Monday, July 03, 2006

Combined Study (1997-2001)

The average engineering student opens his textbook for the first time after the first semester results have come in. By now, the euphoria of having made it through the entrance exam would have died down and he would be extra motivated by the fact that he has failed most of his subjects in the previous semester. A session of panic follows when he realizes that the scoundrels who write engineering text books write in a language more similar to Greek and Latin than to English. What with all the sigmas and Pis and Kasais, the poor fellow would barely be able to make out the page numbers. After a night of tossing, turning and dreaming bad dreams of begging for a living, our hero would turn up in college. He wouldn't have shaved, his eyes would be red and he would bear an uncanny resemblance to a monkey in a tunnel caught in the headlight of an oncoming train. Senior students would see him, nod sympathetically and remember a similar day in their lives. Birds of a feather flock together, and so, very soon, a group of students would get together and form what is called a combined study group.

Engineering college being what it is, depression never lingers, and our study group too would not stay dull for very long. After a couple of hours discussion a broad set of rules would be outlined. For every group that I have seen, they are the same rules.

1) Thou shall not commence study until a week/a day/ a night before the exam.
2) Thou shall study only what is in two out of three modules in the syllabus, if possible, thou shall not study that too
3) Thou shall not study for more than 5 minutes at a stretch
4) After this 5 mins thou shall take a break of at least 15 mins and finally .. most importantly,
5) There will be plenty of snacks

I was no different from the average student and so, in the fourth semester, armed with a failed subject, I ventured into the mystic world of combined study. Since I was a semester late in failing for a subject, most of the combined study groups had already formed. All I needed to do was to join one. I ended up in Janson's group. This consisted of a core group of 6 people. Janson, Anand, Pratheesh, Paulose, Akhil, Faizal and finally me. Akhil was the meticulous one. He would already have gone through the textbooks once and would attend the combined study sessions only for the food and some clarifications on portions he hadn't yet understood. Usually these portions would be stuff not in the syllabus and would hence end up never being discussed in the combined study. Faizal would have collected all the notes from all the girls. He would also have bought a copy of the syllabus and managed to get his hand on some old question papers. Without doubt, leaving Janson, he was the most important member of the combined study group. Janson was important because he was the host of the study group by virtue of the fact that his mom made the best tea and snacks. Also he lived in a protected forest outside city which meant we could make as much noise as we wanted and the only creatures that get disturbed would be hyenas and buffaloes. Anand and I were the regulars. We came early, cracked jokes, discussed politics, played computer games, had philosophic discussions on the irrelevance of mundane degrees like ours and finally bid polite good byes to everyone and left. In four years and eight semesters, we never once risked trying to decipher the cryptic messages inside the textbooks. That left Paulose. His was a cardinal role. He was what we called the benchmark for combined study. If he understood, everyone had mastered.

Janson being the fundamental and also the mental one, would read the portion we were to study. This is when Paulose would be at his active best trying to make Janson's task as hard as possible through such juvenile measures and pouring tea down his shirt, or sneezing boogies onto his face. However, once Janson is done studying, Paulose would retreat into a shell to wake up only when Janson is done explaining the portion to the rest of us. This meant that after a protracted session of crying and scolding, Janson would sit down and explain the portion again. Unfortunately, while Paulose is a wizard at some things, those are not in the syllabus for engineering. This means that by the time Janson is done teaching for the second time, Paulose would still be looking expectantly at Janson, waiting for that elusive explanation. Another crying and blaming session would follow and an exasperated Janson would agree to teach Paulose 'one last time'. By now Akhil would be snoring loudly, Anand and I would be into our 10th game of Mortal Combat and Faizal would be making whimpering noises from the next room wondering how we would manage to finish 2 out of three modules by the end of the day. Janson's mother would save the day. I am sure that without her Paulose would never have made it out alive from Janson's house. She would surface with her magical tea and myriad snacks and we would all forget our little differences. We would eat, drink, make merry, and when the last morsel is down Paulose would have forgotten all about the subject. Janson would pick up the book to study again and Paulose would pick up the remnants of the tea and pour it down his shirt again. Thus the cycle repeats till the morning of the exams.

1 comment:

Anand said...

ah! combined study sessions. It is amazing that even with studying at the last hour we can get through the university exams. That says something about the ingenuity of those exams. (of course! there is also no denial that we were exceptionaly gifted ;-) )

Btw, is that photograph from a combined study session? Never remember having so many in one study group.

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