The month of May, a time of happiness for the entire tenth student community. The boards are done with, good riddance! N ever will I again have to learn that boring stuff, is what most of them will say. The late night television, the midnight happy birthday phone calls and texts and the farewells, both official and unofficial account for the general boisterous mood. You get home, and for the first few days, your folks don’t mind whatever you do. Supernatural marathons, sleepovers, a lunch with your best friends, all granted. But a fortnight later, the concerned tone begins. Like those business proposal growth charts, the voice just keeps getting higher and higher in pitch, volume and frustration. “Study raa, these next two years are crucial for your career”. Career, all of six letters, but this word will haunt you, right from the pre intermediate days to the post PG days.
At that age, at least I was clueless of what career meant (I still am, but let’s forget that for a moment). Life revolved more around that cute girl you had a crush on and the pirated versions of new video games. And so the increasingly high pitched voices continued. It was pretty much the same with me. Added to the usual boring tones was that sense of pride , all because some distant relative’s kid had managed to clear IIT , and my folks’ logic went that ,” if he can , why can’t ours ?. “.“Look at him raa, such dedication and hard work he put in for two whole years”, said my mom, conveniently ignoring the fact that I had never even met the said cousin. After I refused to even acknowledge her statement, she left away in a huff, commenting “useless this kid is , nowhere he will in life.” I had a sarcastic retort in mind , but chose not to tell it out , because I believe in not hurting the other person(joking , if I did so , I would probably end up in a hospital’s ICU).I instead philosophically chose to reflect upon the incident as a gentle reminder of my general laziness.
But on the fourth day of my self-proclaimed “do absolutely nothing” time , the rude doorbell suddenly interrupted my afternoon siesta . Still groggy and hair not having seen a comb for the past week, I opened the door . Two semi-bald uncles were there, giving me toothpaste smiles like those airhead actresses on the idiot box. “Good afternoon, we are from something something college, can we come in?” I graciously welcomed them as they did not look like the usual salesmen who always asked me if I wanted to buy their overpriced, yet discounted goods. I was an innocent tenth pass fellow , not knowing what I was committing myself to – two years of one boring life . Inside, they showed the folks lots of ranks that their students got in lots of exams. “IIT first rank open category last three years we only got madam”. My parents were suitably impressed, it showed on their faces. I, on the other hand, was more concerned about the photo shopped images that stood next to a huge, animated “1”. Parents told them that they were suitably impressed with the (made up) statistics the college had to offer, and that they would get back to them. Little did they know how corporate intermediate education works. For the next ten days, the same old toothpaste uncles came home. “Please sir, put in our college. Your child will be taught by excellent faculty.”
It was like a mosquito that troubles you for the entire night after you leave the window open. At last, both parties agreed to put me in something something college. Toothpaste uncles even got a contract, I think, making it seem like they were sealing a shadowy deal or something. I wanted to yell “nahinn!” like those melodramatic, heavy makeup heroines on star plus, but instead, I chose to express my unhappiness by not having food (PS: not having food is a very bad idea, please don’t try it at home). So a few weeks later, I joined the college.
Phase one: Complete
First day. I must admit there was a certain amount of coolness with the fact that we could now wear color dresses. I sat in the last bench that day, unable to understand what to expect. Enter the dragon, in comes in a middle aged guy who instantly reminded me of the villain from cheap mythological shows. Compared to him, toothpaste uncles seemed like angels. Paan stained teeth, smell of cigarettes and a nonexistent smile, all topped up with a belly that would put any sumo wrestler to shame. He told us that he would be teaching chemistry. He proceeded with atomic structure that day. After one and half excruciating hours, the only chemistry that I understood, courtesy of my neighbor, is that the amount of food you eat is directly proportional to the amount of adipose your body accumulates.
