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180 MINUTES



                Third year, the penultimate year of Engineering was ending. Board exams were up for a long month in the months of May and June. I’ve always wondered what could be the reason of the Mumbai University stretching the exam period of 6 days all over a month. The so called ‘preparatory leave’ and the minimum three day leave between any two exams gives a lot of time to have a vacation. Note: Some breaks between two exams go as long as a span of eleven days. Quite a much; isn’t it? Of course a month long vacation follows the exams.


                What made these exams so important was it was even more important to clear these exams at any cost as a student with a subject pending isn’t allowed to appear for placement interviews which I believe is quite harsh. But it is the way it is. So here we were, facing the most crucial exam of our life. Clearing these would ensure some thousands of money coming into our accounts every month. But failing to do so could be quite a disaster. No job, no money; a student would be forced to either sit home, work in some stupid call center and apply for job externally which usually means lower pay package. Else a student will have to go for further studies for which he will then have to appear and clear competitive entrance exams to get into some reputed college. So to cut things short these were ‘do-or-die’ exams.

                It was the 18th of June, the last day of the exams; the exam was ITME (I still can’t really remember the full form of that subject.) But this subject was supposedly a very interesting subject to read but a terrible one to remember. And mugging up is what the University expects from us; so it was quite obvious that the students were going to have a tough time dealing with this subject.

                Even a time interval of three days for preparation of such subjects seems just a couple of days less. But still, add to it; we the students waste the first day as a mutual result of a hangover of the earlier exam and due to the time left for the next exam. Now coming to the singular part of this article, I had three whole days and two ‘half days’ to prepare for this exam. The initial half day i.e. the evening of the earlier exam came and went past before I could notice.

                I knew that I had to study hard and very hard to get through the nerve of this subject. But still somehow I wasted an entire following day revising a total of 10 pages out of 400 total pages I was supposed to study. Somehow I scraped my way over the next two and a half days to complete what I thought was sufficient to score just above average in ITME.

                The moment arrived. We were in the class for the examination. I sat on the last but one bench and I could well see the entire class. As it was about to be 3, as per an unwritten rule we looked everywhere and wished every face that saw us a ‘Best of luck’. The bell rang and the supervisor gave us the question papers.

                I had a glance through the paper and realized this was going to be some tough time; tough 180 minutes to be precise. Saw around there were a couple of tensed faces just like mine.

                I chose writing the answers I knew. Calculated them and they accounted just for 60 marks roughly. Expecting to score a 40 when you attempt 60 in an exam of Mumbai University where the papers would be checked in K.J. Somaiya was like expecting too much. I decided that I’ll be writing the best answers possible so that I can at least manage half of what I write for. Now here comes some calculations; half marks of attempt meant getting 30 out of the attempted 60. I assumed that I would manage to get 1 mark from the rest of the paper I attempt; that would make it 31 and 9 marks is the maximum the college gives as grace provided you’ve cleared all the other subjects.

                This time was the trickiest; as it is I came into the exam expecting that I’ll manage to score around 6 per question making 60 in total; but now my plan had taken a toss; Big time.

                Learnt a new psychological thing; when you’re tensed about something, you can’t perform your best at tasks that you would excel otherwise.” Now this quote came from self-experience. An answer that I would have written quite easily and fluently took me lot of efforts to write and yet I was unable to write a good answer; tension big time.

                Question number one; attempt any four out of five. This question was pretty much average as far as difficulty was concerned. I was quite sure of writing good answers for three answers, wasn’t really sure of the fourth while the term in the fifth question was a complete alien to me. I wrote three answers pretty well and took some help from Amit, the guy who sits on the bench front of me. With some assistance I managed myself an answer which could yield me a minimum of 2 out of the maximum 5 marks.

                Four o clock, I managed to complete one question. The real tough task was yet to start. Four main questions, eight answers in the next two hours. I had to use my brain to correlate, map, analyze process, organize, strategize and coordinate the data in my mind to retrieve and develop answers which could give me a decent probability of over 0.5 to gain me marks sufficient to clear the exam. (This lingo comes from Mr. Turban.)

                Suddenly it started raining. I am usually a practical person who would not in the worst possible situation believe in superstitions. But this time was different; I heard the thunder and the rain. Looked behind, outside the window and there it was, rain falling and I thought of Dhwani and Ronak who had made a study and a prophecy that it always rains when you have bad exams. And while they had based this theory on the past few exams, this time I couldn’t help but think of it and wonder how I should scrape though this one unscathed.

