I don’t know the case with most of you, but most of my memories revolve around other things. Sports time. Games time. Plum cakes. Waiting for Arati Aunty’s car to confirm that we were going to be Cold Drink as ‘tiffin’. The time at school was constantly flying, and before we knew it, it was the end of yet another term.
And come exams time, the atmosphere would change. We would be taken to dormitories to study. And people would be allowed to take their books for ‘darshan’.
As we grew up, the word ‘co-operate’ found its way into our dictionary. A little warped, but apt nevertheless. To co-operate meant to be hand-in-glove in breaking the rules. Or knowing something was going on and looking the other way, pretending nothing had happened. And every class had a few guys who would not co-operate. This highly uninteresting group comprised mainly of form boys, children of teachers/lecturers who could not afford to be caught with their pants down, or the ‘spiru-gurus’ - the little torches of enlightenment who blessed our midst with their presence.
So we had to ‘co-operate’ with each other in order to break all the rules. And it seems an apt word now, considering the amount of time and effort spent in securing each of those missions. Smuggling in a pack of bubble gums. Studying in the bathrooms in the night. Or playing cricket in the dormitory. Each of these tasks required absolute co-operation from each other in order to carry it off completely.
But of all the things that we did, the most atrocious would definitely be the studying in the toilets. For those who are not aware of this phenomenon and have only used bathrooms in their lives strictly for toiletry purposes, it might sound a little strange that we actually used to study in the bathrooms and toilets. But it was just a day in the office for us when exams time was on.
I think it must have begun as a desperate measure to catch up on some last hour of study before the exam. Since you could not switch on the lights when there were another hundred people sleeping, someone must have come up with the novel idea of going to the toilets, anyway the lights there have to be on.
I personally wouldn’t have done it for the last night cramming. Those were the days when studies were still not that important to me. I still do not remember any serious worries over studies in school. Somewhat like the Harry Potter books, where they have a series of adventures through out the year and the yearly exams are just something that find a mention in the end for a little bit. There is a little bit of tension but ultimately they all do well and everything is happy with the world.
For me, it was more than that. I did it because it was against the rules, I guess.
It all began with the dinner. After dinner, we were made to study in the classrooms for a while. And soon after, as soon as the clock struck nine (doesn’t that sound like a dream now? Imagine being forced to bed by nine!), we were asked to retire to our beds.
We would smuggle the books within our night dress shirts like they were some book in a Dan Brown movie.
Prayer was generally around 9.30 and after asking god for forgiveness - for what we had seen, heard, thought, did, or intended, with or without our knowledge- we would pretend to sleep. Once the teachers were safety out of the dormitory, it was time to carry out or mission.
One guy would go to the bathrooms and switch all on the lights. And then the others would carry their books, mats and text books and then take up places in the bathroom. Yes, on the floor! And some would actually climb up on the walls of the latrines so that they can study in peace. I generally never studied much in those sessions. It was hard to concentrate in class as it is. But the idea of studying in the bathroom seemed so adventurous to me back then that I couldn’t resist it.
Of course, since we depended so much on co-operation, there were two guys who were made to sit near the doors of the dormitories to signal to us if there was danger approaching. A teacher on her rounds, or an aunty on the prowl. It always seemed futile to me, considering the strange locations we had chosen for ourselves to obtain knowledge.
In fact some of the guys would leave some portion of their studies exclusively for this time period.
“You studied speed and time problems a, fellow ??”
“No, ee. I will finish it in the bathrooms,ee”
Soon, we were dependant on these last hour sessions for almost every exam. Soon, the teachers got to know about it and there would be surprise rounds of checking in the night. I remember a lot of hilarious situations that ensued. When the assigned ‘guard’ gave the warning sign, everyone ran for their lives. There was this once when a teacher caught two guys who had hidden in the same toilet. His explanation that he was ‘waiting’ to go in broke no ice with the teacher. Poor guy got a lecture on indiscipline, and a practical demo of the fury of the gods at 12 in the night, and in the toilets.
Gradually, the teachers got the better of us. The surprise checks were replaced with checks every few hours. If anyone was caught in the bathrooms, he would be called to the old prayer hall, given some milk and biscuits and lovingly be asked to go to sleep.
Amusingly, this caused a decline in the trend of the late night toilet gyaan-fest. I think the fact that the teachers were now ok with it and it wasn’t a huge crime anymore made the entire process lose its appeal. At least for me, it was not something I wanted to do anymore.
What’s the point of waking up in the night, balancing your ass on the divider wall which gave you a bird’s eye view of two potties, and trying to mug up a shloka, when it wasn’t even illegal?
I stopped studying in the bathrooms after that.