Those Unsung Geniuses…

June 10, 2012 at 9:15 PMJun (Friends, Musings, Slice Of Life)

An evening chai with a friend took us back to school days. We spoke of many things from school life and somehow we reached the issue of ‘malpractice in the exam’ which we called, to avoid the loaded language, “copying”. After all we are lazy people, you know.

When you have the toughest work to do, give it to the laziest person and he will find a short cut. One of the best examples of it can be found in “copying.” Exams were conducted to ‘examine’ the intelligence or rather the memory of the students. While it provided platform for all the so called intelligent people to show off their intelligence wrapped in memory, it provided a platform for the less intelligent ones to bring out their creativity and be in the race.

Ethics? It is for the privileged intelligent ones. And come on, everything is fare in love and war. That too in this competitive world where something as silly as exams are projected as a matter of life and death. When we build a society which is not ideal, with its unhealthy competitive mentality, we will have all unethical unhealthy but not at all uninteresting practices happening.

While peeping into other’s answer sheet was a common practice in our school there was some interesting ‘copying’ that needs to be recorded. Ours was a truly genius school Saar….

We would never be made to sit with our classmates and I believe that is the practice in every school. Once, when I was in class eight, my neighbor in the exam hall from class ten was constantly looking down at the floor whenever he was out of teacher’s eye sight. No, he couldn’t have kept anything on his lap. That would be too dangerous!! Why he was looking at the floor, I wondered only to see answers written on a fresh pair of white Paragon slippers!!! Har Kadam Per Aapke Saath

Full hand shirts were preferred mostly by the less intelligent people. You know how paper sheets can be placed comfortably while folding the hand of the full hand shirt! Slowly the folded hand of the shirt would be unfolded. Exams are cold to the less intelligent ones you see. It would send a chill down the spine…

One of the most hilarious memories of “copying” is of this friend who was my batch mate but in another section. There used to be these ‘Guide’s for the less intelligent ones. These books (How can I forget those memorable names- Super Digest, Diamond) would give summaries of the lessons and also give model questions and answers for them too. So this friend would buy two sets of Guides for every subject in the same year. One to study and the other one to be neatly scissored and taken to the exam hall. Now while remembering it I feel it was the earliest method of what we call today, “Cut Copy Paste” while all other methods of “copying” were just “copy paste”.

Taking chit into the exam hall and coming out without being caught requires guts boss. Some would throw the chits out of the window. But those unfortunate ones who did not get a window seat had to somehow carefully bring the chits out of the hall too. Unfolding them is quite easy when compared to re-folding of it and hiding it again. One of our seniors had told us the story of one of his classmate who used to swallow the chit after using it. Reminded of that class one English story of the goat that ate arithmetic books? When the subject did not get into the brain it at least got into the stomach. What for is schooling if not to find means to fill ones stomach?

When we were in our pre-university classes a boy from Kerala joined our school who couldn’t scream for his life in Hindi even if a knife was held at his neck in a Hindi speaking area. He, out of no choice, has to opt for Hindi as the only other option in language was Kannada. Somehow he cleared first year of PU. When we came to second year the regime of the college changed and the new principal announced that if any student failed in the preparatory exams he or she would not be allowed to write the annual exam as it would affect the overall results of the college which was considered no less to a bharateeya naari’s izzat!! So passing in preparatory became too important for him though he did not know how.

The day before exam another friend who had opted for Kannada came up with a “plan.” Three students would be allotted one bench to sit and write the exam, second years on each end writing their preparatory exam and in the middle the first year students writing their annual exam. As per plan we all went to the college early and spotted the place in the exam hall allotted for our Malyalee friend. The other second year student allotted the same bench with our Malyalee friend was convinced to go occupy the place allotted to this friend who had come up with the plan. He agreed. This boy who came up with the idea went and occupied the bench with this Malyalee with a first year student in between. Writing his paper, this friend passed on his paper to the Malyalee and took his paper. This was the most risky of all “copying” because the friend who came up with the idea was writing Kannada paper and this Malyalee friend was writing Hindi paper. But this Kannada friend, as planned, wrote the essay, letters and those general stuff enough for the Malyalee to get his hall ticket for the annual exam.

