So far, I've written about some of the nicer aspects of student life. There is at least one not-so-nice bit that I glossed over: exams.
In junior school, the remarks column at the end of my report card usually read "Good, but can do better". As a child, I had a fairly relaxed relationship with exams. I didn't believe in getting emotionally entangled with them. I was in love with fiction and spent much of my time perched on our sofa in the living room, book in hand. Rarely in those early years did my brother and I experience parental pressure to spend more time on textbooks instead. My parents, like most parents perhaps, had a deep-rooted faith in their children's abilities, which was left unshaken even in the face of disappointing exam results.
As time went by, the idea dawned on my little teenage brain that to a great extent, the course of my life would be shaped by the few exams that I would write as I left school: the school-leaving exams of course, and any competitive exams that I chose to write along with tens of thousands of Indian teenagers graduating from school that year. This is not to say that you can't turn things around after. Many do. Often, the bright and ambitious in India march into prominent universities and enviable jobs despite disappointing results in high school. But the idea that some of these exams could potentially open doors that I wouldn't otherwise be able to enter had taken root in my head. And so began a different relationship with exams. I spent much of my last two years in school in the company of textbooks (yes, I truly "nerded it out").
As I progressed through my undergraduate studies, I found that some exams did open doors. Others mattered less in the grand scheme of things. Once I graduated from college, I forgot all about exams.
The memories came flooding back as I started preparing for my first mid-term exams as a graduate student. As an older student, having been through experiences that are far more challenging than the average exam, I look at them somewhat differently. Still, I found myself too busy cramming to be able to blog.
"Mid-terms" is a bit of a misnomer here, given that we were barely one-third of the way into the term when they were unleashed on my hapless classmates and I. We were done with three of our four mid-terms a week ago, with the final one scheduled for tomorrow. I decided take one of many mini-breaks from wrestling with my macroeconomics textbook to go online, where I stumbled upon the news that all classes (and our macroeconomics mid-term) stand cancelled tomorrow. All because of Hurricane Sandy, which is threatening to hit the east coast of the US with unexplained fury in a few hours from now.
Rationally speaking, this isn't good news for us. Our agony will now be prolonged over two evenings instead of one. And I will need to wrestle with my macroeconomics textbook for longer than I otherwise would have. We will also end up racing through assignments that are due later this week, adding to our current state of mid-term induced misery.
But human beings aren't rational. This is why economic theory, which assumes the rationality of agents, fails more often we'd like. I certainly fall short, yielding to heart over head fairly often. And so, I couldn't help letting out a cry of joy when I saw the news and run to my flatmate's room at breakneck speed to share it with her. I then proceeded to celebrate by baking these chocolate cookies.
To say that they are rich would be an understatement. Next time, I think I will reduce the butter to just 1 cup from 11/4 cup which is what the recipe calls for. Whilst tasty, these cookies were a little too buttery for my liking. On a more philosophical note, is there such a thing as too much butter? I will leave that knotty question for another post.
Celebratory Chocolate Cookies
(makes about 15-18 medium/large cookies)
(recipe from this link)
11/4 cups butter (I would reduce to 1 cup next time)
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Heat oven to 350° F. In large mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Gradually blend into creamed mixture. Drop onto greased cookie sheet. My cookies took 10-12 minutes to get done on average. You might need to check often to see if they are done. They are soft fresh out of the oven and firm up as they cool. Remove from cookie sheet onto wire rack. Cool and serve.