How to Survive Exam Season

It is the exam season! Time for group studies, revisions, prelims and last minute submissions! Though I have passed this dreaded phase long back, the memories of those days still bring a smile on my face.

I feel saddened to read to about rising cases of students committing suicides due to exam pressure nowadays. Such cases were rare during our time and almost unheard of during our parent’s generation. Hence I dedicate this post to all those who will be facing exams in upcoming months and are stressed out.

Here are some things which I think helped us survive the exam fever:

  1. Create a support system. It can be your study group/ bunch of friends/ cousins or whoever you are comfortable with. IMG_20160111_190928
  2. Make a time table and stick to it. It may be difficult to stick to it 100% of the time but even if you manage for 80% of the time it will help reduce pressure.
  3. Play an outdoor game with your group for half an hour daily. I remember going out to play with my friends even when exams were near. It really helped in coping with the mental stress. If you are not an outdoor person or don’t like socializing much, you can pursue a hobby. The goal is to relax and stop thinking about exams for few minutes daily.
  4. Share your frustrations with your group face to face (and not through emoticons). Trust me you will feel much better when you “hear” and “see” your pal sharing his/her frustrations with you. It will make you realize that you are not alone in this.
  5. If you feel miserable it is OK to cry. Do not bottle up your emotions.
  6. ‘Try’ (I know it is almost next to impossible) but at least try to log out off your social media accounts for coming few days. (Because in our days Social Media hadn’t reached us so we were saved from worrying about likes & comments!J) You will be amazed at how much extra time you will get! Utilize the extra time on your health! Amidst studies we take our health for granted. Get enough sleep and have healthy food.
  7. Once in a while it is ok to indulge in your favourite comfort food to cope with stress but, don’t go overboard!

The bottom line is: Exams are just a small phase in your life. Even if you fail, it is not a big deal! It is not the end of the world! Work harder the next time. And while you are at it, don’t forget to enjoy this phase. Because after some years when you look back, you may not remember everything you studied but you will definitely remember the crazy things that you did with your friends!

When I jumped off the cliff

In ‘The Lord of the Rings’, I was fascinated by what Bilbo once said to Frodo. He had said: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.

Stepping out of your door is indeed a dangerous business for an introvert like me who was raised in an overly protective environment. I always used to wonder whether I could survive on my own. Opportunity knocked in the form of an offer letter from a Bangalore based IT company.

It was an exciting opportunity to explore new place, learn new things but also scary one. I had never travelled alone nor stayed away from family. Talking to strangers, making new friends aren’t exactly my strengths. From an introvert’s point of view it was almost like jumping off the cliff.

But there was this voice inside my head which kept repeating this dialogue inspired from 3 idiots: “Aaj dar mat..nahi toh 50 saal baad jab tu boodhi hoke kisi aspatal me padi hogi aur marne ka intezaar kar rahi hogi tab sochegi ki Offer letter haat me tha… mauka bhi tha… thoda himmat kar leti..toh zindagi kuch aur ho sakti thi…”

The idea of crumbling under the weight of that regret didn’t appeal to me and hence I decided to step out of my comfort zone and jump into the unknown. And it turned out to be one of my best decisions in life.

I made new friends. I spoke to strangers on daily basis. I traveled alone. I learnt to bargain with shopkeepers. I fought & won territorial battles with centipedes and spiders in the washroom. I was uncomfortable with it but I was happy too, because I discovered that I could live on my own.

I have done things which I had never imagined I would do. I never thought that I would wake up at 3 AM on a Sunday, travel from one end of city to another, just to catch the sun rise at the pristine Nandi Hills. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would go boating in crocodile infested Kaveri River in a small coracle at Galibore.

Google Maps ensured that I never got lost in the new city. It is a blessing for introverts like me who are not very comfortable asking strangers for directions. It was a delight travelling in public buses in Bangalore. The drivers and conductors were very friendly and helpful.

Bangalore is also the city where I fell in love…. with writing. I discovered my writing skills after winning a Tech Fiction writing competition at my workplace. I started writing blog posts on weekends. I started reading and researching for my blogs. While surfing the net one day I came across an inspiring video i.e. the Ted Talks by Susan Cain which changed my life forever. It is a must watch for all the introverts.

