The sound of children playing boisterously in the play area, zooming cycles and skateboards, young boys and girls with their shuttle, rackets, football and basketball—this is how our apartment campus is in evening on most of the time of the year. I am attuned to the hustle and bustle and enjoy the spirit and vitality of life during my regular evening walks.
I relish watching the different age groups engaged in play…..each age reflecting the stage of development and evolution. Younger ones engaged in self paly, pretend n play and imitative play. The little older ones from 7 to 14 (my favourite group, a stage which is the playground of soul and feelings) engaged in more rule based games, structured pretend n play, indulging in manipulations and negotiations, exploring their black, white and grey shades. I love to overhear their conversation while pretending to be lost in my thought and in my walk. The young teenagers engage in more intellectual talks and competitive games with aggression…….…The sapidity of the multiple emotions seasoning the life!!!
But all this was missing for last couple of weeks. The campus had a weird silence in the evening- few children came out to play and the number of moms walking in the evening thinned out. However, the elderly ones continued with their rituals of walk and yoga. The attendance in extra classes on campus like music, dance and art also reduced.
It was the scourge of EXAM, paralysing the beaming life for couple of weeks.
I came across the term “Bindas” used for these handful children and their moms who came out to play and walk as their regular ritual. My daughters and their friends are proud members of this bindas group and so are we, the moms of these carefree girls. One of my friends was surprised to find that I do not sit with my girls when they study and help them only if they come with their doubts. She was surprised to see my elder one (who is in higher grades now) and her friends sweating out in basketball court for two hours daily and even during exams. I always found her overstressed during exams – finishing her cooking beforehand and no walks, so that she can sit with her kids for hours together and help them prepare. She made loads of worksheets for her kids to practise, sessions for reading and spelling and so on.. She admitted that she felt exhausted and irritated during exams.
Facebook and WhatsApp were full of messages and jokes around the overstressed moms during exams.
Well, I am cautious to talk about these moms who come with a gloriole around them, are angels who come with a quick fix approach and would keep their kids in a protective shell like hermit crabs. They do not let their children learn from mistakes. Once I commented mirthfully to this friend of mine –“Exam hi to hai! (It’s just an exam!)”. The piercing stare that I got lividly expressed how wrong I was?? How carefree and bindas to ruin my children’s future?? And how can I expect such carelessness from good moms like her who put their life on stake for their kid’s exam?? The look reminded me of one dialogue from the blockbuster “3 Idiots” –“Usne aise ghoor ke dekha jaise ki humne uski dono kidney maang li ho”( He stared us as if we asked him to donate his both kidneys to us).
During this exam- struck period, I had experiences on my campus which led the educator in me ponder over…something was not right.
One mom had come out with her 7-8 year old daughter in the lawn near swimming pool with a book. I appreciated her idea to let the child learn out in fresh air. The duo started with the definition of “locomotion”. Mom read out from the book- “The movement in animals from one place to another in search of food, shelter,…is called locomotion.” The parrot training began. The child repeated it several times with mom. Then it was time for her to regurgitate the information with correct words and spellings. I took few rounds and the child was still stuck with the definition. What she said was correct but not ditto like the book. She missed a word or changed the order… but she made sense and was correct. But mom was not satisfied. She was not content with the reproduction of the information but needed an exact replication. I could sense the gradual change in her gesture and tone. The learning session ended with a thud of book on the child’s head and yell- “You will write it down 5 times!!!”
When I was back from work in the afternoon, two teenage boys in their school uniform sat near the lift area and were discussing their Maths question paper enumerating their mistakes and making a guess of how much they will score. One of them said with ruefulness –“Gosh!! My mom will kill me if she finds that you scored more than me”
When this exam did invade our education system and paralyzed the learning?? It happened when the 3Rs – Reading, Writing and Arithmetic took over the other Rs of education – Rhythm, Repetition and Reverence. It happened when the real virtues imparted by education- the Ps – Patience, Perseverance and Politeness where kicked out and replaced by the almighty P, the Performance differentiated in to Powerful Performance and Poor Performance.
Now the exams are over. WhatsApp and Facebook are flooded with messages and pictures of post examination treats and enjoyment. One picture that caught my attention on Facebook was few 4-5 year old children with happy smiles on Merry-go-round with a caption –“Enjoyment after exams! Yippee!!” Well! Young children are always full of enjoyment. The caption was more apt for the moms.
Soon holidays will get over and the results will be out. We will have posts on social platforms bragging the proud moment –how their sweethearts made them proud, how the sleepless nights, hard work and sacrifices paid off…….blah! blah! And the ones for whom the hard work did not bear the fruit of their choice will feel left out and livid….they will burst out, console and gear up for the next round. They will restrain themselves from the social platform for a while and glue to Google—“How to improve the memory power of your 5 year old?”, “Maths worksheets for better grades”, “Improving the concentration of your 1st Grader”………..and so on.
When I sat down to write this piece, I chose the topic to be “Examophobia”, but after a considerable intellection, I changed it to “Examomania”. It is not the ‘terror’ of exam but the ‘love’ for it (especially for the parents). One cycle of performance over, they wait for the next cycle to uplift the benchmark and strive for a better performance……more worksheets to practise, more parrot sessions to mug up and regurgitate and more and more training of the brain….one more chance to prove their worthiness as parents and to brag of their ‘trophy’ child.
Meanwhile, I am happy for those kids who are back to their life, to their playgrounds… where they belong for the major learnings of life.
Life has returned to normalcy in our campus …..post the exams. The souls are free to manifest in playground till they will be arrested again with the next strike of exam.
This is my viewpoint and it is up to readers to agree or disagree.