It’s That Time Of Year Again… *Groans*

My all-important 10th grade examinations are right around the corner and I’m starting to realize that every single time the exam season rears its ugly head, I’m left feeling like my guts have been pumped out of my ears [yes, my similes are almost always this disturbing], so that alone should give you an idea that I’m not exactly in the best of moods at the moment.

To add to that is the unwelcoming fact that the upcoming exams aren’t just any old tests but a set of quizzes that are designed to simultaneously trip me up and define the rest of my high school career, so I’m sure you understand why I now feel like the school girl equivalent of the “La La Land” crew at the Oscars – dazed and so, so confused.

Don’t get me wrong, though; as contradictory as this may sound, I’m that annoying nerd in your class who absolutely LOVES answering exams. I adore the buzz of the exam hall moments before the question papers are handed out and the sound of pens scratching against mahogany desks and the smell of bewilderment and panic that cuts through the early morning air as students try desperately to salvage the situation.

The only part I don’t like is the guilt.

You see, where I come from, kids are INSANELY dedicated to academics and I’m not just saying that. I mean, I have classmates who started cramming the final year’s syllabus way back in the sixth grade, and that’s just the slackers!!

Apart from completely and totally freaking me out, being surrounded by students who study pretty much around the clock has a way of making me feel super guilty for ever even thinking about taking a break.

Every time I decide to play a few levels of Mario Kart or go outside for a run, I feel a wave of shame surge through my body as if to say, “Shouldn’t you be studying??” Every time I want to catch an episode of my favourite series on TV or binge on Youtube cat videos, I see visions of kids surrounded by mountains of text books and my desire to have some fun evaporates.

Thanks to this, I’m now forced to crawl under the bed every time I want to kill a couple of hours on the iPad [because everyone knows that you aren’t wasting time if nobody sees you do it] and I can only read chicklit under my blanket [because what happens between the sheets, stays between the sheets] and I’ve started to watch TV with the volume set at the bare minimum [because the lesser the volume, the lesser of a disappointment you are to your Mom – duh].

And for that I just have to say thanks to my dear, sweet classmates; thanks a whole lot.

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The “S” Word

The only part of the year I despise more than exam time has dawned; school has officially reopened and the summer holidays are DEAD.

[I mean, summer will be back next year so I guess it’s not technically dead, but hello?? I’m trying to be dramatic here]

Unless you’re a student [or, worse, a teacher], I’m pretty sure you don’t realise the gravity of the situation. This isn’t just the death [okay, okay, temporary absence. Geez]of a regular school break, oh no no no. This is SUMMER, and at the end of summer, comes a brand new academic year, ready to ruin your life in ways you can’t even imagine.

Like every seasoned torturer, though, the fresh school year starts off deceivingly well; crisp, mint-condition notebooks, refilled stationery pouches, a new backpack [if you’re lucky] and the promise of a fresh start. It’s all too good to be true.

Okay, you optimistically think to yourself. My slate has been wiped clean. From this year –no, from this SECOND, I am going to be a changed person. No more last-minute assignments and late submissions. My books will be up-to-date, my lowest test score will be an A++ and every teacher is going to ADORE me. Forget MarioKart, I’m going to be the most studious kid on the block and that’s FINAL.

Needless to say, that’s not going to happen. Two weeks in and you’ve already missed a project deadline, your grade point average is steadily slipping and you’re already planning to move to Canada because you’ve heard they get longer holidays [I’m speaking from experience here].

And I wish I could say it gets better, but who am I kidding?? We’ve all gone through it. We all know how it rolls.

In a blink, it’s time for the mid-terms and the pressure from all sides could turn coal to diamond and the moment THAT’S over everybody immediately plunges head-first into the next semester’s material giving you exactly zero minutes to regain your sanity.

And a flurry of pop quizzes and science exhibitions later, it’s finals week and you’ve barely skimmed through your textbook. A series of all-nighters later, you manage to make it and are in the midst of congratulating yourself for surviving before you realise that your classmates are intently poring through next year’s textbooks and you internally groan.

Not because you forgot to answer the essay question [okay, ALSO because of that] but because you’ve got it; you’ve realised that we’re all so caught up in this wretched rat race that none of us have the time to stop and take a moment to breathe.

Our world has become so incredibly school-centric that’s it’s impossible to ignore the importance of our marks and percentages at every stage of our lives, so I’m not claiming that it’s best to isolate yourself from your homework and run with butterflies instead.

