10 February 2008

The King of Exams

The CBSE Tenth Standard Board Examinations is one of the toughest and most feared examinations, undertaken by Indian students all over the world.

The conventional way of passing this examination, is by memorizing hundreds of pages of facts, applying logic, and banking on a little bit of luck.

The unconventional way of passing?.was through cheating.

For the 2008 CBSE Tenth Standard Board Examinations, held in the month of March, 20 students decided to play a game called, ?The King of Exams?. The objective was simple. Use the best means possible, in order to pass all the examinations.

This is their story?

* * * * * * * *
Peter?s Point of View (P.O.V.)
8: 00 A.M.
The hall was silent, and the atmosphere was tense. I sat on the last bench in the left row, as far away from the invigilator as possible. And from where I was sitting, I could easily see what the others were up to.

Twenty students, I thought. All going to cheat.

The bearded, rather short invigilator looked at the clock, and declared. ?Start writing.?

I took out my pen, and did as I was asked?

* * * * * * * *
Philip?s P.O.V.
8: 15 A.M.
It was just as I expected. A piece of cake. Two days before this examination (our final, Science examination), I had begun my preparation.

I took out my ink pen, and making sure the Invigilator was still gazing out the window, I opened the ink pen, and took out the chits. For the next two minutes, I quickly memorized three answers. Just as the Invigilator turned around, I placed my ink pen back into my stationary box.

This was going to be exciting, I thought, as I quickly began writing?

* * * * * * * *

7: 15 A.M.

No one had noticed the blue colored van that stopped in front of the Examination centre, every day at 7: 15. So there was no chance of anyone wondering who the 20 students inside could be. For every examination, they would enter the building, and wait till their ?boss? handed them a piece of paper.

?Remember, act properly. Best of luck!? their ?boss? would say, before walking away?

* * * * * * * *
10: 15 A.M.

For some reason, Prashanth wasn?t feeling good. Of course, he had successfully copied enough. It was a piece of cake. All he had to do was write the answers on the black board, with invisible ink. It was a good thing his father was a chemist. As he had said, ?Phenolphthalein developed by ammonia fumes and sodium carbonate? would do the trick.

After writing on the board, Prashanth, who was sitting in the first row, closest to the black board, only had to press the light button on his watch. Using his reflective stationary box, he could easily flash the florescent light from his watch, onto the board. Cheating had never seemed easier. But yet, something was troubling Prashanth?

* * * * * * * *
7: 30 A.M.

Mohan Kumar was a dedicated teacher. He came to the examination centre everyday, signed his name in the register, and received his file from the clerk. The file would give him every detail necessary to conduct his invigilation.

That day, he looked inside, and smiled. ?10 ? C, is it? A good class??

He walked in, and began invigilating. Everything went smoothly. He made sure the students signed the register paper. And he had a feeling none of them were copying. By the way, Mohan Kumar was clean shaven?.

* * * * * * * *
10: 59 A.M.

Prashanth surveyed the class. Nineteen were present. One was absent. Patrick. It was a shame, since Patrick was known as ?007? in his school. It was said that he had cheated for every exam he wrote since 5th grade.

The time was almost over. ?Please hand over your answer books, please.? Declared the bearded invigilator.

Prashanth handed over his answer book. There was a frown on his face.

He had heard that a different invigilator would be invigilating every examination. But he sure that for all the examinations, the same bearded man had been invigilating. Weird, he thought?.

Everyone else was smiling with delight. After the books were collected, the invigilator said, ?Please, do stay in this class itself. There is an important announcement to be made.?

Prashanth watched as the invigilator began counting the answer books. Surprisingly, he was reading some of the answers as well. Come to think of it, thought Prashanth, the bearded invigilator had been doing the same thing for all the examinations.

