And during exam time when I was in school, drama was inevitable.

Drama at the time of studies, leave alone exams, is normal in a Tambram household. Since there are, at any given point in time, at least two padikara pasanga (studying boys/girls) in any household picked at random, it is safe to assume drama is commonplace in a Tambram house. 

I for one was a very influential cause of the aforementioned drama in the household I was a participant of. Since I was an honest-to-goodness student (you believe that, don’t you?), the said drama was always electrifyingly intense, although a casual observer would have seen a calm household on the surface. 

However, if the casual observer broke off for a moment from being casual and dilly-dallied about the household and just happened to absentmindedly scratch the calm surface, what he now confronts would’ve made him jump out of his veshti (doti). For, seething and rippling beneath the misleading calm of the exterior there lay a bubbling volcanic drama in progress. Here is a sample.

Mom (yelling from Kitchen) : Sundar, padi da! (sundar, Study da)
Sundar                                 :  Tok. Tok. Tok. Tok.(Tok. Tok. Tok. Tok)
Mom (10 min later)        : Sundar, Padiyen da! (Sundar, Studyen da!)
Sundar                                 : Tok. Tok. Tok. Tok. (Tok. Tok. Tok. Tok.) Note: The
                                                 Tok-tokking is caused by striking a hard ball in a
                                                  sock tied at the mouth and hung from the ceiling
Mom (12 min later)        : Sundar, ennada idhu, nalaikki exam vachindu
                                                 padikama balla thattindrukka (Sundar, What is this,
                                                 tomorrow exam keeping, not studying, ball hitting,
                                                 time wasting)
Sundar                                : Tok. Tok. Tchk. Tok. Tok.
Mom (13 min later)        : SUNDAR!
Sundar                                  :Tok. Tok. Toktok. Tok. Tok. Toktok……….
Sundar                                  : Oru break maa. I am going back to study now.
Mom                                     : OK. If you study now, you can be happy later. 
                                                  Ellarum B.Tech M.Technnu padikara, nee enna da na 
                                                  school examke tading-ginathom podrey (people are 
                                                  Studying B.Techs and M.Techs and here you are 
                                                  Struggling to study for school exam!)
Sundar                                 : OK. After this I am going to be on it for 2 hrs straight.
Sundar (as an afterthought)  : Maa oru cup coffee kuden (mom, how about
                                                        a cup of coffee)

Project exam-preparation seemed so repugnant then – so long as the subject involved wasn’t Physics, for on the mention of Physics pimples of the Goose variety would erupt all over me, but on the whole, looking back, study time was a practice ground for some very crucial life-skills. Here are some –

Planning, Budgeting and factoring contingencies.

Almost every time before exams, Time seemed to be on my side when the first wave of worry overcame me. So I sat and drew a Time-Table. A tendency of mine that I have already introduced to you briefly here. A very incisive, meticulous effort that involved 5 man-days.

And true to the sign of a good plan, it included activities that may not be part of the planned objective, but could further enable and contribute significantly to it.

Time                Action 
6.00 am         Wake-up
6.15  am         Jogging 

A healthy body first for a healthy mind. Wait. Jogging? Hmmm.


Sundar                                     : Dad, my exams are coming up. I need new sneakers.
Dad                                           : Huh? 

Without new sneakers, the objective of a ‘centum’ seemed bleak.

Cleanliness is next to Godliness

Much before the Time Table is drawn up; one needs the right environment for a pursuit like this. A detailed cleaning activity is undertaken. Focus is the table. The good old Study Table, where many things happen but studies. Over time during the running academic year the table has become home to a variety of unusual objects. Cassettes, tennis balls split in half, a rubik’s cube in shambles, meters of tape drawn out of cassettes, spanners, coke cans, transistors and assortment of radio parts, Roller Skates, broken bails, 4 pen stands, 500 useless pens, dried poster paint bottles, several Top 40 hit lists from VoA, British charts and Billboard, leaking ball point pen refills… Clearing the table is not a simple activity. It requires great sense of purpose and one needs to be able to predict the use of various objects and categorise them appropriately before putting them away out of sight.

Tact, Diplomacy, How-To-Say-No-Without-Saying-No.

Mom                                    : Sundar, kariga vangindu va (Sundar, go to market and
                                                 buy vegetables)
Sundar                                : Ok, but I have an exam! I am following a schedule. My
                                                 next available time is 23:25 hrs.

Project Management, Effort Estimation

As the days pass by, the amount of effort pending, for some reason, does not seem to diminish as planned. This calls for revised project plan and therefore the Time Table is revised every few days. Effort steadily gets crunched into less man-days, calling for skillful Effort vs. Time management.

Crisis Management, Dealing With Pressure

One week before exam, hell breaks loose. Sudden awareness takes over and runs on a simple philosophy of ‘anything goes’. The sign for this is when the maid has somehow gotten hold of the time table and is using the neatly created cardboard to broom up the dust in the room.

And its time to invoke the Disaster Management strategy.

Maximizing Effort Utilization.

Learning, the primary objective, is put on hold. The objective is now to get past the crisis situation unscathed. So a compilation of the last 5 years question papers appears out of nowhere on the now clean table.

Higher Faith & Spirituality

A belief in a higer power, a sense of faith and humility is essential for true wisdom and completeness in our lives.

This incredible quality begins to surface the night before the exam.

A sense of destiny and fate, the power of the cosmos and being in the good books of the One above rises within.

And prayer follows.


Namma kaile enna irrukku? Avan melai baratha pottuttu agara velaiya pappom. (what is in our hands? Let us transfer the burden of worry to Him and focus on our effort).

After the exam,

Dad             : How did you do your exams?
Sundar       : OK I guess.
Dad             : Question paper parthadum innum koncham padichirukalammnu
                       thonithha? (Seeing the qn. paper did you think ‘I could have studied 
                       a little more’!)
Sundar       : Yeah
Dad             : Paravaillai. Ippove adutha examku enna pannanumnu yosichikko
                        (It’s ok. Instruct your mind right now how things should be for
                        the next exam)

Hmm. That’s certainly something to think about.

How would it be if I could study even when I am not studying? I could record my lessons into tape and then play them back on a walkman. I could take the walkman around and listen to lessons when I am outside home, when I play, travel or go in a bus to British Council Library on Mount Road.

Dad, can I have a walkman?