From 'Life of exams' to 'Exams of life'

3/25/20243 min read

open book lot
open book lot

Most of us can recall our parents ‘coaxing us to study’ for one last exam, so as to eventually grab a decent job with enough money for living the rest of our lives in luxury. Back in the 90s, the first one of those 'last exams' used to be the 10th board exam and we were told at least 1-2 years in advance that our life depended upon how we fared in it. Requests, persuasion, reasoning, nagging, emotional melodrama and even threats - parents used them all, to ensure that we studied religiously to get at least a 75-80% score in it. The exam came and went by and everybody scored what he / she could and decided to move on - the toppers with a fictitious mirage of bright future and the laggards with a misplaced hope of doing better the next time to salvage their sinking future. However, before anyone could actually move on, the second one of the 'last exams' arrived.

For those who could crack it, this second 'make or break' exam opened an altogether new world of 'coachings'. Once admitted, no longer could one bask in the glory of being a city or a state topper in 10th, because either everybody was a topper with more than 90% marks or an NTSE / Olympiad winner or some sort of prodigy. Being in such distinguished company for 2-3 years, in one of the most acclaimed 'coachings', made one feel that the promised fruits of hard work were just around the corner. However, before the fruits could be tasted, the third one of the 'last exams' had to be cleared. It seemed as if good life had finally arrived - parents, siblings, distant relatives, friends, neighbors, milkman, postman... everybody seconded this view. This was the final hurdle that had to be crossed.

The ‘most-critical’ third exam also came and went by, but instead of providing a good life, it brought down unsuspecting students from the educational peak of 'coachings' to the abysmal academic abyss of IITs and NITs. For all that was promised by well-wishers, one found himself in the midst of a highly contrasting place. On one hand, there were academically serious scholars preparing for another one of those 'last exams', while on the other hand, there were hooligans who gave a s**t to the structured life of college and lived on their own terms. Whatever route one chose in college, soon it was time for the dreaded fourth one of the 'last exams' i.e. campus placements. And everything about life, every success & failure, and every decision ever taken, came down to the salary offered by the hiring company. Irrespective of the pay package, the offer letter convinced everybody that the exams' life is over and it was time to enjoy the riches. Little did one know that it was actually the start of ‘Life’.

Any delusions about ‘ending of the hard work era’ came face to face with reality within a few months of entering the corporate world. While the money was there, time, satisfaction, and mental peace weren't. For all the efforts put in to clear each one of the 'last exams', one was offered a monotonic, often unrewarding, and unfair life in exchange of a fixed allowance. One wasn't expected to solve complex equations or decipher unfathomable curves but was required to work on spreadsheets & presentations to bring out acceptable results, in accordance with set guidelines and policies. The good life promised almost a decade back was nowhere in sight.

Filling up the view, however, was a sea of randomness where one was left alone to figure out how to make sense of everything happening around, how to spot the subtleties in what people spoke, how to balance the personal and professional lives, how to find meaning in what one did and eventually how to approach life. And in that loneliness, slowly dawned the realization that the ‘exams of life’ had actually begun!