I’m currently (re)watching Desperate Housewives and I’m on season 7. The episode I watched just before I started writing this was the one where Susan, after her kidney transplant, was on a lucky streak and it reminded be about the years when it seemed like I was on a lucky streak too. So I decided to write about it.
Well, that, and the fact that this story kind of made it to another post I was writing and it was reaaaaally out of place there, so I moved it from my mommy blog to this one so that I could make it “optional” for everyone, and here we are.
It is an incident I remember vividly even though it was almost 14 years ago and it’s because it was equal parts mortifying and so effing unbelievable that I still wonder if it was all a dream.
I know it wasn’t. I have documents to prove that.
It was 2005 and I was in S.Y.B.Com. Our first term exams were going on (so maybe it was end of September or first week of October) and it was the night before our Law exam. It was the first time we had come across the subject and thought I had started studying a while ago, I didn’t really know how I should approach the subject except to keep reading each section over and over again until I could remember every word.
10 hours before the exam and for all the studying I had done, I hadn’t even been able to finish The Indian Contract Act and there were at least 2 more we had covered that term. In that moment, when I didn’t know how I was going to finish the FIRST READING OF over 85% of the syllabus, all I could do was pray to God (I was a staunch believer back then) that he somehow help me pass the exam this time, with an addendum that stated, ‘unlike I did this entire semester, I would
find a better strategy to approach the subject not while my time away and wait till the last day to study.’
And while I lay on the floor, rivulets flowing out of my eyes, begging to some supreme power for mercy, my sister sat in the same room, right across from me and laughed at me and the whole situation knowing fully well that the following term wasn’t going to be any different, and that six months later we would be in the EXACT same position again.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get the opportunity to find out if I would have kept my promise to God.
I’m not sure if it was the power of my prayers (highly unlikely, because I don’t think it’s so easy to BS someone who knows what’s going to happen in the future) or, as McGonagall puts it, ‘Pure, dumb luck,’ (extremely likely). Whatever it was that saved my butt that time, I am extremely grateful to it, and will never forget that because I got…
41/50 in that exam.
To give you a perspective of how hugely mind-blowing that was, here are some figures.
In that year, we had two exams (one at the end of each term) and 50 marks per subject per term. At the end of the year, for each subject, the total of term one’s marks and term two’s marks would help determine if a student had passed or failed. The passing percentage was 35 which meant that to pass any subject, we had to get a TOTAL of 35 marks over the year.
And I had 41.
After just the first term exam.
This meant, that even if I skipped Law exam in Term 2, it wouldn’t matter because I’d already got 35+ marks.
Let me also add that ONLY ONE OTHER PERSON got 41 in that Law exam (which was the highest marks in our batch, by the way) – a fellow who went on to get an All India Rank in CA PE II and CA Final Exams.
Now if you think I’m bragging about how brilliant I was, you really must read on.
I really hadn’t studied. When my crying turned to whimpering, my sister advised that instead of wasting more time, I should open my book and read something, even if it was just the important stuff. And that’s when I remembered, our professor had given us a list of 15-20 odd ‘important’ questions and they covered almost all the chapters. Of course, if I had to skim, it made sense to start with those and then see if I had time for anything else.
And awesome that I am, I managed to study only the first 5-6 questions in the list because I was too tired from all the crying.
I also caught up on my sleep, I think. Oh, how I’m paying now, as a mom, for loving my sleep then, but I digress.
When the question paper was handed to me, I think my hands trembled. But imagine my shock when 5 out of the 6 or 7 questions asked in the exam paper (we had to answer any 5, I think) were the exact ones I’d managed to study and that too with my eyes swollen from all the crying. And believe me, when I was tackling that list of ‘important questions’ I was stupid enough to go in the order in which the questions were given.
Now if that isn’t luck, I don’t know what is.
When we got our results, I was dumbfounded, not because I’d passed, but because I’d scored the HIGHEST marks in our batch. And this was a subject where the professor was famous for awarding ‘0’ marks to students too. No, not zero for a question; total zero marks for the entire paper, if a student had performed badly. In ANY other subject, we would get at least a few marks for ATTEMPTING the question, but not in Law. And I had managed FORTY ONE. Out of 50.
After that, I think all my friends and batch-mates not-very-subtly concluded that I was one of those people who just pretended that they hadn’t studied but knew everything in the book cover to cover when the reality was far from it. I couldn’t blame them, though, could I?
By the way, this is one of the things I’ve never understood; why would someone people lie about how much (or little) they’ve studied? How is telling people that you’re done studying 2 weeks before the exam going to harm you? People are so weird!
Anyway, to add insult to injury (theirs, not mine) on the morning of the exam before we entered the hall, I had appeared to be very calm because really, I had only studied 6 questions out of the 20 odd important questions our professor had given us. I knew I was doomed.
There was no point in last minute mugging up either because how much more of The Indian Contract Act or Negotiable Instruments Act could I really understand and remember in my sleep-deprived state? Granted that sleep-deprived has a whole new meaning now that I am a mom, but as a teenager, anything less than 10 hours left me mighty tired.
And while I loitered around the campus, waiting for the college doors to open, I saw my friends buried in their books, shit-scared expressions on their faces because everyone knew what this professor was famous for and no one wanted that kind of shame.
Their demeanour scared me because they had studied and still they were scared. I could stay and (attempt to) write the exam or go back home and catch up on my sleep; it would have meant the same results. When I realised that, I achieved some kind of Zen (which I should really try to harness now, actually). My nonchalance scared the others because I had been going around telling everyone that I had barely studied and that I knew I was screwed. Yet, all they could see was someone I was walking around without a care in the world.
I had either studied everything and was lying to their faces. Or I was plain crazy. No one could believe that the latter was actually true.
If you ask me today, I don’t know how I remained that calm and how I managed to not have a breakdown. Until that point, I hadn’t failed a single exam. NOT EVEN ONE. So the fear of that happening alone should have freaked me out. But it didn’t.
Of course, the CA course was a first for many, many things, and it would be another 4 years before I saw the word “FAIL” written twice on my online marksheet (CA Final Group 1 and 2) but that’s a story for another time.
Actually, wait. I think I had blogged about that in 2009 itself. Let me dig up that post and link it here in a day (or week (or year (or decade))) or two.
Anyway, my sister was shocked (not more than me) when the results came out and because passing the exam was one thing, but we both knew I hadn’t deserved the marks I got. There were many other students who had worked harder than I had. Hell, EVERYONE else had, and despite barely studying, I had gotten out of having to study the following term as well.*
And my lucky streak lasted for a long time after that. 3 more exams and one job, before it all changed in 2009.
And I’ve been banging my head against the wall since then.
If there’s supposed to be 7 years of bad luck, dear Universe, I’d like to remind you that I just started year 11 a month or so ago. Kindly get off your butt and do something about it. Thank you.
*P.S. I think I did study. And I did pass. But that story and the resultant marks aren’t half as fascinating or scary as this one, so obviously I don’t remember. I would dig up the old marksheet to satisfy my curiosity but I don’t want to appear like I’m showing off the 41. Also, I have no idea where it is, so…