One by one, the exams had whooshed past in a dazed haze – numbers, formulas, theorems, theories and practicals flushed out every other emotion, feeling, thought and ailment from their systems. Even sleepless nights didn’t faze them they went from one exam to another like soldiers to war – stoic, silent and blank. The examiner would hand them the question paper. At the sound of the gong, the stillness transformed into a uniform fury of pen scratching and flying over paper until the bell rang once again. Err well there was one character across Rajani who sat throughout the exam staring into space. Rajani couldn’t help feeling jealous and wished she could take some of his spare time to finish her overlong paper.
Stiff and shaken, they would totter out from the battlefield in various stages of victory and defeat. There were some who were professionals and instantly vanished from the scene presumably to lick their wounds in private or start preparations for the next round. Yet, there were others who catered to the philosophy of ‘misery loves company’ or ‘for best results crow over your lesser peers.’
“So how was your exam Sameer?” clapping him on the back Raj threw an arm around him.
Sameer shrugged the arm off. “Rotten.”
“If yours was rotten, spare a thought for us,” groaned Girish.
“Hey it wasn’t all that bad,” Harry caught up with them.
“How was Rjaaani’s exam,” Girish asked pointedly drawing guffaws.
“No idea,” Harry wasn’t fazed as he took the ribbing in good spirits, “both Shikha and Rajani vanished after the exams.”
“I am surprised your exams went well.” Girish was itching for a spat.
“When did I say it went well?” Harry was surprised.
“Did you just say it wasn’t that bad?”
“Yeah it was okay not awful.”
“I am impressed that you could concentrate while dear Rjaaani was so upset, boohoo hoo!” Girish mocked.
“Very funny.” Harry turned away. “Coming for lunch Sameer?”
“Yeah let’s go, I am starving.”
“We all are since none of us had breakfast.” Raj said.
“I had breakfast.” Harry said.
“Wow really? Now here’s a cool one.”
But Harry wasn’t listening. Even before Sameer had nudged him he had seen the approaching storm. The girls came up to them in a cloud of dust.
“Now what?” Raj asked with foreboding.
“I…I,” Rajani held on to her side and gasped as she attempted to catch her breath, “I left my Hall Ticket on the table inside the exam hall.”
“They must have locked up the exam hall by now,” said Harry.
“And the cleaners must have thrown all the rubbish into the trash,” added Girish with a sly look. Looked like he just might get his wish.
“Oh shut up!” Harry growled but Rajani had heard. She hadn’t thought of that. “Nooo!” made a dash for the Exam Hall. Shikha, who was still trying to catch her breath, followed her.
Students who had their exam in the second shift had just begun to trickle in and cleaners were still inside. Rajani was able to extricate her Hall ticket from an experienced and helpful person.
“Got it?” Harry came up to them.
“Need you ask?” Shikha asked sourly. “If we hadn’t the whole campus would have known by now. Uff Rajji enough is enough. Now stop all this nonsense. Okay? I have had it up to here,” Shikha pointed to her neck.
“Yeah, me too,” Rajani responded dolefully, “why does it happen to me only?”
“Because you are careless.” Shikha snapped. She was hungry, tired and jittery after that close shave. And they still had to study for tomorrow’s exam. “Are you coming or should I go?”
“How was your exam Shikha?” Harry asked.
“It was okay,” admitted Shikha, “but weren’t a few questions out of course?”
“Yeah maybe, but you know what Fiscal will say – this is college not school, everything is in course.”
“I think Fiscal is taking revenge for the earlier fracas,” Girish butted in. “Now he will flunk us all.”
“Relax Girish,” Raj said, “he wouldn’t do that for then that would reflect on his teaching wouldn’t it?”
“True,” Girish nodded thoughtfully, “but I don’t think he has forgotten our little spat. He is out for blood and vengeance. I could almost swear I saw a feral gleam in his eyes.” Girish clicked his fingers.
“What nonsense you speak Girish,” Harry brushed him and his gory visions away. “Let’s go and eat in the canteen? Shikha?”
“I know! Fiscal wouldn’t flunk everybody but he can and will flunk,” he gave a pause for dramatic effect, “the real culprits…”
Rajani paled. “Oh no!”
“Oh yes!” Girish was thrilled, finally some action.
“Get lost,” Harry glared at him.
“But why?” Girish rubbed his hands in glee. “Things are just warming up. Now we can have some action.”
Harry jerked his head towards Rajani. “Does that look like some fun action to you?”
Tears were streaming down Rajani’s cheeks and Shikha was trying her best to console her.
Girish coughed. “I am starving, Raj let’s go.”
It took the combined effort of all to calm down Rajani. The food helped, as did the hot refreshing coffee. They met some other of their classmates licking their wounds in the canteen and it turned out to be quite a merry party exchanging exam horror stories, dissecting exam questions calculating marks amidst shrieks and protests.
Once in a while Rajani would remember and then her eyes would widen and fill with tears, “What if…”
“Have some sense Rajani! Marking is objective not subjective – he can’t just flunk anybody he wishes. You can always go to a higher authority with your answer sheet and…”
“What if Fiscal conveniently ‘misplaces’ our answer sheets?”
“Sameer!” Shrieks, protests, groans, moans, laughter, erupted.
Only Rajani sat petrified her eyes round with terror. “Oh! What if he does that?”
“Uff Rajani, use your head,” Harry was also fast losing patience, “didn’t you sign the attendance sheet? So how can Fiscal claim that he didn’t get your paper? That means it’s their fault and their problem. Now relax will you? Otherwise you will mess up the chemistry exam as well.”
Harry’s bracing acerbic tones worked better than his soothing consoling avatar. Rajani nodded and made an effort to pull herself together.
“We better go and take some rest.” Shikha got up. “Another long night ahead.”
The gang dispersed.
One redeeming feature of the exam days was that the hours whizzed by. There was hardly any time between exams to study, sleep or moan. They just hurtled from one exam to another without eating or sleeping and some hysterical flipping through an indecipherable mass of squiggles that passed for class notes. Some who had mastered their notes went through books too, much to the envy of their classmates.
“Yippee! Finally the day of the last exam! Can’t wait for it to get over. So glad it’s English. I am finally going to sleep the whole night.” Shikha declared looking bright and cheerful.
“Really?” Rajani was skeptical. “Finished reading Hamlet? Wiggy is sure to have some weird questions up her sleeve.”
“There’s a whole list I got from the net. Come, we got to study not sleep!” Rajani exhorted. “It’s the last night. What’s one more night right?”
“My head feels as if it’s going to burst,” Shikha grumbled.
“Okay fine, you go to sleep for a few hours, I will have some notes ready for you. You can read them. But,” she added cagily, “you will have to prepare some more notes while I sleep. Okay?”
Shikha had to be content with that. And a good thing that Rajani suggested it. Wiggy’s questions were all from the net.
All’s well that ends well…
Up next Chapter 91: After the Exams