Cheaters Never Prosper, Unless They’re Really Good

I’ve always held doctors in high regard, simply because of the sheer effort it takes to spend about eighty years in college so that one day, they may contribute to society by easily scoring whatever mind-altering pills their degrees have driven them to.

In keeping with this glorious We-Shall-Overcome tradition, two medical students from Bangalore made the news this week, after they were caught using an electronic cheating vest worth 25,000. This was a huge embarrassment for the concerned institution, i.e. The Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, because it is blasphemous to use that name and the word ‘cheating’ in the same sentence.

Here’s how it went: First, they put on a cheating vest, or as a vendor website puts it, a Bluetooth Banyan. Seriously, that’s what it’s called, thereby leading to awkward statements like, “My nipples will now interface with your dongle.” Over these, they wore shirts with concealed phone pockets. There’s a microphone built into the banyan, and it also comes with a skin-coloured, difficult-to-spot Bluetooth earpiece. The procedure is simple: Relay questions to your friend by muttering into your banyan, get the answers through the earpiece, and voila! A former vegetable walks out of his wheelchair and moons Boman Irani, while Gracy Singh ditches you to do quality cinema like Deshdrohi.

See, we never did this as students. We had to cheat the old-fashioned way, by smuggling in chits full of information written in a font size of ‘May Cause You To Resemble Chinese Person Focusing On Ant’. (No, not because it’s dinner. What’s wrong with you?)

But at my engineering college, people worked hard on cheating, especially in the Department of Leaking Exam Papers. If you had the good sense to take up arts or mass media or other such hippie/socialite courses, then please understand that there was a very good reason for cheating: It’s because no one in engineering college wants to study. Everything’s boring, and while all your non-engineer friends are busy exploring the back of some girl’s throat, you’re stuck there typing ‘80085’ into a calculator, and as exam day draws nearer, you realise that you’re not going to make it because you haven’t even bought the textbooks, so you succumb to temptation and switch on late-night Sun TV.

No, wait. I meant that you go find the college fixer. Every college has at least one such student who claims he can get stuff done, because “apna setting hai re”, with everyone from the peon to Zeus. This guy would offer to sort out your attendance issues by buying professors their favourite booze (not fussy – most will drink phenyl if it’s free) or commit a serious criminal offence simply because he liked your wallet.

I didn’t use their services, because I couldn’t afford it and was too much of a wuss never needed to, but I did tag along with friends for the meetings. The fixer assured you that he had a guy on the inside, which meant that he knew a guy who grew up in the same village as the dog that once peed on a clerk who knew Leo DiCaprio and could hire him to infiltrate the dreams of the paper-setter. Term after term, people paid in advance for leaked copies that never came, after which they called the fixer a cheat and irony took a chainsaw to the face. These engineers have real jobs today, most probably at the BMC.

It’s worse to hear of medical students cheating. I mean at least have the decency to earn your degree before defrauding people. I can imagine these doctors in the OT, wearing a Bluetooth Banyan, consulting a friend about the patient lying in front of them:

Doctor: (whispering into banyan) OK, so I see the tumour. Or maybe it’s a kidney. I’m not sure.

Friend: Describe it.

Doctor: Uh, it’s small and round-ish and – OMG IT MOVED!!

Friend: Dude. That’s a baby.

It’s bad enough that people in life-and-death professions, such as doctors and pilots, are now younger than me. Every time I see a young pilot greet me from behind his Aviators, I automatically assume he’s hungover from a night of chugging liquefied cocaine. So at the very least, I’d like to believe that they got there on merit. If any doctors or pilots are reading this, please don’t cheat. It may cause high scores, which will lead to terrible things like an MBA. If you’re studying engineering, then get in touch because apna setting hai re.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 7th July 2013.)