If I had not mustered the courage to step out of the door that day, I wouldn’t have grown as a person. Today, I am more confident about myself. I now know that I am a survivor. Sometimes it is necessary to jump off the cliff. Because that is when you learn to fly!

 

[Short Story] Durga

“I AM IN TROUBLE. SENDING MY GPS LOCATION” screamed the message in Mr. Sharma’s cell phone. When a father receives such a message from his daughter, calling it as worst nightmare would be an understatement. Mr. Sharma felt fear punch him in his stomach. It then took form of fury.

No body harms my daughter! I will kill them! With these words running through his mind, he took his car and sped away following the GPS.

Fear and fury were waging a battle in his mind. Worst possible scenarios flashed before his eyes.

NO! NO! NO!

He screamed and tried to shake it off. He punched hard on the accelerator. His car zoomed wildly on the busy city road.

Soon he entered a secluded area. There were no street lights. It was surrounded with tall huge trees on both side of dirt road. There was an eerie silence.

Just then he saw a light coming towards him from far end of the road. As it neared he realized that they were headlights of a car. The car was coming with full speed.

Mr. Sharma spotted three girls in the car that sped past him. On instinct, he took a U turn and followed the car. The car slowed down and halted. The three girls got out and came running towards him. He recognized his daughter and her two friends.

Relief washed over Mr.Sharma as he noticed that apart from few minor bruises they were in good condition.

The three girls got into his car and screamed in unison, “GO! Let’s go!”

“But Durga tell me what happened?”

“I’ll explain later. We must get away from here as soon as possible!” begged Durga.

Once they reached home, Durga narrated her story:

“The regular cab driver was on leave today. The new driver didn’t seem right to me when I entered his cab. His cab reeked of cigarette and alcohol.

I was keeping a close watch on his every move, while pretending to be engrossed in my phone listening music.

He lit a cigarette, made some phone calls and took a wrong turn. I pretended not to notice but that’s when I sent the distress message to you, Laxmi & Saraswati.

His friend got into the cab. That’s when I knew I was in for some deep trouble. Though I was trembling with fear, I tried my best to hide my fear.

The driver stopped the car near the woods and opened the door near me. He snatched my dupatta. I took out my deodorant and sprayed at his eyes. Since the spray was highly inflammable, his face caught fire because of the cigarette in his mouth. While he was trying to put off the fire, I kicked him at his groin. He simply collapsed to the ground, squirming with agony.

I picked up the cigarette lighter which had fallen from his pocket and ran away. His friend chased me. He grabbed my arm. I turned and  sprayed my deodorant into his eyes, while holding the lit lighter. It acted like a mini flamethrower. I escaped from his hold.

As I ran, I noticed two more men had joined the driver and his friend. I slipped on loose gravel and fell. I thought now there was no escape. But suddenly I saw a dupatta popping from behind them. They were being strangulated by the dupatta!”

“That was us!” interjected Laxmi. “We were walking towards bus stop when we got your message. Since there were no auto we ran towards your location as fast as we could. I am glad we reached in time. Since you were in trouble, we gathered all our available weapons and attacked!”

“Weapons?” Mr. Sharma was astounded.

“Dupatta, pins, pepper sprays, keys, pens, any pointed objects we found in our handbags” explained Saraswati.

“We poked, we kicked, we sprayed, we screamed, we fought!”

“Though we were no match for their muscle power, we managed to tackle them using our wit” smiled Durga.

“Yeah! Durga’s mini flamethrower had blinded the driver and his friend. The other two suffered from pepper spray” said Saraswati.

“While they were squirming with pain we got into the cab and drove fast. We then met you on the way, uncle” smiled Laxmi.

“I am so proud of you three! You are so brave! I am glad you blinded that driver and his friend! They won’t set their dirty eyes on any girl now” said teary eyed Mr. Sharma.

[Short Story] Lakshmi

“Lakshmi! What are you doing here? It has been such a long time!” beamed Gopal, looking at his ex-wife.

