down’ and the ‘Pocketful of Sunshine’. Their behaviour will then follow one of the two trajectories of these categories- Either the fatigue begins to creep onto their body, or they have a sudden upbeat skip in their step.

 

Thus, the behaviour of the students waiting to fill empty, ruled sheets, with scrawls of what they have crammed into their heads, all boils down to their preparation so far, their threshold of anxiety and the decision on whether or not to partake in last minute revision. When the doors to the examination hall open, these categories dissolve to form new ones- the types of people one finds in an exam. A sequel to the various absurdities of character that an examination causes.

The Jutting Out Pavement Slab.

“Come back!”, they pleaded.

“You’re sticking out”, they said.

“Fall back in line”, they commanded.

” Not today !”, I shouted down to them.

 

My whole life has been spent claustrophobically.

My every inch attached to someone else.

My physical border shared.

My thoughts, hopes, and ambitions,

hidden under  dust, gravel and muddy footprints,

cemented to the mundane counterparts of my adjoining blocks,

who are cemented to the blocks adjoining them;

Each of us a bogey in a train of submissiveness and underserved complacency,

Willingly letting people walk all over us.

 

Until today,

When I shook away the cement at my sides,

and propped my head up, above the others.

People no longer walk over me,

and I trip those who try.

I finally broke free,

and am proud to be the derailing bogey.

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The Earliest Memory

Between the bed and the cot we sat, along with two sheets of papers and a box of crayons, readying ourselves for our favourite pastime- drawing. After much debate, we decided to draw the rain. We drew out our pencil sketches of the rain and were eager to add colour between the lines. I was a model host, and I always put my guest’s needs before mine. “Here” I said, and handed her the blue crayon. “You should colour your rain first”.

“Thank you”.

But I saw her rain and was appalled. She had drawn zig-zag lines for the rain, instead of droplets.

That’s not how the rain is”, I snapped.

She raised her head and cast her big brown eyes on my droplet rain artwork.

“It is like this, that’s not how the rain looks”.

No, it does not”. I was adamant. I wouldn’t let her get away with her thunderbolt like rain.

We spent the next few minutes oscillating our eyes from one drawing to the other.

“Let’s go to our mothers”, she finally said, dissipating the silence.

“Yes”.

 

The resolution of how the rain should be drawn either didn’t happen or is a memory lost in the countless memories I’ve made with my best friend since that summer day, when those two 4-year olds argued about the rain.

Driving.

In December 2014, Google released a fully functioning prototype of a driver less car with no pedals or steering wheels. Accompanying this was the declaration that a car that can drive itself, would be made available to the public by the year 2020. In a few decades or so, learning how to drive would be redundant. On hearing this, I was filled with a strange sense of responsibility and an obligation to learn how to drive.

It seemed easy enough. Everyone did it. I simply had to begin too. I had been told that it was necessary to learn, as important as learning how to walk or read.  So I didn’t give it more than a second’s thought. I figured it would take around two weeks, tops. In no time, I would be just another driver, another addition to the congested roads and polluted air.

Turns out, it isn’t remotely easy to contribute to traffic and air pollution. I always thought driving a car was an inborn skill, which remained dormant till the age of 18, and was then switched on with a few lessons. Much like swallowing or speaking, I figured it was under that umbrella of ‘human instinct’.

My first lesson inspired confidence in me, and didn’t hint at the labours that were to follow. Primarily because it didn’t involve the vehicle being in motion. I was taught how to switch on the car engine,  told about the gear and clutch love story, how one can’t function without the other, and the accelerator and break levers.
My next lesson on the following day was to start the car, move a few feet and stop. I had to take care that I released the clutch very slowly, but not slowly enough to disengage the engine. This was doable, but a sense of dread began lurking around in me.

It was in my third lesson when reality caught up to me and forced me to wave goodbye to my dream of driving anytime soon. That was the lesson in which my foot finally met the accelerator. Their first meeting should have been a soft touch, just a graze. However, my foot being the overzealous limb it is, went in for the charge, and slammed the accelerator. The car lurched ten feet forward before I realised what was happening and hit the brakes. The stray dog I narrowly missed, barked at me for disturbing its slumber, as I stared down the road trying to grasp the enormity of what I was doing. The realisation dawned that I had to control a 635+ kg body of steel and metal. Under all that metal was a combustible fluid. I suddenly felt every inch of the car around me closing in. Trapping me. Cornering me like a politically unhappy mob and demanding a new driver. The stray dog had trotted away to the end of the road and sensing my inability to drive warned the other dogs to stay away from this lane.

Although I tried convincing myself that this fear was normal, I couldn’t suppress the fear enough to gain any confidence about driving.
In the days that followed, the inhabitants of my street were privy to a free show of ‘Worlds Funniest Drivers’. Featuring a little red car , leaving zig-zag mud trails on the road, breaking and speeding abruptly, and occasionally moving backwards. Inside the car was a girl tearing her hair off, and sweating uncontrollably. I began looking at my parents, brother, and almost everyone on the road in admiration and respect. For they too had once learned to drive and had succeeded! How?!

After trying to learn how to shift gears and turn, my lessons moved extremely slowly and gradually to a stop. I could come up with a book of reasons as to why my classes didnt continue, but open up to the chapter titled truth, and you’ll see its plain and simply because I stopped attending them.

I’ve decided to wait out the few decades, and just use those driverless Google cars.

