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Blast From the Past: My ATKT Story*

My engineering school e-group has been sharing some wonderful old stories (some true, some exaggerated and some both!) regarding the infamous BEE (Basic Electricity and Electronics) examination in our first semester of engineering. It was rather unexpectedly tough. Tough is probably an understatement: mind-bogglingly incomprehensible might be better adjective. We were assigned a different class-room for this exam. For all previous exams, I was sharing my desk with Kunal (Gandhi). I had barely spoken to him previously (our first exams are held within about 3 months from the first day of classes) , but I realized soon enough that he was resourceful enough to devise a plan to copy from me and shameless enough to ask me to co-operate with him. (You have to realize that at this point, I had not yet encountered Pulkit’s skills: he once managed to change official seating assignments, “borrow” my answer-sheet, copy the answers and return them to me, without anybody observing it…that includes even me).  Anyway, I used to put my answer-sheets below the desk after I was done and Kunal would slide it over, copy off it and return them to my side of the desk.

For the BEE exam, the seating arrangements were changed. I realized as soon as I received the question paper that I didn’t know anything…Not knowing anything in an exam was a novel experience (at that time…I was not to know that it would be a regular feature of the engineering exam experience). I wondered briefly, if I had a temporary loss of brain-power, or if I had a different exam paper but the gasps and nervous giggles and sighs all around me reassured me that the confusion and tension was shared by the entire class.  I turned to look at Kunal, but he was a fickle friend and pausing only to give me a wide grin applied himself sincerely to the task of copying from Pooja.  I turned my attention back to the paper, I think I attempted every question in the paper… began each one of them slowly and neatly and left every single answer in varying states of completion.  I was just consoling myself with the wonderful logic:  If it is tough for me, it should be tough for others as well. But, then Anjum Ali Anwar  (IIRC) asked for an extra supplement. I think the sound echoed in the classroom.

Within a short while, the invigilator felt sorry for us and left the room, almost as though he was inviting us to pool in our collective knowledge. Everybody was looking around trying to figure out the person who looked as though they knew something about anything.  Anjum, Bijal, Nilesh and Tejas were studiously scribbling away in the front of the class-room not even pausing to look up.   Somebody from the last bench sent out an open plea for help “Does anybody know anything”?   Kunal decided to be specific and asked Nilesh & Anjum to share answers to some particular question ( I remember wondering, if he knew the answers to the other questions he did not ask Nilesh) . Anjum did not even deign to reply but Nilesh turned around and managed to convince Kunal that he was just bluffing his way through the paper.  Pulkit & Kaustubh were trying to convince me to share my paper, despite my protests that I didn’t know anything.  In short, everybody was copying: some were copying openly, some were furtively peeking at the neighbor’s paper, some were discussing solutions, answer sheets were being exchanged, but that all of us were desperately trying not to submit a blank paper.

Anyway fast forward to a few months later, to the dreaded day the results for the first semester exams were put up.  As soon as we (Vidya and I) entered the gates, we realized that something was up. We rushed to the first floor where everybody was crowded around a notice board. Ninad came towards me saying something about reserved and white patti. If I remember correctly, I think it was the first time Ninad initiated a conversation with me. But, I probably was not giving it the honor it deserved(!!!) because of the eagerness to see my results. I don’t think the idea of flunking had  really entered my head…after all I had never failed an exam before. My twisted logic was again….why should it happen this time?  But I could not find my name on the list. There was a thin strip of white paper, that proclaimed my difference from the rest of the group.  By this time Ninad, who joined me in being *different* had stopped one of the all-knowing seniors to clarify the meaning of the white patti. “Your results have been reserved”, the senior condescended to tell us. I think I even detected a smirk. Ninad and I stood apart from the group, not really sure of what to speak to each other. Around us most of our class was counting their KTs, the few who did not get the dreaded KT were bursting with happiness, and at the same time trying not to jump with joy in deference to the KT-stricken classmates.  I think there were about 8 or 10 students in our class who did not get a KT that year.  We were summoned to the Principal’s room where DJ Shah (Principal) explained to the “reserved” students that we would have to wait till the University cross-checked our results. We had to read between the lines to understand the real story.  Apparently the college had generously provided grace marks to several students in our year to help them scrape through some tough papers (read BEE); our papers were the few that was unfortunately caught in a random checking process. The university would reevaluate our papers or the checking process (not sure what it would do, how long it would take or what the outcome would be). I think it was very clear to me from that point onwards that “Reservation” was not a good solution to any issue.

