Overheard at Arré: Four Stories About Cheating at Exams


Overheard at Arré: Four Stories About Cheating at Exams

Illustration: Sushant Ahire

As Indians, we are big fans of cheating. Cheating the system with bribes, cheating on diets with samosas, cheating death every time we take the train or walk down the road. Yet, for some reason we’re all outraged when people like Baba Ramdev and Nirav Modi cheat us. We’d do well to remember our own less-than-honest exploits in our exams.

For adults, the general consensus we have all seemed to have arrived at, is that cheating is a really bad thing to do. Yet, somehow, almost everyone and their uncle has a story about the time they cheated on a test. The fact that these stories bring us together, speaks volumes about us.

Having never cheated on a test myself, I decided to listen to what my colleagues at the Arré newsroom had to say about the upcoming board exams, and whether they considered cheating to be a serious concern. Their views were not that far from the 1000 people who were expelled from a Bihar college for the same thing.

Invisible ink

“I’ve cheated tons of times! In fact, I did it despite knowing most of the answers.”

Why would someone wilfully run the risk of getting caught when they could just finish their paper and go home? It turns out, that sometimes the lure of a new toy is too strong to resist. At least, that’s what I learned from this story.

“Once, this prodigy-in-the making came through with an ‘invisible ink pen’, and introduced 60 of my classmates to it. Imagine, an entire class discovers the forbidden fruit and everyone takes a bite. It was the best semester ever.”

But my colleague’s paradise was soon to be lost. Even though the invigilators were still looking for amateurs using chits, a teacher’s pet played tattletale and brought an end to her fun and games.

Uniformity in cheating

“It’s the uniforms man, that’s where the game is at.”

This gangster-sounding advice came from another writer reminiscing on his school days. According to him, pocket chits were for amateurs; guys in his class used every spare fold of cloth to ensure no question was too tough to beat.

“You got to carry your chits creatively. It starts at the tie. The knot takes one chit, the open end at the bottom takes another. There’s other ways too – folds in your sleeves, under your collar, inside your socks, even inside your pen!”

My only regret is that I learnt these tricks after I entered the working world.

The diversion

“Exams are easy; they’re 2 per cent cheating and 98 per cent not getting caught.”

This ancient Indian wisdom was being doled out by one of our writers sitting at the office’s centre table.

“Back in the day, one of us would ask the teacher a question, and while she was trying to solve the problem, the people at the back would start copying, or at least try and get a hint of what was to be written.”

I wondered how many times that actually worked. “I have passed all of my exams this way,” was the straight-faced answer I received.

The phone call

“Just call the professor na.”

It isn’t the first thing you’d think of doing when you desperately need to cheat to pass an exam. Why anybody would call their own professor in the middle of an exam goes beyond me. Clearly, only one of us had bigger cojones.

“So, a debate broke out in the middle of an exam over the correct answer. The class was divided into two halves and the invigilator was obviously asleep. My friend snuck out of the hall, and called our professor. He answered the phone, and gave her the correct answer. Easy peasy.”

If I’d known calling my professor was the key to good grades and medical college, I would have always kept my professors on speed dial. School has taught me many things, but cheating is clearly the one lesson I slept through.