Last Sunday, as I met my lovely cousins Waris and Paras, whose Class-9 examinations have finished recently, they already were worrying about performance in the Class-10 board examinations a year in advance.
Their volley of questions reminded me of my board examination days at Punjab Public School, Nabha, when my friends and I also used to look for tips and encouragement from teachers and seniors, and regardless of that advice, remained tense, buried in books and notes around the final tests. We'd become owls at night and get up earlier than birds in the morning for final revision.
The hostel common room, to which we would rush after the lights went out, would be packed like a poultry farm before tough examinations, and we'd go to the gurdwara daily in the days before to pray for an easy test. I rarely remember if we went to the gurdwara on other days.
At our boarding school, the question papers would arrive in a big, black trunk, an hour before the test, and every year, the venue would be the grand school library hall. The supervisor was strict, and so were the invigilators who came from Yadavindra Public School, Patiala. There would be hundreds of butterflies in my stomach before the final call for entry, and it seemed that the pair of scissors cutting open the question-papers packs was running through our hearts.
With the distribution of question papers, the butterflies would double and I'd pray even harder. I had been advised to just hold my nerves, yet the first section of the first question paper had me stumped. The examination subject, English, was my favourite, yet even in the 15 minutes of the allotted reading time, I couldn't decide which essay to write out of the four choices.
I wrote a paragraph and had no idea how to go further, so I cut it off and wrote "sorry" on top. Another paragraph, another topic, the result was same. The bewilderment must have cost me 20 minutes. One of the teachers read the signs of anxiety on my face and ordered water for me. Seeing my untidy answer sheet, she gave me a fresh one, counselling me to cool down and take it like a regular test.
It made me feel better and, in a minute or two, I had made my choice. Now I was nervous that I had lost time, but I tried my best to attempt every question. Still, I missed out a few and was dissatisfied with all my answers written in a hurry. The result was published in the school chronicle. I had scored only 60% in English. All year, this percentage had been in the 80s. The mates who always would score less had done better.
Life itself is an examination. A cool head always performs well.
The writer is an HT staff correspondent based in Ludhiana