Mahesh (name changed) is an engineering drop-out from Bihar who found a way of making a living for sometime in Karnataka. This is his story as told to Rahul Suman.
“I have heard about writing answer papers for other people. Back in Bihar it’s a business. Business for people who can’t wait to get a job. Business for students mostly who are so sure of their capabilities that they charge more than what a grade B job could offer them for writing just one paper.
But then it’s a racket too. Of which people know about. Everyone knows about it. About the fake/farji candidates who appear for these exams and when caught, their degree and everything that they have achieved in academics so far goes into oblivion.
Aarij Bhai came to our apartment one day. Drunk and broke but he said he had an idea to make a good amount of money within a week. Everyone, including me, after having listened to him thought that he had gone mad. He was talking about writing papers for these foreign students, mainly from Afghanistan, Iran and such neighbor countries. These were students pursuing courses which demanded a working knowledge of the English language to pass the exam.
“They have no idea of how to write in English but they want their degree and their college is also willing to give it to them”, said Aarij Bhai in a tone which was convincing enough for all of us to give the idea a second thought.
At this moment my inner coward and poor self decided to ask a question, “But what if we get caught?”
Aarij bhai laughed at me and said, “Why would they catch you if they want to give the degree to their students. Don’t you understand that it’s their college supported thing. Also it’s not the national level or state level exams. It’s held within their college walls and the student for whom you will be writing will be sitting next to you. 1000 bucks for writing one paper. Imagine how much you can score in a week?”
At this moment, the pleasure of having money was already in the air and we could smell it. People around me were smiling as if they had already counted the currency.
What is fear if you are poor and hungry? We were not poor but definitely hungry. All of us were.
An engineering student’s life meant that the evenings were spent with thick smoke and thicker glasses. So a break from that seemed interesting and adventurous. I was already thinking of quitting engineering. Honestly speaking, I already had. The last time I went to attend the class was a year ago. But the people around me knew me as an engineering student.
I sucked at engineering but I could write in English. Also after having learnt that their college is involved in the process, I didn’t mind doing it.
I remember talking to my closest friends then about this. They said, “You’ve become money-minded.” I believed it was better than becoming nothing. I believed in the bills that came to our shared apartment which had no furniture at all. I believed in my torn shoes. I believed in my empty wallet.
I also believed that this was wrong but somehow all of this made sense to me. People who don’t know English shouldn’t get a degree or what? Also these students are from third world countries where English is not THE language. Who is at fault? These students or the colleges which agreed to turn a blind eye to this sort of arrangement or the broker who told Aarij Bhai to lure us hopeless engineering kids into writing these papers for some quick cash or me who was thinking about doing it?
The first time I went to write the paper was in 2015. The venue was in Chikkabanavara, a 10 – minute walk from where I was staying. The person for whom I wrote sat in silence next to me during the exams. No Hi, No Hello. None of these pharmacy/ professional course students uttered a single word in those three hours to any one of us.
We would get plenty of pens, the candidate’s information and the materials to copy the answers from. After every paper was done, we would get our 1,000 bucks and be happy. I made around 7K the first time. Bought shoes, food and other necessary-unnecessary stuff which I thought was important for me. The money got over so soon and I knew how easy and safe it was to make money here.
After a couple of months we started hearing rumors which tampered with our spirits. We heard that people were getting caught. I still can’t think of why it became scary but we never went back to the same college again.
In the beginning of 2017, my friend came and asked/ordered us to go to Tumkur. In the night, he told us why he wanted us to go. He was approached by a man who supplied students to these colleges for the same job.
“It’s 2k per paper this time and if you can do more than one paper in three hours you can double the amount. The faster you write the more you make.”
We had already done it once and this seemed like an outing. A change of place and mood. A week later we took the passenger train from Chikkabanavara in the evening and reached Tumkur in two hours. My friend was getting instructions from the man through calls. He had strictly told us to not talk to people in the campus. We went directly to the hostel rooms. It felt like it had been recently vacated. We were told to get up early in the morning and be ready.
I was ready.
Next morning the students came for their exams and it began on time. Half an hour later, their college staff came to our rooms with the xeroxes of notes, answer sheets, and pens. They gave us names and roll codes of the guys we had to write for and left. First we had to fill in the OMR sheets and then we had to find the answers and then start writing copying. At the same time the foreign students who we were writing for would come to the exam hall and pretend that they are writing seriously. The papers were later exchanged after everyone was gone. Once done, we had to wait until every student had left the college premise and then slyly go to the college mess for lunch.
That was our routine for more than a week. All of us wrote in the morning and went trekking in the evenings. All of us had money. All of us seemed happy except for my friend who would constantly watch out for a threat which seemed certain. He had that face all the time.
I think he was just panicking because none of us were.
He had good reasons to panic also. Although we were making good money, he was making even better because it was through him that all of us got this job. His share was obviously bigger than ours. I once heard him mention some car he wanted to invest in for side earnings. Clearly, there was a lot of money involved and all of us wanted lots of it. But can all of us have lots of money? Won’t that be chaos? I don’t know.
His plan was to buy the vehicle and rent it out to Ola or Uber in Bangalore. Like most of the rich, jobless engineering students who continue to be engineering students till they realize they aren’t students anymore. Until then they manage their bills and brag proudly about living the engineering life. I still believe I am an engineer but have I ever built anything other than a story?”
Featured Image Credits – Vincent-Ferron via flickr
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