May 13, 2003

May and November are P.L times for the engineering students of the Pune Univ. They're usually preceded (atleast for COEPians) by a set of wringing practicals and vivas. For those in my batch of COEP Computers, these always provided a very memorable set of occurences that have become the stuff of legends and are invariably the most talked-about reminiscences of our mini-reunions: it sort of forged our temperament the way nothing else could have.

But then came the actual Preparatory Leaves that were oases of calm between the battles with vengeful externals & sometimes skunky internals and the writing epics that the exams tended to be. For most people, it represented the sum total of our academic semester (I still maintain that for many COEPians, academics was the extra-curricular activity). Some would do 24 hour stints, some like me couldn't last beyond 11 pm. I often found that the PLs brought about some world or domestic event of extreme interest which would be extremely well covered by television and would make it very difficult to concentrate on mundane studies. Cases in point were the Cricket World Cup of '99 (SE Sem 2), the Tehelka cricket exposé of 2000 (TE Sem 2) and the US Presidential tie-breaker of late 2000 (BE Sem 1).

Another event that would happen was that my birthday would fall in the cusp of the PLs and actual written exams. I even wrote my exam once on my birthday. Though I hoped for a romantic result such as topping the subject in my class, I netted an average result in that one. A couple of times, the timetable didn't strike bulls-eye and the exam would fall a day or two near the birthday. Since I'd stopped investing too much emotion in my birthdays by then, the fact that my classmates were more concerned about the answer to question #2 rather than giving me bumps didn't affect me much.

PLs also brought out the latent philosopher in all of us, making us question the significance of the syllabus and these subjects (thus helping us to make the decisions of leaving certain "these-don't-matter-in-the-larger-scheme-of-human-existence" chapters optional). I remember many such outpourings of grief in the vicinity of exams from my friends and on one occasion, we had hilariously resolved to tell the viva-taker that yeh jag sab maya hai and hence he should view our ignorance with greater compassion.

My class invariably attracted D-A-N-G-E-R in the matter of exams, and there was no shortage of "incidents" that haunted our waking and sleeping lives. The increasingly ludicrous and frustrating events brought in us a certain resolve not to be cowed down by such injustices and we learned to look at the bigger picture: in a few years we would be out of it all (this was rather inevitable) and then mere pinpricks these would seem then.

I learned a lot during my PLs: what the neighbours did in the daytime (having missed these interesting activities due to my being in attendance at the BC the rest of the year), how much I could walk up and down in a day (my preferred medium of studying), how interesting many TV programmes suddenly became, how to judge what to leave for options (my earlier naive approach was to try to touch each part), how to smile in adversity, how many new ideas I generated that I couldn't wait to do (invariably forgotten later on, seems the intensity of the PLs was my muse) and the alluring sweetness of sleep.

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