“Gopal! I am surprised to see you here…”

Before, Lakshmi could finish her sentence, Gopal cut her off.

“You see that boy standing there. That is my son, Ram. He did his MBA and now he is the manager here. He has worked hard and has a very good income. He has purchased a 2BHK flat in Andheri and has a car” spoke Gopal with pride.

“I am happy for your son” smiled Lakshmi.

“He is my son after all. So, how are your daughters doing?” asked Gopal looking at his son with pride.

Lakshmi noted the words “your daughters”. Of course he never considered them as his daughters, thought Lakshmi. Memories came rushing back at her. He wanted a son. He was upset when Bhagya was born. Girls are a huge burden, he would say.  He badly wanted a son the second time.

When the nurse told him, that he had fathered twin girls, he was devastated. He refused to even look at his daughters. Lakshmi knew he was upset. She thought he would get over it and come back to take her home.

He never came. Instead, she received a divorce letter. Her father tried to convince Gopal. But he wouldn’t listen.  Lakshmi’s father slipped into depression and soon suffered massive heart attack. Her father’s demise shattered her. She had lost her mother when she was little. She didn’t have any siblings. She felt distraught. She had three little girls to look after.

She turned her despair into a burning desire to succeed. She wanted to give her daughters good education and raise them as responsible individuals. She partnered with her friend Anita and started selling sarees. Since her daughters were little, she couldn’t go out much, so she handled all book keeping stuff of the business while Anita did most of the outdoor work. To support her income Lakshmi started stitching saree blouses.

“Papa! I was looking for you. I want you to meet my boss” Ram came near them.

Lakshmi came out of her reverie. She watched Ram taking Gopal with him towards his boss.

“Ma’am, meet my father, Mr. Gopal, and Papa, meet our CEO, Miss Bhagya Lakshmi” Ram pointed to a tall dark girl standing next to him.

Bhagya was stunned as she recognized her father. She quickly regained her composure and smiled. In cold business like voice, she said, “Nice to see you Mr. Gopal. Thank you for attending our 5th Anniversary celebration.” Gopal was too shocked to utter a response.

“Our managing directors, Jaya Lakshmi and Vijaya Lakhmi are currently in London to finalize a deal. They would have been happy to meet you Mr. Gopal” smiled Bhagya and walked away.

Ram spoke excitedly, “Papa, Shree Lakshmi Textiles is going global! Jaya ma’am and Vijaya ma’am have been working hard to take the business to the next level.”

“Are Jaya and Vijaya twin sisters of Bhagya?” mumbled Gopal.

“Yes! But how did you know?” asked Ram.

Gopal didn’t utter a word. He was in state of disbelief.

“I have some work to finish. You can have some refreshments at the canteen. I’ll be back in few minutes” Saying so, Ram walked away.

“You asked what my daughters were doing” said Lakshmi.

Gopal jumped. He turned around and saw Lakshmi smiling at him.

“I think your son answered that question. Anyway, I always wanted to thank you!” said Lakshmi.

Gopal was perplexed. “Me? Why?”

“For abandoning us. If you wouldn’t have left us we would never have achieved all this. While you saw my girls as a burden I saw them as Goddesses of prosperity.” Saying so, Lakshmi walked away, her head held high.

 

[Short Story] Saraswati

The colorful books of her brother always fascinated little Saraswati. She didn’t understand why her parents disliked her fascination of books. They either scolded her or snatched away the book from her. They always made her brother Sunil to read books even though he disliked reading.

Saraswati waited till her family went to sleep at night. She tiptoed into Sunil’s study room and retrieved one of his books. Under torch light beneath her blanket she flipped the pages of the book slowly with reverence. The pictures of A for Apple B for Ball intrigued her. She noted the curve of B the slant lines of A. She liked the picture of cat. She always loved kittens and played with them. She memorized the letter C of her beloved Cat. After an hour of studying the mysterious letters and fascinating pictures she used to carefully place the book at its rightful place.

