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The marked difference in the method of teaching amongst the various boards of education in India becomes very evident when they meet at a common educational institute.
Students from my board were used to the concept of the length of the answer being directly proportional to the marks scored and had become almost like carbon papers by the time they cleared their boards. Recording and replicating as per the book. To these folks the conceptual methodologies of teaching and evaluating at the institute was totally alien. It took them nearly two to three semesters to gel with the system and get accustomed.
Added to that, there were some common courses across all disciplines in the first two years that took the forms of Draculas and Frankensteins in the nightmares of many a student - Mech Sol(Mechanics Of Solids), Thermodynamics to name a few. Additionally the professors set the question papers, when the red colored halves of their minds with two horns and a tail were fully active and the soft white dress wearing halves were in a deep slumber! Villains!
My first test was Ad Cal – Advanced Calculus. Calculus in its primitive form itself used to give me the look of a bird stuck by electric shock in cartoons – (In reality they do not survive, in cartoons they do and just get the look ). Advanced version could be so lethal.
The eve of the exam, like a very meticulous student, I packed all the stationery I might need – Pen, Pencil, Eraser, Ruler, Pink Pen, Green Pen, Violet Pen (Seriously). Sometimes taking a lot of things including 80% unwanted things would give you a teeny weeny bit boost of confidence ha ha
Then came the next problem. What if I don’t hear the alarm and end up missing the test? What if my clock stops working in the middle of the night leave alone the alarm? I took the clock in my hand and spoke to it with as much affection as I could. ‘Please wake me up!’
The worst thing about exam mornings is that they arrive too fast. And mine too did.
I had a quick bath, got into what I believed was the least ill-luck-infested-dress, applied some sacred vermillion I had collected at the temple and left the hostel.
Piety reaches its zenith every five minutes before a human being sits for an exam.
I prayed to all the Gods I knew and asked for forgiveness for any stupid things I had done in the past few days ignoring my conscience and begged them to not let that reflect it in my test.
The invigilator entered the hall. He appeared to me with a mace and a rope seated on a black buffalo. God of Death himself! He gave us a deadly look through his reading glasses and distributed the answer sheets.
There were no pens there…Not even one.
No Green, No violet , no blue!
Earrings! There were earrings instead – Long, Short, Wide, Red, Pink, Green, and Blue …Around 25 pairs.
I am crazy about earrings and I had kept my collection on top of my cupboard in a blue purse. The stationery that I had fastidiously packed, I had placed into a very similar looking purse and placed it next to it. In my hurry from the hostel, like an idiot I had picked the wrong purse.
How was I supposed to write an exam with 25 pairs or earrings, no matter how attractive they were?
My adrenalin poured like Niagara on my inside. My sweat appeared as beads and evaporated into vapor in the heat that I felt. I quickly turned to the guy behind and asked if he had an extra pen. He had brought just one. Idiot! What if it stopped writing?
I quickly called the girl in front and said ‘I don’t have a pen. Would you have an extra one?’ She looked at me like I was a close replica of the alien in Steven Spielberg’s ET.
Behind the thick glasses that covered her face, I could clearly see the astonishment.
By now Yama had started distributing the question papers as well.
The girl luckily had something that could pass for a pen. Something that I could write with. That moment, she was my Guardian Angel! My Savior! I would have happily fallen at her feet!
I somehow regained composure and started facing the actual demon, my question paper.
In BITS, what matters is where you stand on a comparative scale. You get accustomed to scoring something like 12 on 100 and finding yourself on cloud nine as the class average is 11 on 100. That test, I scored above average!! Thanks to the bespectacled angel who blessed me with writing tool the day I went pen less to an exam – My first exam in Engineering!