Ninad & I joined the rest of our class….Many people had dispersed either to celebrate or to cry in private. There were a bunch of people still waiting around for us. Pulkit, Kaustubh, Kunal , Aparna , Vidya and some more I don’t remember now. Vidya and Aparna were talking to me very cautiously, almost in whispers as though they were scared I would burst into tears at any moment.  Kunal sat there, the only person who was gleefully celebrating his No KT status and asking me my status “ Clean bowled? Or still batting?, he asks.  “Third Umpire has to decide”, I tell him and left it to Ninad to explain the ramifications of a “reserved” result. Didn’t expect Ninad to explain it musically…or whatever passes for music in Ninad’s repertoire…”Shayad pass, Shayad fail….na re na re 50-50”, he intoned waving his hands.  Meanwhile Pulkit & Kaustubh are having a major discussion of how Pulkit got a couple of less KTs than Kaustubh or something to that effect.  Vidya and Aparna are glaring at Kunal for sounding so gleeful. I am glaring at Kunal too…for a different reason. He managed to copy every paper from me but BEE : he copies that from Pooja and clears the damn exam. Kunal, although a cad was definitely not an idiot. He interpreted my glare pretty accurately and starts laughing loudly, drawing everybody’s attention to the fact that he passed despite copying from me.  Carnival atmosphere …almost.  Vidya & Aparna get a rick so that I can go home…and escort me to the gates. At that point, atmosphere was serious and awkward (they had passed, I had not..) , I am almost longing for Kunal’s flippancy.  My brain somehow conjures up a vision of a classic filmi bidaai..emotional moment, two people escorting me on both sides.  I am trying hard to fight down giggles, maintain the solemn atmosphere and remind myself that I haven’t cleared my exams.

The last act of the drama was played out a few months later. By this time most people have come to terms with the KTs in the rush of assignments and the threat of the next set of exams looming near. It was a break between classes; I am sitting in the corner of the class labeling a few graphs for one of Pulkit’s assignments. Someone enters the class to mention that the “reserved results” are out. Ninad and I go down to check our results, along with the Return of Awkward Silences.   We made our way to the dreaded notice board again, noted down our respective BEE marks (26 and 28 for me and Ninad respectively, for those interested in details) and walk back to class. I am trying hard to maintain a dignified appearance, so I go to my seat and get back to those graphs. I silently pat myself  for almost getting away with it but…Pulkit stops by and asks in a booming voice…”Arre, tera bhi reserved tha na…kya hua ?” I glare at him (in an extremely dignified manner, ofcourse) and reply in the negative. Pulkit’s response is a reassuring but emphatic “Good!”  You will understand my confusion.., I had a KT. It was not Good.  I try to explain to him that he has committed a social solecism and Good is not an acceptable response. I was pretty sure I hadn’t get the point across when I heard Pulkit’s response, “Its nice to have company!”. There was really nothing more to say. So I sat there completing Pulkit’s graphs and gave him company as I completed the graphs, the assignment and the BEE KT!!

The real real last act of this entire drama was the BEE KT exam, As an anticlimax, it was an extremely simple exam (or we had really studied, who knows ) and all of us who did take the exam passed with flying colors. Thankfully that was the first and last of my KTs.  And  also the end of this really long story….

*Note:  ATKT is a term that means Allowed to Keep Terms that allows the poor engineering student to cram for one additional paper that he/she failed in the previous year in addition to all the papers for that particular year, thus avoiding a beneficial time off from studies (or a year drop). Various people call it Aaj Thoda Kal Thoda or After Trying Keep Trying. Log use pyar se KT bhi bolte hain

** Note…No hard feelings…no intention of hurting anybody….best of my recollection…..blah blah.

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