Incidentally the girl sitting between them was a friend to me. That afternoon she gave me a call and asked me, taking the name of the two, if they were my friends. She went on to explain how she couldn’t write her paper being perplexed by the exchanging of answer sheets in the exam hall by two people answering two different question papers of different language. She wanted to know what exactly was happening. When I told her what was the plan she just said, “Only if so much brain was applied to study.”

You always have such nerds. Come on, not everyone is made for every language and for the same kind of exam oriented competition. But look at the ideas these people come up with. They are original in nature unlike those answers which are reproduced on the answer sheets.

The incident of preparatory exam reminds me of what is the best of my school ‘malpractice in exam’ memories. I cannot use the word “copying” here because it was not “copying” at all.

Mathematics answer sheets were being distributed in class after the exams. As expected and as usual I had flunked. Flunked royally. While the intelligent ones were checking and rechecking the marking to see if they could get quarter mark more and while the less intelligent ones celebrated our failures of which we knew beforehand, one of our classmates went to Sir and said he had not got his answer sheet. Sir got worried and said, “May be I have misplaced it with the answer sheets of the other section. I will check.” Later in the break time I told this friend very enviously, “How lucky, your answer sheet is misplaced and you are saved of the shame of having flunked, like me. But if he finds it and you are flunked you are with me.” His reply to this was shocking and the story hilarious. He said, “How will Sir find my answer sheet when I did not submit it?” The story is this: Halfway through the exam our man realized that there is absolutely no chance of him clearing the paper. So what he did was, he neatly folded his answer sheet and kept it in his pocket and just walked out of the hall with everyone. In the last minute when everyone places the answer sheets on the invigilators table and walks out our man had walked out with his answer sheet in his pocket. The invigilator was busy collecting others answer sheets.

Malpractice in exam is a common phenomenon in every school across the country I guess. I remember how ideas were exchanged by students of different schools when all came together in Scout or NCC camps. Miseries have this impossible strength to unite people who otherwise are separated by walls of institutions.

One of my favorite story is that narrated by a cousin of mine. One of their lecturers had this habit of correcting the answer sheets with a pencil and writing the marks on them with a pencil. The students later had to see if the marking was proper and only after they had nodded their head saying the marking is proper he would write the marks on the same sheet with a pen. Democratic method I say. The student had the opportunity to say he/she deserves more mark and if proved right, he/she would get it. What this friend of my cousin would do after answering is that he would neatly take out a pencil and write on the top right of the first sheet- 30 and circle it. Like their teacher would, while correcting the answer sheet. As a result when the teacher would be correcting the answer sheets- around hundred per class- he would see the ‘marking’ and think that he has already corrected the paper and place it with the corrected answer sheets. When the sheets were distributed in class this genius of a boy would go through his answer sheet thoroughly moving his finger on every line he has scribbled and say, “it’s perfect,” to get good thirty marks out of fifty even when the teacher had not gone through his answer sheet!!

A friend told me the story of a faculty they had who was one of his kinds who could be bullied by the students. But his innocent smile made these people have some pity on him and hence they did not bully him but would take him on a ride always. Once a classmate of my friend was “copying” in the exam. This particular faculty saw this boy indulging in malpractice but did not say anything. He just smiled. But when the boy submitted his answer sheet and was walking out of the exam hall he was stopped by this faculty. Everyone in the hall thought that the faculty would now handover the boy to the examination supervisor. The class was terrified by this act of stopping of this guy. The faculty slowly walked to the boy and said, “Please don’t tell anyone that you copied in the exam.”

Some jokes are hard to laugh at. I know.

If you thought this was the heights, wait. Listen to what happens the next semester with the same faculty. A boy had brought chits to the exam hall and was copying from it. This faculty making his usual rounds went and stood just behind the boy who was copying. He was so involved in his act of cheating that he did not realize that the invigilator was just behind him. When he felt that there was someone standing just behind him he turned back out of fear and when he turned back this faculty got terrified and turned his face to the roof to see the ceiling fan!!!

