Taking notes? … Not quite!

From inane lectures, boring teachers, and countdown to the bell to planning hangouts — it’s all about sneaky chits.


Hiba Tohid July 14, 2011



“Hang out after the lecture?” the little scrap of paper changes hands across the row and soon the note starts getting scribbled with suggestions.


“How about some place for coffee?”

“Are you mad? It’ll be lunch time by then …”

“Decide quickly … I’m starving!”

“This lecture is SO boring! I want to get out of here!”

“Hey did you catch the new episode of ‘Glee’?”

“Focus guys! We can talk about “Glee” later at the café … by the way a new one has opened just around the corner from the campus!”

“What say?”

“We are SO getting caught today!”

While the professor unfolds the mystery behind Newton’s laws of motion, a bigger predicament is being resolved on the back benches. The lecture will soon be over and the scribbling picks pace…

Sitting in the corridors … writing on the desk … bunking a lecture … chilling at the cafeteria — these are some things which define college life and if you haven’t done them you haven’t been to college … in essence at least.

One such guilty pleasure that almost any student would easily confess to (unless of course they bunked lectures) is of writing and passing notes in a lecture hall. While texting costs money and whispering would be too much of a risk especially with professor ‘hawk eye’ on the prowl scribbling out a note is the safest option left for that ‘oh so important’ chat that can never be as much fun if not done during a lecture.

Innocently impish, the only high for these ‘note makers’ is to break the silence in the classroom without even making a decibel of sound. That gutsy act of passing out notes from one bench to the other right under the professor’s watchful eye is a feat to cherish and boast about while enjoying the mid-day snack.

The sneaky little ‘note makers’ work is under the cover of taking actual notes while in reality, they are posting a shout out to a friend sitting right next to them. Peering thoughtfully at the professor and bobbing their heads every now and then in ritualistic understanding, clenching their chin between their thumbs and forefingers with a pen poking out, adding a touch of realism to this foolish charade, they furtively turn their heads down scribbling in the notebook as if fishing through the professor’s lecture. It is just in the moment that the professor turns away … the little chit is ripped out and with a swift sleight of hand passed down to the friend sitting in front.

Phew! Let’s see if the friend is just as lucky in returning a reply.

“My friends and I were once caught red handed!” recalls Samar, now a chartered accountant. “Ah it was bad! Standing outside the lecture hall for stark display to the passersby with hands pulled up for a good half hour was quite edifying!” Samar laughs away while pressing out almost a decade old pain from his arms.

The high point of these classroom raids is when the professor insists on reading the note that was being traded. Looking through those slender spectacles fixed on that sharp sleuthing nose lurking for anything fishy in his classroom; the professor examines the artfully prepared scrap of paper.

The professor’s treatment thereon depends upon the gender caught and also the nature of the inscription. It may range from a ‘talk’ in the faculty lounge to a memorably embarrassing display in front of the whole lecture hall.

“Oh so you like me? How kind of you sir! Look here the gentleman has finally confessed his love for biochemistry!” Ahmed, who is now a doctor, still blushes as he recalls his professor’s words with exact precision when he flaunted to a packed lecture hall a note of Ahmed’s that he was passing down to a class fellow who he had for so long wanted to confess his feelings to.

Turns out that cupid’s arrow misfired and for a long time Ahmed was known as the biochemistry’s better half. “In a way I am glad I was caught that day and the note never reached the other row … because years later I met my wife … and it isn’t biochemistry!” he chuckles as he goes back into the lecture hall that had filled with laughter that fine day.

From romantic confessions and cheap flirtations to planning eat outs to even random exchanges in order to lighten up an otherwise dreary lecture hall, writing notes seems like a childish pursuit.

Halfway between juvenile proclivities and grown up standards, this act of innocent delinquency is like a sugar rush for the college-going.  Even the ‘villainous’ professor knows too well; maybe because he too has been there and done that! If it is not for his vigilant probing, passing around notes wouldn’t be half the fun that it becomes under strict surveillance.

In all likelihood, the professor too is playing along with the amateurs if for nothing else then just to keep that traditional campus flavour alive which is just too sweet to give up.

The lecture is long over and the sweeper enters to make the final cleaning strokes before locking the lecture hall. Somewhere in the midst of those packs of chips and juices and items that will soon be sitting in the ‘lost and found section’ there are torn bits of papers scrawled in different inks and handwritings. He looks intriguingly for a moment but then boorishly strokes away. Somewhere in the great landfill of time are all those little anecdotes that we all shared during college life. They may be trash now but the memories they bring back are a treasure too priceless.



Published in The Express Tribune, July 2nd, 2011.

COMMENTS (2)

Batool | 10 years ago | Reply

awwww....Im in love with this article...nostalgia

aafat | 10 years ago | Reply

Enjoyed your piece. All part of life!

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