The magic hour in the nights didn’t last long. Her mother soon discovered her covert midnight  mission. Saraswati didn’t forget the thrashings she received. Her bruises didn’t let her forget that dreadful night for a long time. 

One day Sunil saw Saraswati scribbling in the mud with her finger. She had managed to write her beloved C. This triggered a wicked idea in Sunil’s mind which was going to be a blessing for Saraswati. Sunil secretly taught Saraswati how to write with pencil. He made her write his homework. Saraswati was delighted. This continued for years without their parent’s knowledge. Even though Saraswati never stepped into a classroom she had more knowledge than others her age, thanks to her lazy elder brother.

Sunil’s class teacher Miss Sharada, knew that the homework was being written by Saraswati. She could make out from the handwriting difference. While Saraswati wrote in clear legible handwriting, Sunil’s was illegible. She didn’t object to this as she was happy that Saraswati was getting education.

One day while checking Sunil’s homework book, a piece of paper dropped from the book. Sharada picked up the paper. She identified Saraswati’s handwriting. It was written in hurry. The letter said:

“I am being forced to marry. Please help me.”

Saraswati hoped that the teacher would help her. However, as the minutes passed by and the Baraat came nearer, her hopes faded away. She was barely 15 and the groom was a 60 year old drunk. Her parents didn’t seem to care. They just wanted to get rid of me, Saraswati thought glumly. She was always reminded that she was paraya dhan. Tears trickled at first then started flowing in torrents.

It was a strange wedding. The groom’s cousin put forth a condition that they had a tradition of marrying at their ancestral home and bride’s parents were not allowed. The kanyadaan would be done by the priest’s relatives. Saraswati’s parents didn’t object. They gave away Saraswati without a second thought. Saraswati couldn’t see the groom’s face as it was covered in sehra.

Once they reached the ancestral home, the groom removed the sehra. Saraswati was shocked to see the face. She had expected an old wrinkled masculine face. Never did she imagine that she would see her teacher’s face instead. Sharada explained that she convinced the old drunk that his would be bride was a handicap. He felt cheated and went back to his village. Saraswati thanked her teacher.

Sharada took Saraswati to the city and helped her with her studies. Couple of years later, Saraswati completed her graduation and started working as a teacher. After working for 5 years, Saraswati went back to her village with a desire to teach the uneducated girls.

On the way she spotted her parents begging on the streets. She was shocked and appalled when she came to know that her brother had thrown them out of the house. She rented a house and took her parents in. Her parents realized their mistake and asked forgiveness. They helped Saraswati in convincing the villagers to allow their daughters to study.

With her determination and hard work Saraswati helped the girls in her village to get education. Sharada felt proud of her student’s incredible feat. It was the best kind of Guru Dakshina she could ever receive.

[Short Story]: Vignaharta’s Woes

“Aaah”, Goddess Gauri wailed in agony. Lord Ganesha was deeply saddened to see deep bloody wounds all over His Mother’s body.

“How did this happen, Ma? Who did this?” asked Lord Ganesh, his voice shaking, on the verge of fury.

Goddess Gauri looked at her son with tear filled eyes and gave Him a feeble smile. “You were being immersed in the river… the lake… the sea… the ocean… I had come to welcome you! I am the water who embraces you… I am the fishes who lick you… I am the plants who tickle you… I am Prakurti (Nature)… Earlier your idols were only made of clay and natural colors. Now, it is made of toxic substances. I died a little when I swallowed the toxic paint as a fish. I died some more when I couldn’t breathe as a plant with all the garbage being dumped. These wounds signify the deaths of living beings due to toxicity…”

Even though Ganesha didn’t speak, his face spoke about the intense anguish He felt seeing His Mother in agony. Goddess Gauri could sense that her son was already thinking about how to solve this problem, however, He was finding it difficult.

Just then one of the deep gashes on Goddess Gauri’s forehead healed.

Lord Ganesha was surprised and looked at His Mother for answers. Looking at Lord Ganesha’s questioning face, Goddess Gauri smiled brightly.

“It looks like a seed germinated somewhere…” said Goddess Gauri.

On hearing those words, Lord Ganesha’s face lit up. He said, “I know what I must do, Ma.” He touched Her feet and left.