Suddenly, a pang of fear attacked Prashanth. What if the school authorities knew of his plan? He had heard of instances where special invigilators were asked to monitor some classes. What if the bearded invigilator suspected them? What if he was gathering all the evidence to catch them?
No one else knew what was going on. Prashanth began sweating?

* * * * * * * *
11: 02 A.M.

Mohan Kumar handed over the answer books to the same clerk he had collected his file from. ?You know where to place these, don?t you?? he asked.

The clerk nodded. He walked down the corridor, and paused in front of a trash bin. Making sure no one was watching, he tossed the answer books into the bin, and walked away?
* * * * * * * *
11: 03 A.M.

The bearded invigilator handed over the answer books, and then closed the door.

?May I have your attention please?? he asked. Everyone stopped talking and looked at him. There were gasps and cries of surprise, as the invigilator began removing his beard and moustache. Smiling calmly, he removed his wig as well. Finally, standing in front of the 19 students, was Patrick.

?What? Patrick?? Prashanth cried.

?Yes, it?s me. Now, I?m afraid I don?t have much time left. So I?ll explain what has been going on. Guys, I?m sorry, but I think I am the winner of this game.?

?How can you say that? You didn?t even write the examination!?

?Ah. That?s where you?re wrong. You see, I wrote the examination. All five of them. Unfortunately some of you haven?t.?

?You?re not making any sense!?

?Let me explain. In order to cheat for this examination, I devised a plan. I asked 20 Ninth grade friends of mine to help me out. For all the five examinations, they came dressed as students, with fake admit cards. Of course, we all know that they don?t check admit cards!?

?Then, I paid a clerk really well, to do something simple. He hands over the file to the invigilator who is supposed to come to this class ? 12 - B ? and makes sure they go to 10 ? C instead. It?s very easy to do that. I just needed to fake the Head of Department?s signature, and change the class from 12 ? B to 10 ? C.?

?Of course, I also needed to place a fake register paper as well. The invigilator makes sure the students admit card number matches the ones in the register paper. And of course they would match. I made them both, didn?t I??

?And then comes the easy part. I walk into this class for the examination. No supervisor bothers me, since they check with 10 ? C. Besides, any one who passes by will think I?m conducting a class test.?

?I spend three hours, assessing who?s writing the best answers. Sometimes it gets complicated, since no one?s answered the paper fully. So I try my best to make it all right, by attaching one fellow?s excellent map work, to another?s wonderful written work. I must say, it?s been easy so far. All I had to do was change the roll no. and write my own. So you see, I have written all the examinations. Well, technically, all of you have. But I will be getting the best marks. It?s been good talking to all of you, but I?m afraid my 9th grade friends are waiting for me. Bye!?

Everyone stood stunned, as Patrick walked away. Praveen suddenly lunged forward. ?Stop, you rascal. You think we?ll let you go like that??

Patrick stopped. ?Oh yes you will. After all, you wouldn?t want the authorities to see the video of all of you cheating, would you?? he said, flashing his mobile, which had been secretly placed in the hall.

The nineteen students stood dumb struck as ?The King of Exams? walked away?.

In Memory Of...

"Excuse me sir, would you like to see ..." "Madam, I am sure that you are interested in this..." "Young man, have you heard about the new..." "Young ladies, may I have the pleasure to interest you..."

Unfortunately, he didn't have the fortune. Everyone passed by him in the mall, as though he was invisible, or they were deaf. Either way, Vikram Chopra was a miserable man. With his tie strangling him, and sweat drenching his shirt, Vikram was in a desperate state.

Being the salesman of Akon furniture shop, Vikram had to sell for at least 5,000 dollars in a month. Twenty-nine days had elapsed. It was almost impossible that he could salvage his job within just one day. Throwing his tie into the bin, Vikram walked home.

In the dim light of the orange bulb, the dingy room was illuminated. There wasn't much in the house, except for a bed, a wardrobe, and a few chairs. The bed almost touched the floor, unable to bear the weight of the depressed man sitting on it. Vikram wanted to get rid of it all. He wanted to get rid of his ridiculous job, his one room apartment ... his life, too.

