Mohammad Hammad Ali
tension mounts. The clock seems to be ticking faster and faster.
With dried throats and unblinking eyes, the victims stand shoulder
to shoulder, dreading the moment of reckoning. The guard at
the door leers unpleasantly at the helpless faces gathered just
outside the gate. No, this is not the scene outside a concentration
camp. Nor is it a scene from just outside a Qurbani-r Hut. Ladies
and gentlemen, here we present to you: the scenes outside an
In a quiet corner of their own are the Hermione's and Einstein's,
exchanging last moment tips on how to tackle section 2 of paper
1 and so on. Some are double, triple and quadruple checking
to make sure they have extra pen and pencil, eraser and sharpeners,
a nice clean handkerchief and a host of other stuff integral
to properly taking an exam. Every now and then a few of them
check whether the gates have been opened, prepared to run for
it the moment they are allowed to.
On the other side of the road are the carefree cool dudes. No
way to tell that these guys have an exam in less than an hour.
They are engrossed in gossip about sports, music, movies and
in general anything that will keep their minds off the unpleasant
business at hand. Why bother about something now when you have
refused to bother about it over the past year or so?
Some of the cool dudes, however, are not taking part in the
gossip. They are using their reserves of energy to catch the
eyes of a certain other group: the powder parade. These are
the girls caught up in an animated conversation about their
make-up, hairstyle and dress. They are as apprehensive about
looking good for the exam as other people are about actually
doing well on the exam. After all, this silly exam ends in a
few hours, but the make-up and accessories will be with them
for as long as they choose: which is to say, forever.
The most active people, by far, are the crammers. Anxious to
learn in two days what several others have mastered in almost
two years, they run from one person to another, obtaining answers
to commonly asked questions and clarifying techniques to prove
common theorems. All the energy they saved by not studying ahead
is finally put to good use as they run back and forth, trying
to learn from others stuff that they could easily have learnt
by themselves had they ever opened those paper things called
Well, that was all about the students. But for every student
present in the venue, there are usually two parents accompanying
them. Hence it would not be fair to end a discussion of the
matter without as much a mention of the parents, would it? So
let us now focus on what the parents are doing while their kids
are getting ready (or not) for the exam.
First we have the praying parents - muttering suras one after
another, and not letting the kids have one last look at the
books and notes, constantly bugging them with their foos and
tabiz and who knows what else. This display of faith is not
by any means limited to their own children, but is also extended
to friends, other family members taking an exam and in general
who is within reach.
Then we have the powder parents (any links with the powder parade
mentioned above not confirmed). Their philosophy is: "Well,
OK, the kids have an exam! The ten private tutors and the huge
new school building took care of that! So why bother? Now is
the time to show off the new sarees and suits and cars and cell
phones. The kids can take care of themselves, (or not) but the
opportunity to show off all these goodies does not come every
day. Ah, if only the kids had more exams!"
The most noticeable kind, however, would have to be the nervous
wrecks. They sit on the sidewalk, or pace to and fro the gate,
sweating and complaining about how they should let the students
in, and that it takes time to settle down and adjust oneself
for the exam, and so on.
They are often more nervous than all the actual candidates combined,
and make the whole scenario all the more stressful for those
poor souls. The indifference of the last category, and the over-zealousness
of this one, can be equally disconcerting for their children,
although neither type of parents ever seems to realize this.
However, no one else can ever match the irresponsibility and
the insensitivity of the type of parents that use this meeting
of parents as a stage for a game of one-upmanship. "Your
kid is taking 8 subjects? Oh, mine is doing just 12!
He wanted to do some more, but poor dear hardly had any time
left after the piano lessons, French lessons, cooking lessons
and eating lessons." "Yeah, I know…ECA matters so
much these days! My daughter has been working for the RS as
contributor extraordinaire! She gets more hate mails than anybody
else on the team!" A third one pokes in, "RS? Yeah,
yeah, that's where my son gave an interview last month, him
with his band you know…the Screaming Fools!"
Amidst all this chatter and animated movements, finally the
hour arrives. The gate opens, and people rush in with an eagerness
suggesting that getting to the exam hall first is part of the
actual exam. As the young ones go in, one by one, the parents
look on. With the last person inside, the gates are closed,
to be opened after the exam. Till then, the parents will wait
with their fingers crossed, and the students will be busy with
their question papers. We all hope it turns out good for them,
no matter which group of people they belong to. All the best
to all exam candidates everywhere!