Now it is clean, now not

Rajiv Sharma 

My city is abuzz with activity. Every nook and corner is being spruced up with utmost diligence. Garbage dumps are being lifted and relocated to far-off places to avoid the probing eyes of the survey team visiting the city to rank the city for Swachh Survekshan 2019.

Road dividers and zebra crossings are being given a fresh coat of paint, weeds are being uprooted, ornamental plants are being pruned and resuscitated under the watchful eyes of officers ahead of the visit of the Central team for assessment and awarding points for cleanliness.

I am amused. The entire year, the city was grappling with filth, encroachments, potholes and defunct streetlights. And now, at the time of the annual inspection, the administration is on its toes to conceal the grisly underbelly of the city.

Seeing an unprecedented flurry of activity in the corridors of an otherwise indolent administration, I am reminded of my life as a student, when we would panic in the month of February and March as annual exams drew near. Except for a few studious ones, every student scampered here and there to make sure to get through by hook or crook. ‘Guess papers’ suddenly became a rage among students. Book publishers came out with the latest editions, with every publisher claiming that his selection was the best bet. Even newspapers jumped into the fray by publishing model test papers to help students get through.

Another item whose sales surged was ready reckoners or guidebooks, which provided solutions to every complex question of textbooks. Important questions were highlighted in bold for the benefit of students. 

We tried hard to memorise answers, but to no avail. The paper-setters were shrewd enough to avoid those questions, and many a time, they circumvented the language of the question in such a way that we were caught unawares.

Our physics teacher strongly discouraged the use of guides. He would remark, ‘Jinna gud paoge, mittha unna hi hona’ (Sweetness, or success, depends on the amount of jaggery, or hard work, put in). 

There were some students who resorted to cheating, noting down important points and difficult-to-remember theorems on little chits. Once a friend of mine inadvertently stapled a slip of paper he had carried to the examination hall to cheat, with the extra answersheets. No prizes for guessing: my friend who was expecting a distinction in the subject was slapped with a UMC (unfair means case) by the university.

And today, when the municipal officials of my city are resorting to stop-gap arrangements to please the inspection team, I am reminded of a saying our maths teacher often quoted while taking a dig at our unpreparedness before the exams: ‘Buhe khaloti janj, kudi de vino kann!’ (wedding procession is at the doorstep and the bride’s ears are yet to be pierced).