In his hand were a few papers all weighing heavily on his already stretched wallet. The landlord was waiting to chuck him out the next day. Besides, the electricity department would hound him, for the three months of overdues he had to pay. Life was miserable.

Vikram looked up, and saw the table in front of him. In the dim light, the faint silhouette of a bottle was visible. And with strained eyes, he saw the six letters written on it. P-O-I-S-O-N.

Something that would end it all, quickly and silently. Vikram had joked about it a month ago. With every passing day, the joke became more and more real. It seemed as though life was playing with him, toying with his mind. He was drowning in debt, and had about an ounce of self esteem left. No prospective future, no ambition.

It was horrible to see that everything that he was doing at the moment was useless. Vikram's life was almost mechanical. He spent 2/3 of his life in the mall, trying to get at least a single customer. His bank account had almost gotten depleted, since he hadn't deposited or withdrawn anything. The reason was simple: The account was empty and he was broke.

But, even when he was contemplating the thought of a possible suicide, Vikram felt a deep urge to make a statement. Something that would make him famous. Something that would find himself a place in the newspaper.

He looked up and saw the fan. No, not the tried and tested fan method. It was so dull and unexciting ... then, with a sudden jolt, Vikram got up and looked at the thing in front of him. His eyes shone as he saw his way out. Using that simple apparatus, he could make sure that he had a solution, a final solution to all problems.

The next day, everyone moved around in the mall as usual. There was a large crowd, moving around looking for something that would appease them. Slowly though, it seemed as if a large crowd was gathering. It was not apparent at first. But, at about 10.30am there was enough people surrounding the Akon furniture shop, to make the boss come out.

"What is the matter here?" he asked, secretly wondering if they wanted to pull down the shop. "Sir," asked a young lady, with tears in her eyes. "Is this poster true?"

The boss looked at the poster. "Oh yes, we got the information this morning. thought this could be the last respects..." His voice trailed away as the crowd stood motionless.

On the window was a large poster, with a large face pasted on it. Vikram's eyes peered at the mall goers, oblivious to what was going on. Under the photo was a notice:

In Memory Of...

We regret to inform you that our beloved salesman, Mr Vikram Chopra passed away due to massive heart failure. We offer our condolences to his grieving family. Akon Furniture will also be accepting donations in the form of sales, to pay for Mr Vikram's funeral. He is survived by two handicapped parents and an unmarried sister.

The notice had a magical effect on the audience. Everyone looked down, silently grieving the loss of this salesman. The boss went into his room, grumbling that he didn't get the opportunity to fire Vikram. Besides, he had tried to ask the man who called, how exactly Vikram had died. Heart failure for a young healthy man like Vikram seemed highly unlikely. Something suspicious was going on.

Not only was something suspicious going on, but also, there was something unbelievable happening in the Akon furniture shop. Two hours later, the assistant banged on the boss's door, asking him the most ridiculous question:

"What do we do when our furniture stock is over?"

The boss chided him at first, but then, dropped his jaws, literally, in shock and surprise. In front of him was the largest crowd that he had seen in his life, at least inside his shop. People were moving around, looking for small useful furniture. There was no one to tell them the price, or the quality. Instead, they took the small handmade pieces to the cashier and demanded to see the manager.

"Dear Sir," said an old lady in a croaky voice, "Please make sure that you give the commission for this furniture to Mr Vigam Chopra."

"Vikram Chopra, Ma'am?"

"Right. Give it to Mr Vigam, please."

"And, mine too," the rest of the crowd chimed in chorus. The boss looked baffled. "But, he is dead ? I mean he has passed away!"

"That doesn't mean that his family can't take his money, does it?" Someone asked. The tone of his voice was dangerous. The eyes of the crowd were bulging.