The Rain’s Speech

The Rain had finished its speech, but it’s words still hung in the air. The Rain’s most devoted audience – the Trees, were inspired and the words clung on to every inch of them – their leaves, flowers, twigs, branches, and trunk. Their greed got the better of them, and they fought over the words left behind in the soil.
Today, the Rain’s speech was ideal. It was of a pleasing length, was well written, and was delivered with perfection. It wasn’t rushed, the pauses were in perfect timing, and the Rain’s enunciation was faultless. It wasn’t one of the ceaseless, dreary, heavy ones, which bored the Trees and swayed them to sleep. Nor was it one of the short ones, duration of a blink, which left the Trees begging for more.

Today the Rain had encouraged, motivated and inspired, and although it’s the Wind’s turn to take the stage, the Rain’s speech can still be heard.

The Shelf

She ran her fingers through her hair, and felt a lack of hair to run through. In the last few months, the parasite of stress had grown in her and had taken a toll on her body. Noticeably on her hair, which had thinned down considerably, widening the parting and increasing the exposure of her scalp.

It was now three months since she had finished school and she hadn’t yet bagged a college admission. With each passing minute, the list of those getting into college grew longer, while her name acquired a missing in action status. This evening was particularly stressful, as she had just received the bittersweet news that her friend had gotten into the law college of her dreams. Not only that, she was even guaranteed an internship at a well-known law firm after completing her studies. Yes, she was definitely proud of her friend, but the news also took hold of the feelings of jealousy and panic in her.

Lost in the looming shadow of despair, she remained oblivious to the tears running down her face and its observation by her mother who had just entered the room.

“Hey, come on now. Crying about your future will get you nowhere!”

Her mother rushed to her and put an arm around her. This wasn’t the first time she had caught her daughter crying to herself. It was a frequent occurrence nowadays.

After spending a few minutes in the silent comfort of her mother, she gave a slobbery smile and sniffed.

“Thanks, I’m alright now, you can leave”.

“No you’re not. You’re clearly not alright. You need to understand that all of this, this rejection, this doubt, it’s all perfectly normal.” After a moment’s thought, her mother took her by her arms and led her to a shelf in the dining room.

“Tell me what you see”, her mother asked.

“The shelf..?” She replied, wondering where this was leading.

“Describe it”.

“Seriously, what is this fo-?”

“Describe it!” her mother ordered firmly.

“It’s a wooden shelf…packed with books and newspapers…, I don’t know…what do you want me to say?!”

“Would you say its contents are neatly arranged?”

“No, that’s the last thing anyone would say”.

“But would you call it messy?”

“No… Not really… Does this have a point?”

“Yes a point will be made”. Her mother sat down on the divan, took a deep breath, indicative that a long speech was going to follow.

“Your grandfather gifted me that shelf for my eighteenth birthday. As the carpenter nailed it onto the wall, your grandfather told me how the shelf marked my entrance into adulthood and I should use it wisely. Until then, I only had a study table to put my books on. I had to constantly shift my books from the table to the bed and back, and being gifted this shelf put an end to all that. This shelf was a huge deal. I felt legal and official. I remember spending my entire birthday evening planning a blueprint on what I would I put on the shelf, and how I would arrange it. I started working on it the next day. I categorised my books, labelled documents, and arranged them based on priority, thickness, and frequency of use. I ensured I used up the entire length and breadth of the shelf and didn’t leave any vacant space, because I needed the shelf to look important. An empty space would signify that I had space in my life for things not worthy of the shelf, and that was definitely not the case.  I was an important person now. Every day I would admire this proof of my adulthood, run my hands over its almond brown wood and would take in a whiff of that fresh polish.

But the pride didn’t last long. Soon several more books and papers came barging into my life that needed a place on the shelf. In the beginning, I would empty out the shelf and reorganize the entire thing. When this became tiresome I stuffed books between others at crooked angles. Each time I pulled out a book, two others would tumble off the shelf.  After a while I found myself yearning for the days when I carried my books back and forth between my table and the bed.” Her mother sighed and gave small smile. “You see what I’m trying to tell you?”

The girl shrugged her shoulders. “I’m completely lost”.

Her mother looked into the girl’s eyes, to make her daughter realise that she never wanted her to forget the words she was about to say. “Think of your life as this shelf. Regardless of how much you plan and organise, your life won’t go about in the arrangement you want. It’s alright if you don’t have every inch of your future planned out. There will be vacant spaces you won’t know how to fill. But that gives you room for the unexpected! Things will become messy and fall out of place, but in the due course of time they will fall back in line. And while it won’t be the arrangement you wished for, it will be something even better”.

The girl was taken aback by her mother’s words. She had never heard such profound advice before, and she had never expected it to come from her mother. For the first time in months she felt truly comforted, and believed things would be alright.

She looked back into her mother’s eyes and smiled.

“Thank you Ma”, she said with all sincerity, and hugged her. “I’m feeling much better about the empty spaces on my shelf”.

 

 

 

 

When I first saw you

When I first saw you-

I saw your eyes,
Black bordering a dark brown.
I saw your lips,
Curled up in a faint frown.
I saw your walk,
Strides of a slow pace.
I saw your stance,
A slouch with no grace.

But then I met you-

Now I see your eyes,
And the dreams they desire.
I see your lips,
And hear words that inspire.
I see you walk,
With an aim to pursue.
I see you stand,
And I wish to stand with you.