Dearest Les épreuves in the language of love. Prüfungen in the tongue of the peculiarly sadistic inventor Henry A. Fischel. In jargon that reflects the devil’s realms in the afterlife: pure hell.
In spite of the rapidly fading humanity by the day, I assume that we can still collectively agree that exams, in any shape or form are indeed torturous. Try your hand at Googling inspiring personalities who weren’t stars in exam halls and see what I mean. Unless you’re Hermoine Granger, of course, I believe that each one of us has had a disastrous experience with exams at least once.
Let me start off by saying that I’m far from the school of thought that rejects exams and declares them ‘useless.’ I’m simply a kid who got bored of anything that did not spark joy in me instantaneously. As someone with a serial non-conformist outlook on most things, I found myself detesting any form of the frame I was forced into and exams were one of them. Out of the plethora of bad trips I’ve had with exams, let me cherrypick one I’m actually proud of.
Every Sri Lankan student knows the reverberating dread of the month of December. A phrase that disregards Christmas lights and fur trees completely in the pursuit of a house of horrors christened “Ordinary Level Exams” (O/L’s). The December of 2016 is when my batch sat for theirs.
Where I schooled, if you did not obtain an A or B grade in Science and Maths, you will not be eligible to select the Science stream for A/L’s. Firstly, I was a complete dunce at maths. I remember writing poem after poem about how much I despised it and to this day, I have to count my fingers to solve the simplest calculation. Secondly, in the most blissfully tragic irony, a fair portion of my lineage are proud professionals in STEM. This is also the part where I make it clear that to be a kid clearly skewed into the arts since grade school and simultaneously, a child of parents in STEM, is not a walk in the park.
I’m sure almost every Sri Lankan student can relate to the existential dread of being conditioned that you are eternally doomed if you do not pursue Science. As someone who clearly knew I would never survive in STEM, but was nevertheless plagued with the aforementioned dread, getting through the O/L maths paper was a decisive juncture that dictated the next big thing.
Fast forward to the exam, which to my surprise, was easier than expected. As funny as it sounds, a part of me punched the air in disappointment. I was determined not to let my rage disappear into an anticlimactic abyss. This is when I remembered the stories of aiyas who attached Rs. 5000 notes on Science papers as a symbol of mercy. I knew akkis who scribbled impressive sketches on the first page of the exam paper to pass the time.
So despite having completed the paper better than anticipated, with the backdrop of vivid memories of struggling sleepless and sobbing over sums, I whipped out a black gel pen and penned on the back of my O/L maths paper in a pretentious, cursive font:
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Anyway. Despite all my gloating, I got a B.
However, kids, do as I say and not as I do. Exams are important but a single sheet of paper is really not worth a trip to the therapist.
A prolific procrastinator.