The girls had barely settled in and the semester exams were upon them. Stress levels shot up, as did the coffee consumption. A tug of war ensued between the stimulating effects of coffee and the soporific effects of a deep-rooted intense subconscious desire to wake up after the exams were over.
But of course that wasn’t possible.
The girls took to studying in groups in an effort to give each other company and moral support.
This strategy worked pretty well – most of the times. For girls will be girls. There was always the risk of getting distracted by an intense and involved discussion on the latest movie or plans for after exams. One group spent the entire night trying to resolve the tricky question – which of the Khans was the better actor?
The boys? Well most didn’t (with exceptions of course) wake up to the reality of the impending exams until the night of the exams – besides the colleges cricket championships had been underway. Plus these were just semester exams – not a matter of life and death.
Yet all too soon it was exam time.
Well stocked with books, notes, sheets, chips, Maggi, chocolate, coffee etc etc, the girls settled in for the night.
Around midnight, Rita burst into their room. “Guys! I am in big trouble! What should I do?” she all but wrung her hands.
“What’s up?” the girls chorused, trying to shake out of their equation-induced daze.
“I can’t sleep.”
“Yes!” she nodded her head vigorously. “I have been struggling to sleep for the past hour or two but the other girls are studying and the light is disturbing me…”
“I wish the light disturbed me,” muttered Shikha.
“Get out!” Rajani threw a pillow at her, “here we have tons to study and are dozing off, getting cricks in the neck and you complain that you can’t sleep? I would sleep through a drum party.”
“No buts. Out!” Rajani physically pushed her out. “Hey Bhagwan! How intelligent is she?”
“Intelligent? Nonsense!” scoffed Mads. “She’s a slogger.”
“What do you mean?”
Lucky nodded her head, “Yeah. You don’t know her. We do. The day she joined, the first thing she did was to remove her mattress.”
“And how does it have anything to do with…?”
“Slogging? Everything.” Declared Mads. “Without the mattress, the bed is uncomfortable so she doesn’t get to sleep for a long time. Instead, she wakes up every hour or so and then studies – daily.”
Rajani stared at Shikha. “Wow! What dedication.”
“This is nothing. My friend’s brother who wanted to get into medical, used to study standing the whole night so that there was no scope of falling asleep.”
Shikha shrugged. “I don’t think any of these methods would have worked for me! Rajani remember when we were going to Biji’s place, there was a truck carrying stones in front of us?”
“On a truck full of poky sharp stones, two men were fast asleep uncaring of the jolts of the uneven road either. I think I am like those guys – able to sleep anywhere.”
“Oh!” Yawned Mads. “I do wish you would stop talking about sleep.”
“Shiks I am pucca going to fail tomorrow,” Rajani wailed for the nth time.
“Don’t worry. Just focus on studying.”
“But Shiks I don’t remember anything! And I still have so much to do.” Rajani was in tears.
“Okay okay just relax. Let’s go over it together okay. Like we did in school. Remember?”
Rajani nodded and tried to stem the rising tide of hysteria. This was no way anything like that in school. This was a hundred time tougher than school. A thousand times. What would Papa say if she flunked the exams? Oh what was wrong with her? Had the accident damaged her brains too? She loved Math. Chemistry too. Then why was it all so tough and overwhelming? Why could she hold it all in her grasp? Why did it all slip out no sooner has she begun to grasp it’s essence?
And so it went on, until one by one they dozed off on their books in the wee hours of the morning. Sleepy, tired and late, Rajani had a major breakdown and refused to go for the exam.
“I am not prepared. I wont go for the exam.” She declared, flopping back on the bed.
“Nonsense! Come on. Who knows you may just do well?” Shikha had a tough time bringing Rajani up to scratch. “Better to give the exam and fail than not to give and pucca fail. Come on!”
“No! I can always tell Papa I wasn’t feeling well, that’s why…”
“You can still say that! Say that you weren’t feeling well that’s why you didn’t do well. Can’t you? Come on now. I want to go a bit early and do a quick revision. Coming? Or I am leaving.” Shikha was quite at the end of her tether.
The boys sauntered into the exam arena boasting of incomplete sections and hours (or lack of) spent studying, laughing over their impending failures. Predictably, the girls shuffled in silently as if going to the gallows.
“What’s the matter?” Harry came up at a run as Rajani and Shikha arrived at (or rather stumbled into) the exam hallway. “Is she not well?”
“Ask her,” Shikha snapped and dumped her baggage in Harry’s capable hands. Frankly, she had had enough of Rajani’s vapors and wanted to grab a few minutes of respite and flick through the pages for luck.
Rajani collapsed shivering on the narrow ledge by the wall.
“Rajani? Are you okay? Should I call a doctor?” Harry got down on his haunches. The others too looked at her curiously. A few wandered over to get to the bottom of the issue.
“Rajani? What happened? At least say something?”
Rajani’s shoulders shook more violently.
“Shikha!” Harry called. “What’s wrong with her? How can you be so callous?”
“Shush! Let me study.” Shikha didn’t even look up.
“Sameer, you stay here. Let me see if I can get the Sister to…”
“No! I am okay,” Rajani raised a tearful woebegone face.
“Then why are you crying?”
“Be…because I didn’t fi…finish my course!” Rajani bawled.
There was silence.
Harry looked at the others. They also shook their head clueless. Harry cleared his throat and said cautiously. “So?”
Rajani was shocked enough to stop crying. “So? What do you mean so?”
“I mean so what? None of us has completed the course.” He looked at the others. “Right guys?” They nodded dutifully.
Rajani sniffed and scrubbed her face. “Well I have never ever gone for an exam without completing my course at least thrice.”
Hushed awed murmurs rose.
“That was school Rajani.” Sameer said briskly. “This is college. You can’t compare the two.”
“Why can’t I compare the two?” Rajani flared up.
“Because you just can’t. They are two different ball games. That was child’s play and this is adult world. So grow up Rajani.” Sameer was brutal.
Mystery revealed the boys wandered off wondering about the mysterious ways of girls. “Hey did you ever finish the course before an exam?”
“Me? No!” Raj was insulted. “It is my unbroken record. I have never completed any course and,” he added triumphantly, “I never flunked any exam either.”
“Never flunked an exam?” Girish exclaimed. “Such a good boy,” he said in pitying tones. “My record is that there wasn’t ever an assessment where I didn’t flunk an exam or the other. Yet I managed not to drop a year.” Pride at his feats shone through.
“Hey that’s because your Dad is on the school board of directors…”
“Do you know my Dad?” Girish glared at Dhruv. “He would never do such a thing. Not even for his own son.”
“Yeah right. You flunk exams but you don’t get held back. How’s that possible?”
“I meant the unit tests. The final exams of course I aced.”
“Your Dad probably had access to the question papers.” At the burst of raucous laughter, Girish jumped on Dhruv.
There’s no saying what would have happened next for the exam hall opened for the examinees. Personal enmity forgotten (for the moment at least), they trooped in and took up positions, weapons and got down to some serious warfare.
Up next Chapter 90: Testing Times