“Where are we going, Master?” asked Mushaka.

“To plant some seeds”, smiled Lord Ganesha.

They came across a child who was sleeping. Lord Ganesha took the form of a dream and entered the child’s dream. The next day when the child woke up, he told his parents about the dream he saw. He said that Lord Ganesha requested him to immerse His idol in a bucket instead of the river and to plant a sapling in the bucket once the idol disintegrates into mud. His parents obliged and felt immense happiness which they hadn’t experienced before.

“Now I get it!” exclaimed Mushaka. “We are not planting plant seeds but seeds of an idea!”

“Yes, dear genius” smiled Lord Ganesha.

“But there are so many children and so little time!” said Mushaka.

Lord Ganesha simply smiled and took the form of a thought this time. He entered the thoughts of teachers. The teachers asked students to volunteer for cleaning up the rivers in order to get bonus marks in their exams. The teachers and students from various schools collected the garlands from the devotees so that they are not thrown into the river. The garlands were buried to form compost. The students cleaned the river banks. The schools which participated in the clean-up drive were rewarded by the government.

Lord Ganesha came across a sculptor who was placing plant seeds in the idol he was sculpting. Lord Ganesha remembered how the wound had healed on his Mother’s face when one of the seeds in the immersed idol germinated. He knew that it was this sculptor who had helped in His Mother’s healing. Lord Ganesha took the form a cute little boy this time. He went and asked the sculptor for some water. Even though the sculptor was busy working on the intricate detailing, he stopped his work and went inside to get water. When he returned, he brought a bowl full of Modakas along with a glass of water. On seeing His favourite sweet, the little boy’s face lit up with joy! When the sculptor looked at the boy digging into his sweets, a deep sense of inner peace engulfed him. For that one divine moment, he felt no worries… only pure joy. He had never felt such happiness in his life.

“Who are you?” the sculptor asked.

“I am Vignesh. Thank you for the Modakas. They were very tasty! Your idols are most beautiful.” smiled the little boy and ran away.

The happiness of the sculptor started reflecting in his work. His idols became popular. In addition to the seeds, he started placing fish food within the idols.

Lord Ganesha was pleased to see this. He returned to Mount Kailash. He was welcomed by His Mother. Most of her wounds had healed.

“I know… I know… you are hungry… the Modakas are waiting for you!” beamed Goddess Gauri.

Lord Ganesha chuckled and ran towards his beloved Modakas.

Why traffic jams can be good for you!

While travelling back home from office in bus, my brain has this habit of wandering and coming into some weird conclusions. On one such adventure my brain came to this conclusion: since we mostly spend two hours a day (back & forth) in office commute, we spend approximately a month in a year on road. This time is mostly unproductive, however, there are some who manage to put it to effective use.

I have few friends who have managed to complete the entire Harry Potter series while they were on road and now they are onto Game of Thrones. And then there are some of us who simply enjoy company with our favorite songs or online games.

Those of us who drive, end up spending a month in a year, avoiding potholes/ idiots/ cows/ processions and so on.

But if you get stuck in a traffic jam on daily basis then obviously you spend more than a month on road in a year.

Traffic jams usually have negative impact on us. So my brain, in its quest for doing something unusual, tried coming up with some positive impacts of traffic jam.

Here are its discoveries:

  • It tremendously increases your patience: What can you do anyway? If you do, you’d either end up in hospital or prison. Either ways it’ll be a costly lesson on having patience.
  • It makes you an expert in finding alternate routes: Those of us who drive, would rather risk driving on footpath than wait patiently on road.
  • You can have a power nap: This is not recommended for drivers (You can attempt it if you are sure that you’ll be stuck at least for an hour). For others: Sweet dreams!

  • You can catch up with your old friends: Text them or call them. Talk about good old times. Chances are they too would be stuck in traffic and would be glad to hear from you!
  • Set your brain free: Let your brain wander. Who knows you might get a billion dollar idea!

What is your way of surviving traffic jam? Let us know.

P.S.: This blog post has been written while stuck in traffic jam. 🙂