The boss meekly nodded his head, and agreed. In front of their eyes, he zipped 45 credit cards and transferred 12.5 per cent to Vikram Chopra's account.

After the crowd left, the boss sat in his chair, and said to his assistant. "Oh, during his 29 days here, he couldn't sell a single piece. Now, he just emptied the shop. It is a pity he isn't there with us today. God knows how far above he has reached?"


"Excuse me sir, would you like to see..." "Madam, I am sure that you are interested in this..." "Young man, have you heard about the new..." "Young ladies, may I have the pleasure to interest you?" "Young man, would like to?-"

"Hey, mister!" A teenager snapped. "Why don't you understand? We don't want to buy your furniture, we don't! I wish you would drop dead!"

The salesman smiled. Your wish just might come true. He walked into his boss's office, and said:

Sir, tomorrow is the 30th day of my job. Please, make sure that you send all the commission to my bank account!

The boss gave him a spiteful look. Rahul Varma had hardly sold a piece of furniture. "I don't think I will be sending anything to your account!"

The salesman smiled. Well, that's exactly what my previous boss said, and then I died, and he sent me 6, 991 dollars. I am sure that you'll do the same!

Vikram Chopra, the deceased salesman, also known as Rahul Varma, walked out of the mall ...

?Mohammed Musthafa Azeez, 14, Grade 9, Al Khor International School-Indian stream, Doha, Qatar

The winners of the Young Times Short Story Contest 2006 are:
I Prize ? Mohammed Musthafa Azeez, 14, Grade 9, Al Khor International School-Indian stream, Doha, Qatar
II Prize ? Roshini Srinivas, 14, Grade 9, The Asian School, Bahrain
III Prize ? Husseina Ibrahim, 16, Grade 10, Dubai Carmel School

This is a short story that I wrote for Young Times in 2006. Dont know how, but I ended up getting first place. Please give me your sincere opinion on this, because I dont think it was prize worthy...

Heart Signed Out...

Now that I have posted short stories on this blog, I'm making a serious effort to write good stories. This one below will be the last of my mediocre stories....cheers!

The wall clock showed 2 : 15 A. M. The computer said it was only 2: 00 A.M. Either way, it was way too late for any normal 16 year old to be online.

Yet, Alex was seated in front of his laptop, sipping a cup of coffee, as he waited for a reply in his MSN Messenger.

He was chatting with a girl, about 3000 miles away from where he sat. Presently, she was hesitant, not sure she should be trusting a stranger whom she met just two weeks ago, that too, under strange circumstances. But when the time is so late, and your chatting with someone like Alex, even the most cautious of girls are caught off guard.

Within a few minutes, the girl began pouring out her heart to Alex. She told him every deep secret she had hid even from her best buddies. All Alex had to do, was coax her to carry on, and silently read all that she had to say.

About an hour later, he finally ended the chat. The girl said she was happy to have a friend like him.

Too bad she thought she was chatting with a girl from Toronto named Emily. Well, what?s in a name, thought Alex smugly.

* * * * * * *

Not many knew what Alex did after he went home from school. He had no friends to speak of, and was hardly ever spotted outside his house. Some knew he was addicted to chatting. No one knew just how he went about chatting?

Both of his parents worked very long hours, which meant there was hardly anything stopping Alex from sitting on the laptop all the time. Chatting, which had started out as a hobby, had turned into an obsession, until finally, it became a way of living for Alex.

Offline, he was a loser. A nobody who had nothing interesting to speak, nothing interesting to do, nothing interesting to show. But once he went online, he became someone else. And there was a reason for that?.

Alex realized very early on, that his online identity was not restricted to his offline personality. While he was not so good looking, possessing above average intelligence, with a huge deficit of self esteem, online, he was charming, handsome, loving, intelligent?

Soon, Alex began making fake identities. He was either a professor from Chicago, or a drug addict from Bangladesh, or an aspiring cricketer from Pakistan. It was easy. All he had to do was lie. And he was pretty good at that?

