Some were sitting under the shade of a huge banyan tree like sages in quest of eternal knowledge, eyes downcast, engrossed in the papers lying on their laps. Some looked like the proverbial rebels, as if any time they might stand up and lead a protest march there itself. Beards of all hues and sizes would stand as the sacred thread of unity among these young boys. Oh yes, crumpled clothes too! Where’s the time to shave, shower and wear clean clothes? Girls were different. Though they too had come to wage this third world war, their clothes were clean and hair done. Historic battle Parents looked worse, weighed down by this heavy burden of preparing a battalion of their beloved kids for this historic battle. They looked on till the last vestiges of the little soldiers could be grasped by their feeble eyes, when the boys and girls of all hues and sizes slowly disappeared into their designated rooms for the fight ahead. One mother with puffed eyes sent a flying kiss to her beloved kid who was about to enter. He looked back but it seemed he had no time or inclination to reciprocate. One boy touched his dad’s feet before embarking on the epic journey and the father, in turn, mumbled something like Jeete Raho or Civil Servant Bano (couldn’t be discerned in that din). The entire landscape with desperately worried parents making a formation in front of the exam venue, a government school, when the exam was about to begin, appeared like a much-depicted painting of the battle of Kurukshetra. Though the actual warriors had already left for the invisible actual battlefront and only the strategists were left behind, they seemed to be totally prepared to fight it off on their kids’ behalf if asked to do so. An announcement about the start of the exam blared out through the microphone and it was a sight to behold. The entire shenanigans outside the exam venue closed their eyes, folded their hands and sent prayers for help to the great force above. The main gate got closed, and a big, rusted lock dangled to confirm the closure. Then a bearded boy with a philosopher’s look suddenly appeared far away on the alley on his way to the school. Run, man, run The entire band of guardians suddenly became concerned about this lonely folk, screamed in unison and goaded him to run in the Bhaag Milkha Bhaag style. Finally he arrived in his usual pace as if in a state of total detachment and when told by the guard to buzz off, he seemed not to mind. But the parents group intervened and decided that he should be allowed to go inside. Baccha hain . They all cajoled the chowkidar who in turn went inside to fetch special permission like a good Samaritan. The entire crowd went berserk in ecstasy, people thumping each other’s back, when the permission of entry was given. The wait It was the time to disperse and wait till the exam was over. Some parents had to take shelter on nearby pavements with the packed lunch-boxes for their kids and some stood outside their parked vehicles. How could someone go back to far off Patel Nagar or Rajendra Nagar from the South Delhi exam venue? It was the time for free flowing deliberations on the exam, kids, future of the kids and the future of the country as a whole. Some innovative mind had opened a WA group of the parents there itself to facilitate flow of information. The children inside, it was the time for the parents to share their tales of woes. ‘It’s my son’s third attempt. He cleared the IIT entrance examination in his first attempt. I don’t know what went wrong here. He has been trying so hard. If nothing happens this time too, I’m afraid, he may lose hope about life.’ ‘My daughter said No to a good alliance last year for the sake of this exam. Let’s pray she clears it.’ Anyone with discerning eyes could see and feel an air of despair descending on a bunch of helpless parents. The pain and anguish of the struggling kids had seeped in. ‘Do you know anyone who couldn’t qualify this exam but became successful later in life?’ someone asked. ‘There are many…’ Someone from the crowd reeled off names of who is who. A huge list indeed.