I did my single sitting Bachelor's degree through correspondence from Osmania University.
It was a September afternoon when I received intimation of the examinations that would be conducted in October 1994. There were a total of 15 examinations that I had to take to acquire the Bachelor's degree. I was very confident of the Accounting and Commerce subjects as I had already prepared for them through private tuition. My difficulty was with my language – Tamil, as I was not able to procure the notes for the same in Bangalore.
I was reluctant to attend the exams since I was sure I would not be able to clear the language papers and this would mean I will have to attend the exams again, if I do not pass the Tamil exam. My thought was that, since in any case I would fail this attempt, I might as well take the next set of examinations and in the mean while prepare myself for Tamil papers.
My maternal grandmother got wind of the exam schedule and she insisted that I attempt this exams, even if it means that I fail in Tamil. I tried hard to convince her on why I should look at the next schedule. After a lot of effort to persuade her, she was adamant and I yielded to her request of taking the exams in October.
I traveled to Safilguda an outskirt of Hyderabad and stayed with an elderly couple whom my maternal grandmother had spoken to earlier about my stay.
The first couple of days I had English exams and I planned to visit the book shops in search of my Tamil study material at the end of my English exams. However, to my ill luck, I could not get my study material as it was out of stock. I resigned to the fact that I had to make another trip to Hyderabad to complete my examinations.
I returned to Safilguda after a rather tiring day. The elderly lady offered me a cup of coffee. I sat at the dining table sipping the coffee when a picture of Lord Ayyappa struck my eyes. I casually thought in my mind – "if it is true that you (Lord Ayyappa) exist, then let me see if I pass my tamil exams. If this happens I will visit your temple in Sabari Mala".
I usually start by 9 am from Safilguda and reach Hyderbad station by train and then from the Hyderabad railway station take another bus to Osmania University campus, my examination centre. I usually reach the examination centre in about an hours time. Then from 10 am to about half past one, I used to sit in the campus and complete some last minute revision on the examination subjects.
So, as usual I reached the Osmania University campus by 10 am. Since I had nothing to revise I was sitting idly, when two other students approached me. They asked me if I was giving my Tamil language exam. When I affirmed their doubts, they asked me if I had the notes, to which I answered in the negative. They told me that they knew which were the questions that were most likely to be asked in the examination and asked me if I wanted the list of questions. Though skeptical, I told them that even if I have the questions, I would not know the answers and hence their assistance would not be of much help. They had a discussion amongst themselves and proposed that they will discuss the answers for the questions that they have prepared with me. This will be like a revision for them and some input to me as to what could be the answers. Since I had nothing to lose I agreed to their proposal.
Between 10.30am and 1.30pm we were able to discuss the answers for about 15 questions and from a completely hopeless situation, I had at least some hope that may be I will get through the exams if the questions we discuss appears in the examination.
I entered the examination hall with trepidation. I received the exam question paper. Once I read the first two questions, my heart sank. I had no clue what the answers for these two questions were. My little hopes of any chances of passing the exam was now dashed. It took me a few minutes to compose myself and reconcile to the fact I will be coming again to write the exam.
The pleasant surprise was when I read from the third question on wards – 3rd to 8th questions were from the questions we had discussed in the Osmania University campus a little while earlier. The 9th and 10th question were compulsory general essay.
I had to attempt 5 essay type questions each carrying 20 marks each out of which the general essays were compulsory. So now I had a choice of which 3 questions I answered from the other 5 questions. I first completed the general essays followed by the other 3 questions. My hopes soared.
I completed the exam and as I was exiting the exam hall I spotted the two guys whom I met in the morning were waiting for me. The moment they saw me, they enquired how I had written my exams. After a few exchanges, they asked me if I had the notes for the ensuing Tamil exam the next day. I informed them that I did not possess the study material for the ensuing exams. They informed me that I could purchase the notes from their instructor if I wish to. I went along with them to meet the instructor.
I was told the cost of the study material was Rs. 600/=. I informed the instructor that I had only Rs. 600 with me for the entire trip and I cannot afford to spend the entire amount on the study notes. I asked him if he will permit me to photocopy the notes which will cost me much less. After a prolonged discussion, the instructor finally relented to permit me to photocopy the notes. I returned to Safilguda and sat up the whole night preparing for the exam the next day.
The next day I attended the exam and from a completely hopeless situation now I was partly confident of clearing the exam. I finished the other exams and returned to Bangalore. And when the results were out – I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had passed my Bachelor's degree though not with honors, nevertheless passed the exam.
I still had my doubts about whether this was coincidence or if there was a divine hand to this. Very soon even this doubt was to be put to rest.