ISC results have just come out, spelling doom and what-the-f*** for many and causing an eruption of celebration in the lives of several others. Board results brought out a mixed bag of feelings in my case. I did horrendously in my science subjects [which I AM going to send for rechecking no matter how useless that might prove] but did overwhelmingly well in the other subjects, to ensure a pretty good sounding aggregate next to my name. I dont get the reason behind my Hindi scores either. Nor everyone else's.
Anyway, I was talking about mixed bags of feelings. I went through them. And like in the crassy overdone filmy style, complete with shining light of a bulb on me and my face turned towards its source [as if it were God playing lightman], I asked rhetorically - What does it take, to do really really awesomely well in examinations? Besides studying of course.
Like the murmurs of spirits in the darkness, forgotten words echoed and with a sudden upwelling of reverence, I fell to my knees. For a moment I thought I heard nothing, then I cleared my ears again. I heard it. It was the wisdom of the ages....whispering up from the chasms of the earth. Surprised me for a moment, because I thought God would speak from the sky and the heavens and all. But anyway, two things I realized as the truth dawned on me: one, I'm a bloody Dan Brown passage-internaliser.
The second thing comes here. I distinctly remember the atmosphere around me as I sat for my ISC exams. My seat was positioned such that I had the successful students as well as dum-dums around me. The key to successful examination-giving, I now know, lies in the temperament and attitude of an examinee while in the hall. Allow me to elaborate in a more organized form the different mannerisms I noticed in my fellow examinees.
1. The Foot Tappers: These are the souls who found their solace and a sense of calm in hitting the wooden floor of the auditorium with their feet, producing a cacophony of different beats and an eclectic mix of genres as each person gave the beat to his own song. Foot-tappers are found among the high as well as the low, that is to say the toppers as well as the middlers and utter jackasses. As they say, successful people dont do different things, they just tap feet differently. The different foot-tapping styles I discovered give clues to the inate ability, not to mention foot-tapping skill, of a candidate to succeed in his exams. But foot tapping is not always a just reflection of a student's potential. More importantly and accurately, it is a meter to gauge the emotions of a particular student at a particular time in his examination. This brings into this branch several subsections, demanding a further breakup.
a. HardRock Tapping - HardRock is the tapping style that incorporates usage of the heels as well as the tips of the shoes. One beat is with the heel, and the next with the tip. The cycle continues. This form of tapping I have personally noticed either when the topper is having a great time, or the jackass is terribly short of time and has noticed the stack of unanswered questions he has to face. It is a shortlived maneouvre, since the candidate's ankles start hurting pretty soon and he must rest for a while.
b. Norah Jones - This form is basically the slow and gentle, apologetic sort. You can barely hear it, and you certainly have no idea what sense it makes. Like the gentle dripping of water from a loosely secured tap, or the pitter-patter of a drizzle after a heavy shower. It signifies the end of the paper for a successful student as he leans back, stares fixedly at his eraser and sharpener on the desk and appears to ponder the infinity of the universe. For a poor student, it signifies surrender to the devious mind of the examiner. He does not know anything, and he has accepted his fate. He ponders on what he will say when he walks out with his friends.
[Sometimes accompanied by even gentler out-of-tune humming.]
c. Bollywood tambourine - As the name might suggest, this is a hopeless rip-off of whichever filmi song is riding the radiowaves currently. The foot taps incessantly and with boundless energy. The beats are erratic and enter and exit both the above genres in a seamless blend. This is a sure indicator of fun and relaxation in the mind of the examinee.
2. The Piano In My Head: The pianists are the examinees who take the liberty of using the desk as their piano and the hall as their concert. Since this usually involves the usage of both hands placed at the ends of the desk, it requires that the examinee be done with his paper. Otherwise this is seen before the distribution of papers prior to the start of the ordeal.
Before the examination, it is a symbol of nervousness or cockiness depending on the maestro's facial expression. After the end of the paper, it usually always indicates a feeling of contentment and satisfaction.
Also, one can conclude that the examinee prefers Classical to HardRock. Not to mention Daniel Powter and Yanni to Bon Jovi and Aerosmith.
3. The Michael Jackson: This is the most intriguing and eyebrow-raising antic, which I had noticed in the guy sitting to my right. He's got himself a 95% so I suppose it works in some weird, creepy way. However, it could also just be a personal motivation thing for him. I mention this purely to suggest that some people have their own 'things' which help them succeed. This isnt something for everyone.
I wonder if you've seen the Friends episode in which Joey teaches Chandler about his kickstarts to turn women on as he kisses them. Well, our guy does something similar. Every once in a while, he would sit straight from over his answer sheet, stretch his arms wide [its called doing the crucifix], and then look around. He'd proceed to gently but firmly rub his left hand up and down his thighs. Just like Joey did it to the women! As he did so, he kept his eyes firmly fixed on his question paper and even occasionally wrote something on his answer sheet. At the time, I couldn't help wondering about the effects of exam tension on India's young minds. But this obviously helped him in some strange, utterly inexplicable way because he certainly has enough marks now.
4. Whistling: This has been a constant activity for me personally. I whistle when I'm nervous, so several fellow examinees played audience to the impromptu performances I gave on so many occasions. Whistling helps to calm the nerves and reaffirm one's sangfroid. Sometimes, atleast I hope so, it conveys an impression of cool in the eye of a storm. Here we are worried to death, and he whistles! What a brave, superior soul his is!
My whistling was not always cordially received. When I did it before the exam started, some in the audience would turn to me and glare. They didnt of course come to stiff words, for my austere dignity and the steeliness of my eyes restrained them. But they glared. I also sometimes did it in the middle of the examination. Elaborate and ingenious ways were contrived, for we were the smart science students pursuing engineering, to discourage my public show of emotion without attracting the wrath of the examiners and invigilators. The guy in front of me would twitch his right ear at the person on his side. He would in turn tap the desk of the person behind him. This one would crackle his knuckles at the fellow behind him, who would knock three times on the floor. Having received this signal, the person behind me would land a sharp kick to the back of my chair. I humoured them, and shut up.
5. The Pen Twirl: The twirling of one's pen in one's fingers is a legacy inherited from the days of Ringo Starr, who did the same with drum sticks. It is a non chalant expression of I'm-the-man attitude and usually supported by gentle head-bobbing and facial paralysis. The facial paralysis is the occupation hazard actually since the pen twirl requires acute concentration to a non-drummer. This combines with his attempt to keep the flamboyance on his face causing paralysis with the tongue sticking out and the eyebrows tensed.
It is a skill possessed by both the strong and the weak. But since the weak are as it is too busy trying to pass, the strong are the only perpetrators of this rather rare examination-related mannerism.
These are the top five mannerisms I can think of. Having personally observed these around me as I sat for my ISC, I know of their useability and effectiveness. For success in any examination, not just the ISC, it is imperative that you deploy a healthy dose of them. You may want to study, and thats also okay. But true success belongs to he [or she] who can cleverly blend tricks of the trade in their studying act to create his [or her (damn feminism! This is tiring)] own success story. This is not just what I say. It is the word of God. He gave me a slab to write it on too, but I knew I could remember it alright.