Saturday, July 13, 2013

The final Sanskrit Exam!

​I was failed in my Second Year Pre-University Course ['PUC' here, the equivalent of 12th Grade] for not passing in one subject, which was Sanskrit.  The penalty was spending the 'fail term' a la 'jail term' at home for one year. My attempt in the Supplementary exam in September 1976 brought the same result. So I was to take it again in March 1977.  

For one who has always disliked attending school the 'fail term' was a wonderful godsend.  I never felt ashamed at all.  It was the best time when I did so many things relating to my several hobbies.  Believe me, this was my second such beautiful term in 3 years.  I sat out in the First PUC also.  All my classmates had bade me goodbye and marched ahead!  People in the neighbourhood were aware of my 'fail term' which was no secret. 

Sanskrit, which was Latin to me, but a glass of water to others for 'some reason'.  It was the sharpest thorn later in my academic career and the nemesis!  To me all subjects were thorns, for that matter! 

One afternoon in March 1977, the main exams were looming large without my knowledge!  I was lying down on a mat preparing for the post-lunch snooze a habit I had fallen into.  I was feeling wonderful. 

I heard my [late] aunt who was at the gate outside, talking to her friend, who was passing by, inquiring about the PUC exams. "Did Dinu take the Admission Ticket?  The exams are starting tomorrow."  She was shocked and came rushing in to pass this shock to me!  It is still a mystery why I had not inquired anyone before!   So there I was happily lying on the mat, listening to the radio, reading a comic book preparing for a snooze! 

Panic struck. I sprang up from the mat like a monkey, quickly changed the dress, combed my hair in a jiffy and was in college in 3 minutes flat. The college was half a mile away and I went on my bicycle. There was a short queue at the office issuing Admission Tickets. I also re-confirmed on the Notice Board and that the exam was indeed TOMORROW!  It was almost 4 in the afternoon and the exam was just 17 hours away.  This may probably be some record with regard to the very small time-gap for knowing, preparing and attending an important exam.

I raced home in the same urgency as a toilet visit and changed back to my pajamas. Straightaway headed for the bookshelf, blew some imaginary dust from the Sanskrit book and opened it.  The pages creaked!  

I must have sat with the book for the next nine hours which meant reading in to the wee hours, so alien to me! During this time, I had to skip my evening cricket session and also bring in my friend Shankar who lived 200 feet away across the street.  He was one year junior to me in age, but far ahead in intelligence. He was also taking the same exam but he was attending college as a regular.  Shankar spending an hour with me in such a tight crisis to clear my doubts will never be forgotten.  I remember we had a tough story "Prathijna YougandharaayaNa" which Shankar explained to me in simple terms, in areas I could not understand!  That is how brainy he was, like his illustrious forefathers, Sachidananda and Gundavadhani. His presence was such a confidence booster. At other times, he used to come to play scrabble and many games.  But this time, for teaching.  

Not in my life till then and never again did I study at that length and with such attention!  It was as if at 'gun point'. For a person who hardly studied, this was hard study, literally.  The brain fatigued very soon, the gray cells moaned with this never-before-applied load!  "Mother of all languages" was hard on the gray cells!  Even harder was the "Guide" which was in Kannada.  Even though it was the mother tongue, my medium of instruction all through my career was English.  We had the option of answering the Sanskrit paper either in English or Kannada.  I had chosen Kannada.

My grandmother always reminded me not to do "Yuddha kaale Shastraabhyaasa" [practicing the handling of weapons at the time of war, a proverb] but to prepare well in advance.  Now it was the eleventh hour already! 

After a few hours of sleep, I got up early to look at the book one last time.  Another bad performance would tantamount to one more year at home.

It was a tradition at home that before going to the exams we were to do a prayer in the worship room and light two 'ghee lamps' with wicks.  Either my grandmother, mother or aunt would ready it.

So with this 'record study' to back I went to the 3-hour exam hoping it to be the last one, which would also decide the course of my career.  If I say I wrote well, I would be lying.  I have never done such a thing in exams. All 'papers' in my academics were tough to me!!  I came home relieved. Relieved of not having to study for another few months!  For the results, I have always kept the fingers crossed.  It was like lottery!

I was shocked when the results arrived more than a month later.  I had passed!!  But I would like to say 'they passed me' - someone did not want me to spend another 'fail term'.  See the marks they gave me in the picture. Click on it. And also notice the years of passing the subjects.  :)

Whichever way, it was sweet news for everyone!  My two 'fail terms' seemed to have been forgotten, just like the mother forgets the pain when the baby arrives.  Finally, I had crossed the big hurdle and in what circumstances!

What if my aunt's friend had not mentioned about the exam schedule?  I dread to even imagine. 

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