Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Part 1: Signing Up



I was naturally excited. I always wanted to win a scholarship: partly for the money, but mostly for the recognition and fame. After all, scholarship students were supposed to be a bright lot, right?

So I asked my class teacher Padmalochana ma’am whether she was in-charge of NTSE Registrations in the school. He said she wasn’t but guided me to Sucharita ma’am, who was. So I asked Sucharita ma’am whether the school would collect the forms from the SCERT or if we had to do it on our own. I for one was prepared with my own copy of the form that I had downloaded from the Internet beforehand.

She said that as long as there were enough students interested, the school would collect the forms. Being the headboy, the onus of collecting the names of interested students fell upon me. So I ran around all of Class 10 asking students if they were interested.

Of course, hardly anyone knew that NCERT conducted an exam called NTSE, and that the ultimate prize was a scholarship. So after a full period of explaining the ins and outs of the exam to eight sections (one of which was thankfully, nearly empty), I had finally collected over 30 names, mine being the first. Later on, several more students signed up.

And so after a few days, the forms arrived! I took the trouble of bunking a full social studies class (Rajeswari ma’am, bless her and her sleepy classes) along with a few friends and filling up the form. It was a bit confusing in the beginning. For instance, they asked us to choose our parents’ occupation from a list. Now, the list didn’t have particular jobs in it, but categories such as ‘technical worker’ and other things. In fact, the options were so confusing that many of us felt that our parents could fit into more than one category!

But after a lot of consultations with Sucharita ma’am and Madhavi Lata ma’am, we finally managed to fill up the forms along with a neat little picture of our innocent facesJ!

And that was the end of it till the actual date of the exam came. Or so we thought.

A month went by. Nothing happened. But then we received word from online sources (which is a fancy phrase for the NCERT website) that the exam would be held on October 15, 2006. The day was Oct. 14. Naturally, we asked Sucharita ma’am about the delay, but she seemed to have no idea either. After am long and somewhat heated argument, the school finally sent someone to collect the hall tickets from the SCERT.

So we finally had them! It didn’t seem exceptional in any way. It was the same paper on which we had stuck our pictures (the form had been carefully ripped off, of course) with our new hall ticket numbers on it. According to the instructions, we had to hand the hall tickets over to the invigilator at the exam centre.

Now, I hadn’t studied very much for the test. FIITJEE had conducted a mock-test and I had been one of three (!) people to have written it. Rajiv had also lent me a copy of a mock test conducted by Sharma Institute. These, along with my textbooks, were all I had. Thankfully, we had nearly completed our syllabus so I was sure of gaining plenty of marks in SAT. Shyama Priya and friends had even taken the trouble of borrowing an NTSE book from the library.


And finally the day came! It was a Sunday, since all these kinds of exams are always held on Sundays. I never understood why though: did the concerned organisation have this misconception that we did not enjoy Sundays? But that’s a debate for another blog…

Out centre was St. Theresa’s High School, which turned out to be very close to where I and Harsha lived. So on the morning of that fateful day, we picked up an auto and reached our assigned centre. Thankfully, the federal-run NCERT has a lot more brains than the state-run organisations like Telugu Akademi. So, our whole school was assigned the same centre.

And when I say our whole school, I mean our whole school. From my unscientific census, at least a hundred Bhavanites were present to write the exam! Most had worn their school uniform, although some of the more determined law-breakers wore civils. But after half an hour of chatting (wherein I had declared that I had no hope of getting through this exam and hence did not care whether it would go well or not), the invigilator (a strict and grumpy lady) came in and ordered us to dump our bags outside.

We obeyed, and in a little while we were given our answer sheets to fill up. It was the same as any OMR sheet I had seen, except that maybe it was of a higher quality. You know the old shaded and un-shaded circles˜, right? Once we filled up our details, we were given the MAT question paper. The paper was an hour and a half long.

It turned out to be easy; almost all the sequences and analogies were simple and familiar. Later on, it turned out that I was one of the few students who had felt that way. In the middle of the exam, some peons had come and had very systematically placed the examination centre’s stamp on out hall tickets. The invigilator signed in the requisite area, followed by us. Half-way through the SAT exam, our hall tickets were taken from us.

The SAT paper, which came after a short break, was also quite easy. In fact, the civics section had turned out to be easier than I could have ever imagined. One such question was something like this:

Read the following passage:

Anti-social activities are those that are against the society. They are bad. Any activity that disturbs the peace in a community is an anti-social activity. We should not encourage such activities.

Q: Which of the following is an antisocial activity?

(a) Walking on the road

(b) Selling vegetables at Rhythu bazaars (a term that I doubt anybody outside AP would know about. Just in case, it means a vegetable market run by the state government and selling goods at subsidised prices )

(c) Smuggling goods and murdering innocent civilians

(d) Going to school

Now, I wonder why we needed the passage to answer that one!

However, some questions required a fair bit of knowledge, such as the fact that Napoleon was inspired by Rousseau, something that only I was aware of.

But why I am describing the exam without talking about the school? St. Theresa’s High School was a missionary school and like most missionary schools, it too had an attached hospital and church. The furniture was so-so but it was built near the Begumpet Airport, so while I was trying to recall the scientific name of mankind I was inspired by loud booms of aircrafts working on a tight schedule (perhaps it was Air Deccan, whose schedule is tighter than Posh Spice’s jeans on a hippopotamus and whose success rate rivals Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston’s marriage). Still, the atmosphere at the school was calm. I have always had his interest in churches, and I felt that the presence of a church was always a good sign, even though I was not Christian.

So finally, we ended our exam and returned home. Hardly anybody had any hopes of qualifying; it seems they had signed up just for the heck of it! And as for me, I never kept any hopes from any exam. Perhaps I need to do something about that.

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