* * * * * * *

One day, everything changed for Alex. He was standing in his bus stop, waiting for his bus to arrive, when he saw a girl standing next to him. She was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. Graceful, charming, with a dazzling smile. He couldn?t stop looking at her?

He saw her for the next one month ; he saw her smile ; he saw her push back her silky brown hair. And slowly, he realized he had a crush on her.

Then, something happened which brought a U turn to Alex?s life. One evening, when he was busy chatting with a girl from Bahrain (he was in Dubai), he received a friend request. It was from shalini_93@hotmail.com.

The name was familiar. He accepted the request.

?Who are you?? he asked.

?You don?t know? I?m Shalini. I?ve seen you in the bus stop for so long!?

Alex?s heart leapt. He now knew where he had heard the name before. Shalini Mehta. The girl he couldn?t stop thinking about. Without wasting a moment, Alex began chatting?

* * * * * * *

If Alex had a lot of friends, they would surely have commented on how much Alex had changed as a person. He stopped spending most of his time online. More importantly, he stopped fooling people online. For some reason, he no longer got the pleasure from breaking innocent girls hearts. Besides, the only person he wanted to chat with, was Shalini.

She would come online every day, and chat with Alex for hours together. They would share their stories, tell each other their tastes and likings. This went on for two months, and Alex began feeling something he had never felt before.

He no longer had a crush on Shalini. He was past that stage. Now, he felt something else. Love?

Any one who knew Alex well would have understood his condition. He had spent most of his time without a friend. His days were like boring soap operas, where his only hope was that school would finish quickly. And once it did, he would quickly log online. From then onwards, till the end of the day, Alex spent his time duping people. Lying. Cheating. In between all of this, he had lost his own identity. He forgot who he really was.

Alex spent so much time lying about his upbringing and likings, that he was amazed when he chatted with Shalini. For the first time ever, he didn?t have to think on his feet. He no longer needed to lie. All he had to do?.was be himself.
?You know,? he typed, ?there is something that I have to tell you??

?What is it?? Shalini typed back.

It was late at night, and Alex was sure he wasn?t thinking straight. For some odd reason, he felt like confessing to Shalini about his deep secret. He wanted to tell her about his dirty habit of fooling people. It would make him feel better. It would make him feel as though he had redeemed himself.

?Listen, I need to go now,? Shalini said.

?Oh?okay. Bye then.?

* * * * * * *

The next day, Alex woke up with a firm thought. Today, for the first time ever, he would talk to Shalini face to face. For the past five months, he had only chatted with her, since he was too afraid to speak to her in person. But now, his fear vapourised. After all, if there was one person on earth who knew Alex properly, it was Shalini.

He waited for her in the bus stop, and the moment she arrived, he walked up to her.

?Hey, Shalini, listen, about what I wanted to tell you yesterday??

?Excuse me? Do I know you?? she asked, looking bewildered.

Alex felt surprised. He knew Shalini was a little playful. But asking such a question in a bus stop, when there were adults around, would put him in a tricky position. He decided to get serious.

?Quit playing, Shalini. Now, I want to confess something to you. Or else I wont be able to be friends with you anymore.?

?Hey, listen, I don?t even know you. Why the hell are you talking to me like this??

Alex was stunned. ?But we just chatted last night-?

?Chatted? Chatted where? I don?t even have an email id. How the hell could I have chatted with you??

* * * * * * *

Alex stared at his Messenger Contact List. The email address shalini_93@hotmail.com was no longer there.

He had confronted the person, whoever he or she was. Asked if she was Shalini. The truth was bitter.

Alex had always wondered how his ?victims? ? the endless list of online friends ? would have felt when they realized they were duped. Now he knew?

He had loved one girl. Chatted with her for 5 months. Poured out his heart to her. Only to realize that he was cheated by an online identity.