Thursday, April 22, 2010
Part 2: The curious case of Samresh Painter and one strange night before the exams!
PART 2 of the story:
For part 1, please click here!
I pretty much hate exams - the idea of an 'exam' the next day makes me nervous and on top of it, whoever you talk to-meet or even accidently (and regretfully) bump into, will either be studying or would be making a fuss about the unfair demands that the exam makes! Maybe my dislike for exams also emerges from the fact that I haven't performed exceptional in any of the examinations that I’ve written. Yes, maybe that’s why I hate it. 'Hate' - a strong word uh?, but the concept of exams deserves that kind of a word! An exam tomorrow should be held responsible for the wasting of today's entire day to prepare and then wasting half of tomorrow to write the exam. That amounts to two days lost for a two or three hour exam!
Childhood was no fun, ask Samresh! He too absolutely hated exams, after all it was only to clear these dreaded exams that he was forced to leave all his friends from his batch and join the junior batch a year later, that was us. He had the best of friends in his batch, those who understood him, answered his weird questions and were even normal with his 'half-neurotic' behavior at times. They didn’t mind Samresh-the Dacoit, who looted their hair oils, shampoos, soap cases and buckets. Maybe living with him and putting up with his activities had actually engrained in the batch mates a rare like, even a trace of protection for his eccentricities. Samresh was known, Samresh was home. And before he knew it, he was now with us - the juniors.
End of the year - the final exams of the semester came. Heads went deeper into the sewer of knowledge. And mouths started complaining about exams, preparations and the difficult subjects. Of all the subjects the most rubbished-ridiculed and unappealing subject was 'By-Products Technology'. Taught by a professor who was equally uninterested in the subject and had a weird sense of remembering student names by their roll numbers. He didnt speak to the class, he just murmured, that was the kind of volume his voice had. His words wouldn't even travel further than a couple of bench rows, thus giving a free license for the third row onwards junta to move from the ‘willingly not hear’ state to the 'cannot hear' one.
A day before that By-Products exam, just when students were getting demoralized and weren't upto studying anything more, Samresh started to adopt a reverse strategy - To combat the exams - blow by blow! He did not whine about the subject anymore and no more complaining in the hostel lobby, infact Samresh had secretly started preparing for the exams. He carried with him - the huge books, cups of tea and more isolation in the secret library corners. Looking at him, one could easily know, 'the exams were definitely around the corner'.
Now, it is very interesting to observe that as the hour of exam comes nearer, student behaviors starts changing - some wither away reading the underlined photostated notes of a long-lost senior, some react by studying only the underlined notes-crisp points-"andar toh kuch bhi likh denge types", some study hard by burning the midnight-lamp, endless text and diagrams read and re-read, some only prepare the 'most important questions' category, the (n)ever reliable ‘Guides’, whereas some leave it at the hands of fate, and some rely on their memory (I so envy them!!), some even devise new ways of cheating and some like me just have no clue, they run from pillar to post, from books to notes and ultimately fall asleep only to get up in the morning to behave like Satish Shah in Jaane bhi do yaaron: "oooo Tarneja bi iddddar, Ahuja bi idddar...hummm 'phas gaya'.
But something strange happened on that night, the night before the By-Products paper. Samresh must have been preparing for the exam, undoubtedly. But his preparations had got an amazing lift. He managed to get the biggest reference book possible on By-Products from the campus library. Now getting a big reference book of the subject whose exam is scheduled the next day, is a little strange, well not for Samresh. Why you ask, because the toppers invariably have a plan made for issuing the books on their names and mere mortals like the 'rest of the class' would never be able to reach to that level of 'foresight' or 'fear-sight' I might say - To 'book' the book in advance. Its almost like booking the tickets for the opening weekend of a blockbuster movie, you never get it. But that day Samresh had managed to beat the 'toppers' and get the Big reference book by that German scientist, whose name I do not remember. It was lying on the study table in his room. Like The Frog in Agastya Sen's bathroom in English, August.
