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Short Story : Acclimatize

Nipun and his sister were the introverted new comers in the colony. They had come down from one of those north eastern states where even availability of new brands of ice creams ( which appeared each night as advertisements on the sole state television channel after the daily dose of abysmal news telecast ) was a luxury to say the least. Father had a transferable job, so every 3-5 years they were forced to leave their best friends back and move on to a new, strange place, with new rules, a new weather, a new school uniform and it's curriculum. Sports had always interested him as it channelized his nervous energies, all his internal conversations into some form of energy.  Sometimes spending energy on the ground helps you not have the energy to think about a haphazard life with no control over your surroundings. Sports made him switch off his social brain and just execute tasks to the best of his ability. He was not strategic about sports, it was not really the team wor

Short Story : Eve of an exam !

Nikhil was always scared of exams.

They brought out his worst fears, every single time, without a miss.

No matter how much he studied regularly, kept up pace with the rest of the class, finished all his assignments, lessons & sometimes even managed to get ahead of his readings managing his time flawlessly, he never felt any better on the eve on an exam.
It was more to do with his inner fears than his preparedness.

It was his fear of failure, fear of being tested, fear of his friendly teachers invigilating and alienating him on the day of an exam, not doing well in life eventually and so many other macro to micro level fears.

Fears have a habit, they escalate if not addressed in the right way. In this case, it needed addressing at the very root of problem and not studying/being regular.

Nikhil had battled these fears, his apprehensions through his early childhood days, all through his adolescence, wondering whether he was the only one, and whether these ever leave your side for good, or whether this mental trauma would ever end. The situation may have been made up by him in his head but the trauma was real.

There are no right ways to handle or right answers to these questions; you merely learn to set these thoughts aside and move on in life. Or sometimes become numb to them.

Nikhil now he had a very new level of fear on the eve of his class 10th board exams (the equivalent of state graduation exams in some countries) and it was a big deal because these could have a say in his college applications and also his higher education, sometimes the job he applied to and who knows, it would probably always stay with him all life.

It was sort of the beginning of his one page CV, the first formal entry if you want to call it that; A resume that would more of less judge him all his life for everything he does.

It is quite something. teenagers being forged in fire, to be tested in real life.

Sounds big ? well in his head it was a very big deal, especially at that tender age when each and everything seems to be the final nail in the coffin, unless you are one of the cool kids who get a sense of life early and/or know what to do in life and take such events in the right perspective.

Nikhil was not this kid, nowhere close actually !

Nikhil was studying in his room.

His mother was ferrying tea, coffee, snacks, her undivided attention, along with her prayers and also her nervous energies into the room which could easily create a minor nervous breakdown for Nikhil.

Sometimes when adults pay too much attention to an event, it somehow raises the stakes higher, and such attention does not help at all on the eve of a big exam.

Nikhil's mind was straying into the outer world of debating whether such an education system was ever going to help, whether such magnitude and span of syllabus was ever gong to make him a subject matter expert or a specialist in anything.

After-all life is all about being good at something, not everything.

lessons from soil erosion to basic trigonometry, from the struggle for Independence to the civic bodies, political structure of a nation. Wasn't it too wide a span to dilute the depth of know-how ?

He was also contemplating the teaching methodologies used throughout the year and how it was not very effective. His mental rant coupled with his fear made him go through 7 cups of coffee in a matter of 2 hours.

The point is that he was still stuck on the same chapter in the book and he did not have the liberty of critically and qualitatively evaluating the education system on the eve of an exam which would quantitatively and decisively evaluate him for life.

His revision routine was thorough and it covered everything from books, notes, his extended study material to the teacher's special anecdotes around the topic in class and also re-cherishing the subtle class vibes, jokes around each day or lesson.

Almost like reliving the time gone by in a matter of minutes. He literally revised those emotions he felt when he learnt about a new thing in class in its essence.

Nikhil made sure he also called a few of his friends to check-up on whether he was on the right track, covering the relevant content, lessons and sometimes wandered into a chat frenzy with his friend, completely tangential to the exam topics.

The best of conversations with peers, the best of life lessons learnt & the most insightful thoughts around life and the age-old system he was in, or the outdated topic he was learning, which was covered in a robotic, monologue by a teacher least interested in it; everything was covered on that eve by him.

That eve was like a pill of IQ, EQ crammed into a few hours.

Nikhil contemplated far too much that day about things out of the topic at hand, and hence the eve extended into the night, and then late night.

Unusual routine created a little panic attack late in the night. He had a substantial amount of ground to cover and his friends, some of them had already slept off by then.

These little bench-marking exercises didn't help his cause.

They further delayed the whole process and also degraded the quality of focus. Nikhil was now not just nervous about the exam, but also racing against time to complete the task, get some sleep and execute a job next day.

After-all no one cares about how much you studied, it is the execution in a stipulated time limit that matters at the end of the day.
The emotions, the essence of learning, the beauty of internalizing a topic, applying it or the different perspectives around the same topic covered in class is not looked at in detail.

Well Nikhil ended his 14 hour marathon around books, equations, emotions and his strong opinions about them at around 3 in the morning and went off to get some sleep.

His mother kept awake ferrying coffee and moral support till he had slept. The eventful, insightful eve of revelations, thought provoking, beautiful yet stressful journey had ended finally.

What remained was just an exam.


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