But ignoring the rest of the world and, more importantly, yourself in pursuit of a 100/100 is probably not the wisest course of action, either.

It’s finding that blissful in-between that’s the important part.

It’s beyond crucial to be able to strike an even balance between the two; yin and yang, black and white, chemistry equations and reading Dan Brown. I know that if we stop wasting time on YouTube and start managing our time effectively, we can do both so why not give it a shot [yes, I know I sound like your Mom]??

And now’s the perfect time to start. All those incomplete notebooks from last year can be safely forgotten because it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life and I’m feeling good [yes, I just quoted a Michael Bublé song. Deal with it].

Let’s stop fearing the S word and embrace it instead [I’ve just realised that there’s a possibility for misunderstanding. By the S word, I mean school. School, guys], because the moment we start, wonderful things are going to happen. I just know it.

The Story of My Epic Summer #Fail

I’m going to be honest with you; since my summer break began on 1st May, I haven’t done an ounce of work.

Not one.

And it’s surprising that I actually feel guilty about this because I used to firmly believe that vacations from school were the perfect time to be disgustingly lazy.

That isn’t to say that my opinion is any different now; I still think that when a holiday eventually rolls around, you should bask in the golden freedom of not having to do anything and just chill out.

However, seeing as how this is the summer before I officially enter the tenth grade [gulp], all of my classmates had decided to forsake their last carefree summer in order to study and be better prepared for when school starts in June.

At first, I scoffed. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I did. I thought that they were taking things WAY too seriously and that our measly syllabus could easily be crammed the night before the exam [my usual mode of preparation].

However, as my friends continued to jabber about giving up their school break for the noble cause of enriching their education, it occurred to me that maybe I was the dumb one.

Maybe I it’s time I sobered up and started spending my summers productively, I remember thinking. Maybe it’s time to start waking up before 04:00 pm and maybe it’s time to start thinking twice before I serve myself a SEVENTH HELPING at the dinner table. Wait, what was I thinking about? Oh, right, school. Summer. Studying. Groan.

And that’s when I decided that I was not going sleep away another summer. I was going to get started on the semester’s curriculum, score myself an internship [I hear they look real good on college applications] and have a total blast while achieving my goals at the same time. I was going to work and play and work again and play again and I was NOT going to eat more than five bowls of cereal with milk in one sitting [wait, what?].

So when the first day of summer rolled around, I was READY. With a brand new notepad in one hand and a pouch filled with stationery in the other, I was prepared to seriously kick butt.

A surge of confidence coursing through my body, I opened up the book and scrawled out a neat “My Summer Study Plan” –with a double underline- at the top of the first page. Dutifully, I filled in the date and the page number and underlined them twice, too.

Then, I wrote in the dates of all the days in the month and added a cute little hyphen next to them.

By this point, I’d spent at LEAST three whole minutes furiously writing and I needed a break. Just a short breather to regain my focus, I told myself as I skipped out of my room to grab a bite to eat.

Seven plates of raw mango later, I was forced to admit to myself that I wasn’t going back to work –not today, at least.

Hey, this is your FIRST DAY. Give yourself a break. I mean, you DID complete the entire outline of the plan I internally reasoned with myself. Take the rest of the day off, but remember that it’s back to the grind tomorrow.

Didn’t happen.

It’s been close to four weeks since that first half-hearted attempt to write out a schedule and my great study plan is still exactly the way it was before I decided to hog on unripe fruit.

Why?

The internet, that’s why.

To be fair, I am such an ace procrastinator that I would’ve thought of some reason or the other to ditch my work, but the Internet made it too easy.

YouTube, Tumblr, Wattpad, Twitter [heck, even Wikipedia]… I had enough and more ways to waste my time and I grabbed it with open arms.

In the last twenty five days, I’ve watched more YouTube videos than I have muscles in my body. I’ve read more Fanfiction than a literature major has read Hemingway. I’ve skimmed through more Tweets than most birds have chirped in their entire lifetime. I’ve- you get the idea, right?

And you want to know the worst part?

At the end of all these intense binging sessions, I was left with a frustrated, hollow pit in my stomach. Sure, I more than enjoy the internet sessions while they last, but when they’re over and I’m left alone with my thoughts, I am NOT amused.