So my intermediate life began. The hours were longs and the conditions were grim (yes, I’m still referring to the college, not the situation during a war). Never mind the fact that a very small fraction of what I did In college could actually be considered as productive , but still , staying in that godforsaken place was a punishment in itself . I mean, the sense of witty sarcastic retorts that I was so famous for was lost. Also, my sense of imagination and curiosity. To give you a small example of the imagination bit , there were a few bits of tangled electric wires that I used to see every day while coming back home. Before my something something days , I used to stare at those wires and wonder and presume all sorts of situations , but now , all I wonder is that how in the world is Kirchhoff’s law applicable to so many wires at one go .
One of my most favorite teacher in something something college was the math sir. Not because I understood anything about conditional probability or Simpson’s rule, but purely due to the comic relief he provided. “There is a lack of lagging in a portion is there raa, you dirty boys”, he used to say frequently. After a hurried conference interspersed with giggles in the lunch break , we fellow drones figured out it was pointless to dwell on statements of higher meaning like those . As far as the weekly exams went, just pretend and lie to yourself that you understood everything, and then mark symmetric patterns in the response sheet for the multiple choice questions. Earlier,I was somewhat of a voracious reader and a pretty decent poet (even though I say the “pretty good” part myself). Russian writers like Gogol and Tolstoy, the idealism of Marx and the sheer brutality of Attila the Hun used to fascinate me. I used to have an opinion on everything ranging from the side effects of excessive Prozac usage to the ever present metal music scene in Finland. But after joining something something college, the closest I have come to poetry is asking the above mentioned math sir “what saar, answer I am not getting only. You told the question correctly aa?”
Almost two years passed by in the same manner. I almost got slapped by a physics sir once because I didn’t know what the coefficient of apparent expansion of quartz glass was (I still don’t, but let’s not bother about that).The only thing that made life bearable was the humor and smiles that the fellow drones provided. We cracked jokes on everything ranging from the chemistry sir’s accent to the changing political landscape. We copied (ONLY when the invigilator was out of the class) in examinations in college , and sometimes ended up getting caught with micro chits, which was , usually , followed by a slap or a warning to tell our parents that we would get nowhere in life. We laughed it all away, with a resilience that fascinates me even today.
Phase two: complete
Now, as the results of IIT, AIEEE and other posh exams are out, I’m none too ashamed to say that I didn’t crack them. However, being the smart guy that I am (even though I say so myself), I did end up cracking a few other entrances and now, life isn’t that bad. After shocking revelations in the second year that we will NOT be allowed to copy or carry chits in the main examinations, some of the other drones began to study , and a few of the highly industrious ones have even cracked the most draconian entrance exam ever known to man . So , as I leave two years of intermediate education , a few words of advice for the juniors who will go through the drudgery (If chief guests at school functions can speak a few words , then so can I ). Yes, these two years aren’t exactly a fairytale.
Yes, you will have to study most of the time and forget that you even had a social life. The creativity that you possessed will have to be on the backburner. Even though you will hate it, you will have to force yourself to love pulleys and redox reactions and the general equation of a circle. I don’t regret joining something something college (joking, of course I do). But still , these guys forced me to sit at one place for long hours and force fed me chemical equations , and even though I didn’t make it to the crème de la crème of the educational institutions , I did manage to sneak into an engineering college. But if you truly hate engineering, convince your folks, reason with them. I on the other hand, was more of a “don’t know where to go, so join engineering” types. My heart didn’t lie in pursuing engineering after tenth, but my entire clan reasoned with me and told me that engineering had many options to pursue four years later. And though the upsurge in hormones in those days made it difficult to accept their decision, now, I see the truth and I am slowly coming to terms with it.
Yes, creativity and innovation will take a backseat for these two years, but I look forward with optimism to the next four, where, hopefully, my grey cells will flourish. People say Intermediate colleges are hell, that those two years of their life, they would love to think of it as but a bad memory. And I am inclined to agree with them, yes the going isn’t easy. But these guys teach you survival, how to cope with failure and how to laugh it away with a smile even when the situation is bleak. Those things matter.