A couple of not-so-hilarious incidents from our pre-board exams in 10th standards. It being election year (1998) we had 2 rounds of pre-boards instead of the usual one. The formation in the classroom was interesting – we sat normally two to a desk, and there were two sets of question papers. Since these were pre-boards and not boards, many of us didn’t really take them seriously. I must say that the entire set of exams was a riot. After all, it was the last thing that we did in that wonderful school (the school didn’t have 11th and 12th, so all of us had to shift out).
The biology section of the science exam contained a question on habit-forming substances. Something on the lines of “what are habit forming substances and why are they bad”. A certain mahaanubhaavva thought he didn’t know the answer. Or maybe he didn’t understand the question properly. So using a set of excellently-planned cheat codes, he managed to communicate to the guy in the next row (note that he couldn’t ask the person next to him since she had a different question paper) about this question.
The guy in the next row wasn’t such a stud in dumb-charades, and decided to use standard gestures rather than excellently-worked-out codes. He wanted to show booze in as intuitive way as possible. Putting his fist near his mouth, and with a clever movement of his thumb, he indicated drink. Sitting behind him, I thought this was excellent for someone not well-versed in Dumb Charades. Unfortunately, people well-versed in Dumb Charades tend to think too much. In went the answer paper “the primary habitat forming substance is water. It is bad because people and animals can fall and drown in it”. He must count himself lucky he got the hall ticket.
This incident has had far-reaching consequences. The mahaanubhaava who didn’t know the answer was so traumatised by the incident that he is yet to taste alcohol. He is afraid of drowning in it – that dreaded habitat forming substance.
One day later was the social sciences paper. Unfortunately I wasn’t part of the Dumb Charades study group, so I hadn’t been introduced to the art of communicating the question number across the class. I realized that with my skills I was unable to even communicate across the aisle. I wasn’t even as good as the guy in front of me who put his fist to his mouth. So it had to be the cute girl next to me who had to help me out with the question that I didn’t have a clue of. If I remember right, she was partially trained in Dumb Charades.
What I didn’t realize was that you are not supposed to copy if you are seated in the first row – it is too easy to get caught. Moreover, if you are in one of the middle columns (like I was) you are in the direct line of vision of the invigilator. So it is never a good idea to copy. But then, I’d never copied in my life, and I knew this was the last opportunity for me to make amends. So what if I didn’t know the codes? So what if I was seated on the first row? So what if the cute girl next to me had a different set of questions? This was my last chance to profitably copy, and I had to take it.
I usually pride myself on being good at eye contact. I pride myself on the fact that I can communicate anything to someone of the opposite gender by just looking deeply into her eyes. I know that if I were to copy from a girl who was seated in FRONT of me, I could have done it with just eye contact. Unfortunately, the only person seated across me and looking towards me was the invigilator. Obviously I couldn’t ask her the answer?
The rules of copying state that it is always the dumber person who copies from the smarter person. The class topper never copies. If he were a copycat, his topping could never have been this sustainable. By knownig the two names, you can easily know who is the copier and who is the copied. Things always go by the rules. So if you try to invert these rules, it is usually easy to fool the invigilator. And so forth.
So unlike the mahaanubhaava who hadn’t understood the question, I didn’t get caught for the attempt to copy. No one threatened to not give me my hall ticket – that honour went to the cute girl who had been sitting next to me. I didn’t do well in my social science pre-boards – I hadn’t been able to get the answer from the benchmate – she had got caught for copying from me before that. Despite now knowing the codes, and having zero experience in this department, I had played my cards well. I never repeated this experiment. Even if I wnated to, I think I’d’ve never found a counterparty.