Mid-term exams are on. One more exam to go, followed by another day of school, before the vacation begins. While the kids are laid-back and relaxed as they sail through the exam schedule, I can’t help but recall the exam time jitters, rituals from decades ago.
Ensuring that all the stationary including the sturdy brown exam pad is in order, checking if the alarm is properly set and maintaining a healthy diet.
No icecream or chaat during exam time, as one can fall sick. This was only the tip of the iceberg and fortunately this part is all that my parents believed in following.
Then there were rules imposed on some against watching movies, TV shows or even listening to music. Reading non-academic books were downright forbidden. Study breaks were meant for light snacking and relaxation, devoid of other mental stimulation. This was apparently done to avoid any needless distraction and keep the mindspace conducive to revising and absorbing the vast syllabus. Though it was the syllabus that seemed like a fathomless ocean into which the students deep dived, drowned, floated, skimmed the surface or swam through.
In higher classes, combined study translated to some parents enabling a constant inflow of previous years’ exam papers to solve, in the name of preparing properly.
There would be a surge of spirituality towards the end of each exam and some kids would pen small fervent heartfelt prayers inside the folds of the answer sheet discreetly, the places where it was pinned or stapled. The teachers would sometimes read these out aloud in class dramatically, before distributing the corrected answer sheets to students who sat mesmerized. The moment the answer sheets were distributed, the music began, starting with murmurs that rose in pitch and tone till they hit a crescendo. This always provoked the teacher to intervene with a single loud war cry, causing all sounds to cease. Momentarily.
The exam flavour and anxiety that pervaded the atmosphere back then was like a contagious fever that swept through, claiming kids and parents alike.
I wonder if the exams today still carry the same power…