Someone Please Kill Exams!

Exam stress - what is it about curriculums and exams that make slave-driving monsters out of us, usually reasonable adults and loving parents?

Exam stress – what is it about curriculums and exams that make slave-driving monsters out of us, usually reasonable adults and loving parents?

The almost-end of another year.

Another batch of new faces awaiting the official end of the school year, the official transition to higher secondary, the official end of school blues, exam days, buying and breaking geometry cases, having to iron uniforms, wash canvas shoes, and the prospect of the start of a time for being uniform-less, school bag-less, free from oil-drenched plait-tied hair dos.

Finally. But all that is too good to be true, probably isn’t true. Almost always.

Exams. The biggest hurdle in the path of a school goer. The biggest hurdle between the freedom of a caged bird and the freedom of a bird that has the sky for a roof.

What anticipation, what excited painful preparation, what anxiety. Something every single literate Indian must, MUST go through at every stage of schooling.

Let’s talk about them. Exams. Needed or not, necessary or not, exams are the biggest culprits for the increasing stress and pressure among teenagers, increasingly and alarmingly so.

I still remember how much coaxing and cajoling went on after I declared I’d rather be a good writer than a bad chartered accountant. You see my father is a chartered accountant and I had no option other than to either be a good chartered accountant or a bad one. There were no ifs and buts allowed. But I knew from an early age that my heart and soul lay in writing and I could never ever be half as good a workaholic with a desk job, as dad.

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So when I voiced it out, I was labelled as “The Rebel” and “The Problem Child”. Let’s not go into the drama but let’s just say I won in the end.

As a kid, I used to be a voracious reader. (I still can have this book appetite that can never be satiated) And this book, among others, helped me brave the societal norms towards becoming successful: How I braved Anu Aunty and co-founded a million dollar company by Varun Agarwal, who is a recipient of ‘Young Entrepreneur Award’, is a first generation businessman, film maker and best-selling author of this inspirational autobiography.

So ‘Anu Aunty’ is the societal pressure that directs you and your parents to decide if you’re either going to be a doctor or an engineer. Braving Anu Aunty is the first leap towards gaining anything you are passionate for. Because this book was autobiographical, it made me think out of the box and sketch a way to aspire and strive and achieve in the field I had streamlined myself into.

Here is Varun Agarwal’s Facebook post on this topic – check it out.

So then again, Exams. Sometimes you brave your mom, good dad and even the demons within you, the kind that pulls you down, but well, exams? They are the biggest demons of them all.

So yes, I had my share of flunking and acing but trust me, I’ve been writing since I was five. I got my first novella written when I was thirteen, got published when I was fourteen. I’ve been working on two other novels since then and I’ve done my bachelor’s in English Literature and I’m pursuing my Master’s in the same and there has not been a single day I’ve wondered as to when I will ever apply my first trigonometry theorem that I swear I memorized all night before the exam, in practice.

That day has never come, my friend and keep a tab on me, I’ll let you know if that fateful day should ever come. Why did I ever have to be pushed to the point of insanity over a couple of problems and theorems and diagrams that I was sure even back then, that I’d never end up using anyways? Of course, I know some brilliant Math whizzes who apply Math in their everyday lives, but shouldn’t we by now have understood that our kids are much more important than the marks they get in some standard examination?

I remember some neighbouring schools which made kids sit in the order of their ranks and some schools (not the school I studied in cough cough) which made slow learners sit outside the principal’s cabin during lunch, so that they might be humiliated and somehow obtain a magical drive to try harder in the next exam.

I personally know countless kids who got beaten up in public, for scoring two marks lesser than the average. I know mothers who made their kids kneel in the hot summer sun (We have no English summers, I tell you). I know schools that confiscated sports period, prized possessions of students, to make them focused on attaining their one single goal of scoring more. I know principals who whipped students in front of the whole school for scoring a below average score. I know kids who sat with their hands tied back and ate lunch, because they talked when they should’ve been studying.

I know kids who ended their lives, I know kids who almost died.

I mean, what the hell is that all about?

All for One Freaking Exam?

I am twenty-two, happily married and I juggle between being a good wife, a good daughter, a good daughter in law, a good student, a good writer, a good poet and now recently, a good mom to our 36 days old Rottweiler puppy. Amidst all these myriad roles I play and the million thoughts I have every day, there is still a big ball of hatred in me that cannot be appeased by distractions.

A big ball of hatred against the dorky high school version of me. The version of me that allowed myself to be battered around in the form of various humiliating punishments that involved being embarrassed to hell in front of fellow classmates, senior guys and on one particular occasion, in front of the whole school. Thanks to myself for performing even worse when I was put under constant surveillance (‘right under teacher’s nose’ whatever that meant) or monitored every half hour. Thanks to my parents for not standing up for me just because the school belonged to the company my dad worked for and raising their voices against the beloved company meant he was in some subtle way, turning against the company that paid him.

And thus, thanks to every above-mentioned points, I grew up believing I deserved the treatment I got. That I was way inferior to the rest of my peers and that I’d never be as pretty, as talented or as good as any of my friends.

Growing up was harder when I had zero self-respect and even lesser self-confidence. It seems pointless to me now, to keep in touch with friends who had seen me in all my weakest state, apologizing for a countless number times for things I never did or for things that did not require apologizing for. Even when I had made a mark for myself, found the right guy, and fallen in love, it all felt surreal because I thought I did not deserve it.

And thus a sorry version of myself evolved from the dorky high-school version of me. So freaking apologetic that all my novels had at least one negative character that was an adaptation of the school bullies.

Having the right people in life helped incredibly in loving myself and respecting the person that I am. If not for my husband, who is such an outgoing, confident person, I’d probably still be in my hole, hating myself and feeling miserable over some stupid grades.

As a literature graduate, I frequently top my classes now, I compete and test my writing skills very often in competitions and proudly claim laurels, that I KNOW I deserve. I am a fairly confident person and I love being impulsively wild and myself, more than anything else. I am a spoken word poet and I love performing and connecting with people and I try moving mountains through my writing. I am a learner, I keep learning every day and now I know that learning is best done when the mind is free and the head is held high with self-respect and the heart is clear from broken walls of demarcations.

Now that I come to think of it, some basic questions continue to torment me:

Why, why why would a child’s mental and social well-being not matter more than a couple of big grades?

Why would a child’s happiness and health not matter more than his freakishly long study hours and almost negligible play hours?

Why are we selfish enough to drive our kids to the point of exhaustion, just because we want to have a better social standing in front of mothers and fathers of numero unos?

God, why and how did we become slave makers?


I still don’t get how marks define a child’s future, but if that is the way it works, truthfully speaking, I’d homeschool my kid and have him or her learn Arts and Languages and Reasoning and Music.

Why does no-one raise their hands to put forward a question that may change the way every Anu Aunty thinks?

I don’t want my kid to eat in front of the principal’s room or be thrashed because he scored way below expectations, or be forced to give up everything he treasures just so he may score better, like I was made to.

I want my kid to have fun, be healthy and love learning instead of wetting his pants at the mention of exams.

So someone please, kill exams?

Image source: exam stress by Shutterstock.


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