Now, if you’re one of those kids who has obediently opened your textbooks every day and actually read them, I applaud you. [I also want to murder you, but let’s not drone on that]

However, if you’re anything like me and feel like you could’ve done a lot more over the past couple of weeks, here’s what I have to say to you;

It isn’t over yet. There’s still more than a week of glorious freedom left before we’re thrust into the land of pop quizzes and PowerPoint presentations so let’s give it our best shot.

No, I don’t mean mugging science formulae till your eyes burn but making the most of the fact that this is your holiday and you deserve it. So I want you to promise me that you’re going to have fun. Indulge yourself by doing what you love most, be it poring through the classics or opening up food stalls with your sister so you can rake in some extra cash.

Be passionate and be free. Live each moment like your entire life boils down to it and don’t be afraid to try something new. You think you might enjoy making short films and uploading them for the world to see? Go for it [just make sure that you don’t spend the next three hours stalking Robbie Williams on Facebook]. You want to try your hand at baking a Madeira cake? Just do it.

This is the time to spread those wings and truly explore your potential. A LOT can happen in one week, so make it your best one.

P.S – A thousand apologies for all the corny I’ve managed to slip into one blog post! It won’t be this cheesy next time, I promise!

The “Ideal” Teacher

I remember the day our Principal, Alan Sir, introduced us restless sixth graders to our new Physics teacher. Considering how this branch of science was itself being introduced to us for the first time, we had been quite apprehensive and unsure of what to expect from both, the teacher and her teachings.

In that moment, however, considering the petite brunette standing next to Alan Sir, our fears of having to spend a year under the painful scrutiny of a strict instructor were assuaged and we all started secretly nudging each other in anticipation of all the fun we were going to have at her expense in the following months.

Or at least the fun we THOUGHT we were going to have.

The moment Sir S swept out of the room, our new teacher swept towards the black board and scrawled out her name in big, bold letters with incredibly swift motions of her hands.

We were soon to realise that her penmanship wasn’t the only thing quick about her. Her wit, her gaze, her mind… Just about everything about her was fast, and she rarely missed a beat.

Despite that fact that she caught every single thing that happened in the classroom [passed notes and hushed jokes included] she never let on, unless she found you cheating on a pop quiz, in which case may the odds be EVER in your favour. Oh, and she rarely beat around the bush. On most days, she would march into the class and dive right into the subject without so much as a “good morning, students”.

She was super speedy yet a brilliant teacher and every one of us absolutely adored her.

So it came as a bit of a shock when we realised that, going into the ninth grade, we would have another teacher teaching us Physics.

In this new tutor’s first class with us, most of us kids were subdued and unwilling to participate. Understandably, for we’d just left a truly amazing teacher behind.

Turns out that our new sir wasn’t half bad, either.

Sure, he wasn’t at all like our first Physics guru. In fact, they were totally different in a number of ways.

For starters, he was a LOT more laid back. He’d enter the class with a relaxed strut and get us into the “mood” with an Internet joke or two before digging into the syllabus and, in many ways, that was exactly what we needed in the midst of all the pressure of having “grown up” and being thrust into high school.

He was patient and great at lengthy explanations, often entwining the theories we were forced to learn with an interesting personal anecdote [you know what they say about the spoon full of sugar…].

He was an excellent sir and made sure everybody understood the concepts he taught and he always knew the precise moment at which to crack a witty one-liner to lighten up the mood.

I was thinking about this the other day when I realised that despite their stark difference, they both perfectly fit my description of an ideal teacher. One is so fast, it seems like she’s participating in an eternal 100-meter sprint while the other moves around with a much more relaxed gait; one of them prefers to jump right into the work while the other tried to ease us into it; one of them kept a vigilant check on us while the other let us do our own thing…

However, it all boils down to how they’re both extremely talented at their job and make fine teachers.

So what does it take, then? What qualities, characteristics, features does one need to be “ideal”?

I mused a good deal about this before I realised the obvious; it just takes passion.

It doesn’t really matter whether your slow or fast or firm or easy-going or brisk or chilled out. You just need to care. [Of course, a basic competence of your subject is rather important too…]

You see, two things that both of these mentors had very much in common was that they were both supremely passionate about Physics and they also really did care about us.

They moved on with to the next chapter only –and only- after everybody had grasped the meaning of what was completed so far. They were welcoming and made sure that we knew we could approach them if we felt the need to. They spent hours of their free time crafting life-sized models and creating colourful power point presentations and devising smart little experiments just so that we the students could learn better.

And that’s the recipe for being an “ideal” teacher, I guess; there’s no need for the a large number of diplomas to mix in with the batter; it doesn’t matter what quantity of quickness you’ve poured in and the litres of vigilance can be anything from 1 to 1000 [as long as there is some].

