Thursday, March 20, 2008

Exam Fever - The Other Side

You can’t pick up the morning paper in the month of March without hearing news about a student’s suicide due to exam pressure. What drives parents, relatives and so called well wishers to put such undue pressure on their children is well beyond me. Is it a seat in a good college, a better life for their wards or plain “my son ahead of his son” mentality?

As humans living on earth which is pretty far away from utopia, I can understand parent’s sentiment. But I cannot for the life of me understand their actions. Life should be fun for kids not pain and tension. By that, I do not mean to say that children should not know about the harsh facts of life. Life is tough and being prepared for the rat race is good. But not great! After all it is a rat race and even being in the lead will be costly!

Much has been said of kids and exams, but little done to change anything. For once the government and politicians can’t be blamed, the buck stops with a sickening thud at our own door steps. It is an attitude, an evil culture that we have none but ourselves to blame. On the lighter side, one way to help students overcome their fear of exams is to have them do engineering. You get so many damn exams every other day that by the end of the course one starts showing withdrawal symptoms if there isn’t an exam scheduled for the week.

The solution I feel lies in counseling… not for the students (who should be out playing, not attending some crummy counseling) but for the parents. One needs to put this idea into their heads that exams are not everything…. In fact by my standards they are nothing. You win some and you lose some, then again if you got Indian hockey in your genes you lose all, but what the heck? The richest people in the world aren’t educated in high degrees nor did they pass any big exams. One of the criteria to being obscenely rich is to be under-educated. Those guys are just plain resourceful.

But then, if your kid was like yours truly, who ain’t resourceful and who ain’t good at studies. Hmm.. you got a problem there. But that is when being like my dad was helps you out. Turn a blind eye and hope that everything turns out to be good. If you are struck by the distinct lack of viable options/solutions to make your kids perform better at exams… fact is, I don’t have any…:D. But then I can explain one way of how NOT to put pressure.

Parent: Beta, study hard or you will fail your exams
Child: Yeah.
Parent: Don’t worry even if you fail, I will still be proud of you.
Child: Thank you pop’s
Parent: Yeah, I will be proud and you will be lacking your mobile, pocket money, cultural allowance, inflation allowance, petty allowances and all this with no debt waiver.
Child: Uh-oh, I will try hard papa.
Parent: Try, my foot!!! If you don’t get at least one more mark higher than our neighbor’s son, I will ground you for life.

Now, ten years back, if my father told me something like this and assume for a second I needed to suicide. Can you imagine how tough it was??? The shopkeepers knew me and my family and my whole lineage up to my great-great grandfather. Buying a rope, rat poison or any other such ingredients that I thought necessary for a decent suicide would be looked upon with grave suspicion, especially during March. Believe me, in those days one had no privacy, not even to suicide in peace!

Fast forward to today and you got Google…. You guessed right! I don’t want to explain anymore and anyway, a picture speaks a thousand words.

My syllabus was ICSE, which was on the tougher side as syllabuses go; so then; it was no wonder that I flunked at least 2 to three exams per term. What was however unheard of, was for me to get every question correct i.e. a humble 100 out of 100. But one bright summer day, when I was in the fourth year of torture called school I felt that I had achieved this unbelievable feat.

I knew every single question in my q paper. I finished writing the exam far ahead of schedule(which in itself was not surprising!) and even read all my answers to make sure that I didn’t make any careless mistakes. Everything was just perfect.

Much elated by this sudden turn of fortune, I raced home beating my brother by a foot and a half and shouted to Chedathi (our ayah) “I did great in my exams today Chedathi, I am actually afraid I will get the first rank”. Old Chedathi was of strong constitution and hence averted a joyous heart attack at this surprising good news.

That is when Amma walked in from her day at work. Chedathi was the first to break the good news.
Chedathi: Molae, Aby is telling that he did the exam so well that he is afraid he will get the first rank.
Amma(With a wide unbelieving smile on her face): anno? that is very good news… where is my darling little boy?
In true drama style, I jumped on to her lap, handed her the q paper and commanded “ye of little faith, ask and I shall answer”
Amma looked me over to make certain that it wasn’t my long lost twin of Bollywood soap box fame. I answered in style to each of her questions and my confidence grew as I answered each one correctly, so did my mother’s smile.

Finally all the questions were over and I had answered each one correctly. I was so puffed up with pride that I nearly missed the next question… uh-oh.. next question?? But I thought it was over right??
Me: Hey, where are you reading from? That question was not there for the exam
Amma: What??? Did I read wrong, I will read it once more
Reading once more did not help, the question still sounded unfamiliar. I snatched the question paper from her hands and looked….only to see that there were questions on the other side of the paper as well!!! I had completely missed seeing these questions. There went my first rank!

Amma laughed so hard that day that she nearly cried. I was happy too, I didn’t know the answers to the questions anyway and this gave me an iron clad alibi for the low performance. And for my father…. I doubt it if he has ever heard this story at all. So God, Thank you for my parents(you could have made them give me more pocket money but then, I ain’t complaining…:D).


Sandeep Raja said...

ha ha that was funny. even i almost missed second page of question paper. i saw exam was about to be finished.

N!$#@N^# said...

edo aby... the point is..
"if we know" or let me correctly put it "if we think that we know all the answers to all the god damn questions" then rest assured we are gona get screwed big time....

We should humbly accept that we are imperfect creatures in this not so perfect world (well thats the beauty of it)... and the sooner we accept this fact the better it is for us ... then we definetly won't give a damn to what amma ,appa ungle's nd aunty's expect from us... :-)

Pinne abt the rat race... well its the survival of the "so called fittest in a lousy system" .... the downside of it being the death of all that could be so inheriently natural to a child... am not sure how many painters, singers... story tellers are we loosig each day...
I thank the almighty GOD and your parents who turned a blind eye on you ... after you opted out of rat race... hehehhe..
Atleast we get to read some good blogs .... keep writing.... :-))

Abraham Menacherry said...

Sandy: He he, good to know that I got company!

Nishu: A well thought out reply! I immensely liked the "so called fittest in a lousy system" sums up my feelings PERFECTLY!

Confused said...

Buddy, I really regret having done my engineering now..Long hours of slogging, messed up work-life balance, Money that never seems to be enough...I sometime wish I were a politician..for a change that seems to be a lucrative profession in India at least!!I will make my kid a politician...Oops....there goes the 'I want my kid to be rich' syndrome!!LOL!!

I wonder why my parents never let me be an actress/model/airhostess ;)...""You wont get respect in these fields ""is what my 'highly educated' family tells me!!LOL!!