                I started going through the next available questions amongst which I was to choose any four and attempt them. These questions consisted of two sub questions each. And coincidently or not, in each of the question I realized I could attempt exactly one. Every second question was like a new spell from the very famous book of Harry Potter.

                I began to panic, drank so much water that my bladders started giving me indications; looked around, everyone was writing. I wondered was that exam difficult for everyone or was it just me. I couldn’t help but notice my supervisor was dozing. I cunningly smiled but there was no one to notice so turned it out. I shifted my attention just to notice a girl, Foram from the second row second bench right under the nose of the supervisor telling an answer to a guy on the fourth row first bench which was Hussain through signs and dummy talks. Those expressions of Foram were so funny I had to shift my attention to avoid a loud laugh. Saw to my left, Harsh and Priya were discussing something, wondered was it about the exam or something else. A little behind; Ronak Pathak, quite well known for writing just too much in the exams and using all the available stationary in the college for writing, was sitting idle looking everywhere. We shared a glance and then a smile. My attention came back to my desk where I had a watch that told me, dude, you’ve just wasted five minutes. I wondered “Whattttt..!!!”, with my eyes considerably open. All the dizziness vanished in a glance.

                I quickly chose four questions to attempt and started writing answers to questions I knew I could write answers of. Wrote one answer each from two different main questions and then somehow attempted two questions from another main question. Now I had to make a tough call. There was a question 4, where I could write one answer of which I knew a couple of points which I could elaborate to a couple of pages. On the other hand I had question 7, where I somehow had an idea of both the answers; but just an idea. (Note: an idea here just means the full form.)

                I wonder why I did it but I chose question 7 and started writing the answers. It was 5, last 60 minutes left for the exam to get over and it suddenly struck me that I was suddenly not hearing any noise of rains.

“Had the rain stopped? Was my bad time over? Was my exam going to be better now? Am I superstitious? Abhishek shut the fuck up and start writing. No rain God is coming down to help you.” It is amazing how your mind starts working in weird ways when you’re in trouble.

Well I had to continue with that superstition. I attempted the first answer somehow but when I saw the question of the second question, I recollected the whole answer. I thought Rain God did it for me; I would have loved to believe that but my rational brain disagreed and a loud ‘shut up’ again and ordered me to start writing. I couldn’t argue with my brain at that stage as it was the only one that could get me through the trouble. So I got the superstition out and started writing. I wrote that answer and felt a little better as now I was assured of an attempt of 75, an improvement over 60 which I thought would be my attempt earlier.

30 minutes left and two questions to go; had it been another day or just another question, I would have easily written some good answers but this was tricky. I was reading those terms for the first time and was supposed to write good two pages of answers that made sense to the moderator. I again turned towards Amit for some help. He got animated this time around. He couldn’t really say much but his actions reflected that he dint know the answer and that I was to write two answers quite much on my own.

I read the questions neatly and steadily; determined to write the answer I read the question again (as if I had anything else to do for the next 30 minutes.) I took each term of the question and wrote two lines about each of them. Next task, I combined words that made sense and wrote couple of lines for each such combination. Next, I took the whole question, related it with my own defined and created definitions and wrote some beautiful words blended with terminology of Mr. Turban having lots of planning, strategizing and organizing and put a final full stop. I went through the answer and lo I had written an answer that spanned good two pages. Wow, I said to myself, that was quite an achievement. I wonder what made me read my own answer again. On completion I started laughing at my own answer, it was quite funny. Had Turban given a chance to read it, he would quit his job, stop writing books and take a sanyas. I thought of writing a ‘lol’ after my answer just like the way that sms said but then thought I’ve shown enough smartness in the my ‘created’ answer already.

I followed a similar procedure for the second question and I had successfully written my ITME exam. That was a good feeling; I felt I will surely score a 31 if not anything else and that I would be eligible for placements. It was my second year in degree engineering. Added up with my three years of diploma engineering, I had completed a whole five years doing engineering. Somehow I felt that was quite an achievement. When I shared it with my friends, they however seemed quite bemused by it. Exams were over and we were looking forward towards a good vacation.

But those 180 minutes in the examination hall were tough, fun and often gave me scare bumps, if there are any such things. It was at 5 that I thought I would be writing an article on my experience and here I am concluding it.

Cheers..!!

Regards,
Abhishek Nandgaonkar.

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