Just make sure you add a generous amount of passion and the cake of your education will taste just fine.

The Never-Ending Struggle

05:30 AM, the alarm rings,

Mom bustles into my room,

She attempts to stir me from my sleep,

The haunting thought of school does loom.

I try to rebel with all my heart,

I SWEAR I’m not going today!

School is for BABIES and I need my sleep,

I’m just going to do it my way!

But Mom’s used to my drama, my passionate pleas,

[I DO shout them out everyday]

She blackmails me with the speakers I broke,

Practically FORCING me to obey.

All through the morning I loudly protest,

I make my beliefs clear,

I HATE school, I really do,

It isn’t really something I consider dear.

Pop quizzes from Ms. Cadillac,

Await me in an hour or two,

I glumly button my crispy vest,

Feeling utterly solemn and blue.

After a hurried bowl of Honey Loops,

And a glug, glug, glug of juice,

I dejectedly resign, shuffle to the bus,

I give up my struggle, call truce.

The bus ride is a morbid affair,

32-distraught faces in all,

I can’t WAIT for Summer but suddenly remember that,

We’ve only JUST slipped into fall!!

Kaleidoscopic Kerala: A Trip To God’s Own Country – Last Day

DAY 5- KOCHI TO GOA: LAST RITES

I remember feeling absolutely DEVASTATED when I woke up that last morning, the thought of boarding a chugging train that would drop us off at the Margao Station [THAT VERY AFTERNOON] haunting me.

After wolfing down a nutritious breakfast and draining several glasses of fresh fruit juice, we lugged our suitcases from our cosy rooms to the bus one last time.

We still had a bit of sight-seeing left to do, though, and that cheered us up a wee bit. First up, the Paradesi Synagogue which displayed the most vibrant tile work; a true sight for sore eyes. [Fun Fact: It also just so happens to be the OLDEST ACTIVE SYNAGOGUE IN THE COMMONWEALTH OF NATIONS. I mean, WOW!!] Next, we toured the Police Museum, taking in as many awe-inspiring relics as we could. We then diligently explored the chaotic Kochi bazaar, bargaining like professionals and bidding “Adieu!!” to the last few bits of our personal cash.

Loaded with antique trinkets and refreshments to snack on, we began our short drive back to the Ernakulam Junction Railway Station, our grins quickly drooping when it finally hit us; we were going home.

To be honest, as we desperately glanced out our cabin windows as the train huffed out of the station, trying to imprint on our minds these last few glances of our beloved Kerala, I was kind of looking forward to seeing my family again. Seeing my dogs again. Seeing my school again. [Believe it or not]

“And, you know, it’s not like we’re NEVER coming back here again,” I comforted myself, sinking into the plush train seats. “There’s always next year. Sorry, Kerala, you can’t get rid of us THAT easily!!”

Kaleidoscopic Kerala: A Trip To God’s Own Country – DAY 3

DAY 3- KOCHI TO MUNNAR: A BUMPY RIDE…

The drive from Kochi to Munnar was the single part of the trip I would rather not relive. Don’t get me wrong; we had TONS of fun during the first leg of the journey- we played 21 questions, blasted and sang to Bollywood hits, pranked each other to glory… We had a BOMB!!

It was the last hour that killed (and I mean that -ALMOST- literally)

During the last few kilometres was when the nausea unexpectedly kicked in and most of us began succumbing to car sickness. In the blink of an eye, our bus transformed from a party-on-wheels to a mobile hospital.

Luckily, about 15 minutes after we checked into the glamorous , we were whisked away by the teachers for a round of chocolate-tasting and boy, did that flush away the frowns or WHAT?!

From cashew-encrusted to bitter almond to treacle-coated, there were more types of chocolate than we knew what to do with!! Using up a big chunk of our allotted pocket money, we splurged on a bunch of sweet delicacies to take back to Goa. Well, at least that was the PLAN. Somehow, most of the treats got -ahem- eaten up on the way. Don’t ask us how!!

As a little surprise, our tour guide let us tag along to watch a FABULOUS martial arts demonstration after our round of choco-feasting and it just about rocked our socks off!! [Including mine, and I’m a black belt!!]

That night, we went to sleep with our sweet teeth indulged and a sudden urge to star in the next Karate Kid movie. In other words, we went to bed feeling EXTREMELY happy 🙂