Not every attempt is a asucceful one. Some great ideas fail at times. My Degree days. Ours was the first batch of the new course that was introduced in the Institute. Getting approval for the course and other formalities took time and our course was late to start. So our exams were conducted separately as we were not in pace with the rest of the courses. Our exams were conducted in our class room itself. Once we got to know that our English teacher was to come that day as the invigilator. We remembered her narrating incidents of she sending her class one daughter for Kannada tuition as she did not know Kannada and couldn’t teach or make her daughter revise the lessons. We came up with this idea to write some of the difficult answers on the board, not in English language but in Kannada script. And we did. We all patted our own backs singing praises of our creativity. Teacher arrived and distributed sheets for us to write the answers and when she was going back to her table after distributing the sheets, to collect the question paper kept on the table, her eyes fell on the black board. When her eyes were stuck at the board we all started giggling and that gave it away. She asked what was written on the black board. Me being the CR said, “Its a notice from the Kannada Association of the college.” That made my classmates laugh uncontrollably. The teacher understood what it was. She neatly wiped the black board clean with a smile on her face.

These “copying” in the battle of examination have had many martyrs.  At times the not so experts give it out to the invigilators by the fear reflected on their face. The teachers later on see it as a feather in their cap of being strict and not allowing anybody to copy and catching the frauds, without realizing that many just managed to get their way right under the nose of the invigilator.

Once when a friend was caught while copying he took the names of all the other classmates in the class who were also copying. This landed quite a few in trouble.

When I joined as a faculty and during my first, very first in fact, invigilation duty while all students were entering the hall one student came to me and whispered in my right ear, “Sir xyz has brought chits and is going to copy.” You always have such ‘mark fetish’ people. This person went on to say, “Not that you have to send him out but telling you because it is an ethical matter.” I was in serious dilemma. All my students were and still are very close to my heart. It was easy to send him out of the hall based on the ‘complaint’. But that would be too harsh a thing to do with a student, I thought. Then I recollected the words that one of my teacher friends had once told me. He had said, “The job of the invigilator is to see to it that nobody copies and not to punish the one who copies.” So what this friend used to do is if he found a student with chits in the exam hall he would just take the chits from the student and let the student continue to write. So that day what I did was I told my co-invigilator to keep an eye on this student who allegedly had brought chits into the exam hall with the intentions of copying. That managed to stop the student from copying. But this student who later on went to be one of my dearest students said he continued to copy in most of the exams later on in various methods. He would explain in detail the different methods that he used to copy in the exams. Some were really interesting but did not fascinate me the way the methods adopted by some of my classmates did.

One of my friends was telling me that in their institute some students access Wikipedia through their mobile and write answers during class test. The idea of copying and the methods of it are in tune with the times, I told myself when I heard of it. When one student was caught accessing Wikipedia via mobile in the class test mobile phones were banned from the exam hall. But I doubt if that stopped malpractice in the exam. It is impossible to believe after having see genius methods of copying compared to which accessing Wikipedia via mobile is totally uncreative and unintelligent.

The true genius way of surviving an exam to me was by this friend who somehow discovered that his teacher- an alumni of the same institute- who was teaching for the first time, was repeating in class exactly what she was told by her teachers when she was a student. Probably my friend discovered this by seeing his teacher read out from a note book which seemed a bit old. This made my friend to come to the conclusion that if the teacher doesn’t have the brains to speak of the subject originally then she would not have the brains to set the question paper originally too. So he went to the library and unearthed the question papers, (of all the subjects related to the subject he was being taught), that his teacher had faced as a student. He thoroughly prepared for the questions that his teacher had answered being sure a mix match of those questions would be his question paper. And he was not wrong.

He said he had a smile on his face when he saw the question paper. I laughed aloud and bowed down to his genius.

When I recollect all my school classmates and see what they are doing today I see that almost everyone is doing fairly well in life, the ones who got gold medal and those creative geniuses who knew the short cut. So what was all that gaga over marks and the unnecessary comparison between those who scored well and those who didn’t? When I go to my school today, there is a huge board on which the name of every batch’s academic topper is painted. That makes a glorious show off of those who hoisted their individual flag on the top of their illusive Mount Everest but never makes an interesting story. The interesting stories are always by those who do not hoist their flag on the top or those who do not have their names painted to go down into history. The interesting stories are of those who are struggling to survive and be on the race of life in this competitive world. The unsung geniuses of every school make the best stories of survival. Survival is also a success story, dude…

(Disclaimer: This post does not encourage malpractice in exam nor does it celebrate it. But yes it condemns the unintelligent method of examination based evaluation and celebrates the true will of those so called “less intelligent” or “unintelligent” people and their original creative methods to survive these useless exams and make their way.)

1 Comment

  1. Shankar said,

    I introduced mini-xerox copies in my school 🙂

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