The strange night had started. Post-dinner, everyone in the hostel lobby was heard saying the same thing: "its the most irritating subject of this semester, oh lord, please let this go! this too shall pass..." and quietly everyone retired to their rooms, the grumbles changed into murmers of text re-repated aloud from the notes of whey proteins, kappa casein, betalactoglobulin and more such dreadful names. Soon the heads deep into the sewer! Samresh, in his pyjamas and a shirt casually went to his study table, adjusted his spectacles and opened the first page of that Big book by that German Scientist, whose name I still dont remember. It was around 9 pm. Now, on several instances my father has insisted that I should learn and practice yoga - he says it increases your concentration. Fathers do know their boys well, but then again how to articulate the fact that my not being able to concentrate on things that don't appeal to me is more of a voluntary thing. So, after reading a couple of pages, my concentration dwindled in search of something more interesting. I would then go to the next room or the next lobby and strike a conversation, ask fellow batchmates about how their preparations were going and the expected questions from the last year papers.
Across the lobby - in the last room - with the door open, Samresh had started reading that Big Book, he had read a few pages. I remember peeping into his room and seeing Samresh standing at the edge of the corner table in his pyjamas and reading. Standing and reading. A few hours later, I again passed by and saw the same scene - Samresh at the edge of the corner table, standing and reading. Somewhere around 1 am, I got up to take care of natures calls-and a little loiter, I passed by his room again. And again the same scene, Samresh by the edge of the corner table, still standing and still reading. The only thing that changed in that room was the pages-read of the Big Book by that German scientist. The Word spread soon, and other classmates too begun to go and peep into Samresh's room, but nothing could break his concentration. It was like a force that binds you. As soon as the 'toppers' came to know of Samresh's unnatural(rather threatening)behavior, they developed cold feet. They too took rounds around his room and tried to tell him that 'he should not stress himself, after all its just an exam!'
See, this is exactly why I dislike this species called toppers, they will make sure that you sleep well(read 'study less') before the exam even when they know that my or that poor Samresh's studying is not going to affect his grades. If required they will go to each room and sing a lullaby so that everyone has a sound sleep.
Back to Samresh. The clock and the read-pages were the only thing that moved in that room. Page after page turned, Samresh just stood there like a rock. It was 4 am and Samresh had by now reached half of the book written by that German scientist, (yes whose name is still lost in my memory). Nothing could stop Samresh that strange night. I had slept for a couple of hours and got up around 4 30 am. To 'awaken' myself, I went to the bathroom and took a quick shower. While returning, I saw Samresh standing there in the same position I had seen him at 9 pm. That was yesterday. A strong sense of deja vu. I shook myself and rushed to my room.
The final bell rang. The exam started at 9 am. The paper was difficult, people like me had started looking around, trying to gauge, whether was it only me who was finding it difficult or were there others too in the same boat. I looked at the toppers and saw the signs of nervousness. I was relieved for a second and then started writing whatever I knew-and could make up. Suddenly, I remembered Samresh. I did a quick scan of the room to spot him. I saw him writing impatiently, like a mad scientist at work. It was as if the nameless-err name-forgotten German's spirit was writing the exam through Samresh, perhaps the same gutso with which the book was written 60 years ago!
After the final bell rang-indicating the end of the ordeal, the class gathered at the tea stall. Samresh had his tea and samosas. The nervous toppers now had a competitor or so they believed. An unlikely competitor, one who had repeated a year on account of failing in 4 out of 7 subjects in a semester. Sorry for diverting again and indulging in personal opinions, but I absolutely love the idea of defeating the toppers, as much as they hate the idea of being defeated! The underdog winner fantastically fascinates. There's indeed some moronic pleasure that I achieve while seeing a topper going from 2nd rank to 3rd. Now for the rest of the world, it maybe just a number but for them, its like a personal loss in family. They moan it so badly that it leads to some amazing moments to just stay and observe. Of course, there's no counting the morons like me, who are comfortably seated at 29th or 32nd rank!
I remember my Sr.Kg result in Bombay.
82%, 29th Rank.
And that's why the critics or a few may have issues with 3 Idiots, but in a way it definitely works. The world is not made of toppers, gentlemen.
Cut to 4 months later: Results: The unbelievable had happened. Like the movies. The rise of Samresh had disturbed the order of toppers in the class. The hierarchy changed and how? Samresh stood second in the class of 40, first in By-Products. Six months back, he was the drop-out student who had joined the junior batch, a misfit in the class and now, he was what Di Caprio would shout while standing at the edge of the ship deck: "king of the world......"
I have seen underdogs winning and the impossible things happen but this was something else. It happened over a period of time, gradually and right in front of me.
After the result, when a classmate met Samresh, walking on the campus road alone, he asked him:
"Samresh, the topper, where are you going?
a bespectacled, nervous and a shy Samresh replied: "just ahead.."
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