Exams, how I hated them! Student life was so much fun with exams being the only blot on an otherwise beautiful picture. In the four years spent in CEC, the college where many of us "studied" engineering, we spent approximately 370 hours writing exams! And that does not include our practical tests! It sounds scary to me now, scarier that it had seemed then, when it was just another part of life.
Mid semester exams were fine because they were conducted by the college, covered fewer topics and only a small percent of the score was considered into the final total. Indeed, our single digit electrical exam scores shocked many people (it was first year, and we were not yet used to getting poor scores), but after sometime (when we realized everyone had scored poorly), 2/25 started sounding funny and people who got 8/25 were immediately termed nerds (and were secretly envied). Just why did computer science students have to study electrical engineering basics anyway?
But the university exams were a different story altogether. Right from the beginning of the study holidays, the atmosphere in our college hostel was tense, extremely so.
• This was a time for shopping, because many people did not realize till then that there were textbooks written by smart college professors decoding and simplifying an otherwise tough subject. So, what about the expensive text books (which looked like a lot of mumble jumble) that these people already had? They were mostly used as paper weights and also made good pillows when catching a nap at the study table.
• This was a time for photocopying notes, question papers of the previous years and the exam schedule. And a time for searching for one's own books and notes that lay neglected and forgotten in some dark dingy corner of one's room.
• A time when people took five minute naps every half an hour or so as the brain became saturated with information about topics they never before knew existed.
• People read and studied; noses were kept to the grindstone day and night. They made buzzing sounds as they went through their lessons, rocked back and forth while poring over their textbooks, drew graphs, circuits and flowcharts in the air, twirled their hair in an effort to concentrate, skipped meals and didn’t change clothes, because time was scarce and there were pages and pages to be read through. Many resolutions were made, resolutions to study regularly from the next semester onwards so that things never became this difficult, ever again. (Of course, the resolutions were forgotten as soon as the exams got over.)
• It was normal to see long queues outside the bujis' rooms; bujis were the few studious people who were up to date with all their college work, who seemed to know the answers to all questions, who promptly cleared doubts and explained topics bound to come up in the exams, the only people who seemed to be getting enough sleep and appeared cheerful all the time.
• This was a time when many people went home and came to college only to write the tests, because they could not handle the pressure and tension in the hostel.
• A time for cursing and complaining. "I don't understand this.", "I am going to fail this one.", "@!#$$#@%!!&^@".
Each exam was separated by a gap of at least two days, so we did take a break after every test. The afternoons were spent catching up on lost sleep, chatting, relaxing and emptying the brain of all the information gathered in the past few days on the subject for which we sat the test in the morning. It would never be required again unless we failed and had to do a re exam. But we were always optimistic and why burden the brain with unwanted information?
Sometimes, my parents used to bring us noodles as a treat after especially tough papers. We used to look forward to these treats, and talk about them longingly even today. (I do wish they gave us these treats during regular college days as well, when the worry of an upcoming exam didn't nag us somewhere in the back of our heads. But then, you just can't have everything in life.)
The dish was basically noodles stir fried with vegetables and chicken and sauces; the kind that is so immensely popular in Chinese restaurants in India. A look at how my parents make them:
100 grams egg noodles
1/4 cup each of french beans, carrot, capsicum and cabbage chopped into thin long strips
1/4 cup chicken, shredded
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons soya sauce
1/2 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons spring onion greens chopped into 1" strips
1/2 tsp MSG or a powdered cube of chicken/vegetable taste maker (optional)
To taste, salt and pepper
Cook the noodles according to package instructions (till al dente) and keep aside.
Heat oil in a wok. Fry chicken strips till brown, and season with salt and pepper. Remove the chicken and keep aside.
In the same oil, fry french beans and carrot on high heat for a couple of minutes, so they are tender but not cooked through. To this add capsicum, followed by cabbage and spring onions and cook till they have softened slightly. Remove and keep aside.
Beat egg thoroughly with a fork, seasoning as required. Pour the egg into the pan, and swirl the pan around, so that you have a thin omelette. When it is cooked, turn the pan upside down over a plate. Roll up the omelette, and cut into thin long strips.
Add more oil into the pan if required. Toss in the crushed garlic and allow it to brown lightly. Add the cooked noodles, and toss it well. Add the sauces, salt, pepper, MSG/tastemaker (if using), chicken, egg and vegetables, and toss together over high heat so that everything is mixed well.
If you are cooking for a large group of people, augment quantities, but it is easier to work in batches.
Serve hot with any chinese chicken dish and raita. Noodles does not need any accompaniment and raita with noodles may sound weird but I simply love the combination (plus, I have never mastered the art of saying no to chicken). And if do not eat chicken, substitute it with paneer or tofu or more vegetables.