Cheating on Exams, the Real Ancient Indian Martial Art


Cheating on Exams, the Real Ancient Indian Martial Art

Illustration: Akshita Monga

Two seats ahead of me, a hand went up in the air for a supplementary sheet, barely half an hour after the examination had started. The algebra problem on the page in front of me was already making me sweat, but now this enthu-cutlet’s zeal to fill page after page with perfect formulae had me really worried. How could he be writing so fast? Maybe he was writing in a font size better suited for a billboard than an answer sheet.

It was only after the paper that I discovered that the supposed teacher’s pet was actually a criminal genius. He was smuggling supplement sheets out of the hall so that he could sneak them back in with the answers for tomorrow’s exam written down in advance.

Exams are like an offline PUBG game. You go out there on a mission with a bunch of pals, communicate through innovative means, take calculated risks, and in the process, lose the prime of your youth on a wild goose chase. And just like PUBG, no one likes to taste defeat. So students partner up, hoping to find the David Warner to their Steve Smith in the search for a successful cheating partnership.

When I look back at myself, sitting in the 10th-standard school unit test and asking a friend for the answer of an objective-type question, I think, “Was that really necessary?” Not really. I was an above-average student; I knew I would pass the exam. Maybe the reason I did it was because I was a product of a system that prized marks over learning. Perhaps this tendency to find a way, by hook or by crook (mostly by crook), is the root of India’s famed knack for jugaad. The methods I learned during my years in educational institutes are so vast and varied, cheating should be considered an ancient Indian martial art.

I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside one of the most well-oiled cheating units the country has ever seen, and when we put our minds together, the tactics we came up with were legendary.

At the novice level are the techniques that are fairly obvious. The Xerox Method involves peeping into your neighbour’s answer sheet and faithfully reproducing everything they write. But this method is always a gamble; placing your bets on a losing horse (or unprepared student) could turn out to be disastrous, and the worst part is you won’t realise your mistake until your paper has been graded. So, the next step is the Chit Method, where the number of chits hidden on your person is greater than the number of flops in Abhishek Bachchan’s career.

In fact, Bollywood is a fine source of inspiration for any would-be cheater looking to graduate to a higher level. The Ghajini Method is where you copy Aamir Khan (who was copying Guy Pearce) and write answers on your body as insurance against forgetting them at crunch time. This method is better than the Chit Method since there is no physical evidence, as any ink on your body can be easily scrubbed off as long as you used the right pen. The reason this involves a higher degree of cheating skills is because writing down an entire syllabus’ worth of answers inconspicuously on your body requires the scam artist skills of Nirav Modi.

But not all cheats are created equal. I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside one of the most well-oiled cheating units the country has ever seen, and when we put our minds together, the tactics we came up with were legendary. There was an entire system of sign language to help us communicate during the multiple-choice section, and the most daring of us also had a liaison with a peon who would provide them with “full marks guaranteed” answer sheets to submit right before the final bell rang.

Let me warn you, none of these methods are 100 per cent foolproof. One time, a friend tried to sneak his phone into the examination hall in his socks, but the invigilator caught him and he answered every remaining paper barefoot. But when all else fails, religion provides. Never hesitate in adding a holy symbol or writing a short prayer before each paper to score some brownie points with the evaluator. And if theism isn’t your cup of tea, a well-placed “Jai Hind” or “Bharat Mata ki Jai” should also suffice.

PM Modi himself recently released a book titled Exam Warriors, which is supposed to help teach students the skills to ace their examinations. What took our indomitable leader an entire paperback volume to do, I have done in the length of one article. You decide who did it better. Our methods may be wildly different, but that shouldn’t be a bother, since all our education system cares about is marks anyway.