During exams you are permitted to look down for inspiration and up in exasperation, but you are not permitted to look side to side for information.

“What are you doing here? I thought you would be cramming for tomorrow’s exam.”

“Cramming? Does it mean the same as studying?”

“When you ‘cram for’ a test, you study hard for it. You try to learn as much as possible in a short period. You start studying just before the test or exam.”

“I goof around most of the semester. I usually spend a fortnight cramming for the exams. How does that sound?”

“Sounds good! When I was a student, I used to switch off my cell phone whenever I had to cram for a test.”

“That’s what my friends seem to be doing as well. I can’t get hold of any of them.”

“Why aren’t you cramming for tomorrow’s exam? Have you finished…”

“That’s what I’ve been doing since morning. I thought I could…”

“Since morning! Well, in that case, you could do with some downtime.”

“Downtime? What are you talking about?”

“When you say that you could do with some downtime, what you’re suggesting is that …”

“You need some time to relax — a period when you don’t have to do anything.”

“Exactly! After a day at the office, I really look forward to my downtime.”

“I guess everyone does. What do you do in your downtime? Take a nap?”

“Rarely. During my downtime, I usually watch TV or listen to some old songs.”

“Jayanth has registered for four courses this semester. He has very little downtime.”

“That’s a good example. ‘Downtime’ can be spelt as two words or one.”


“I see. I ran into Sujatha on my way here. We got into an argument about ‘prepone’. According to her, the word doesn’t exist. Is that true?”

“How can she say that ‘prepone’ doesn’t exist? We Indians use it all the time. People talk about preponing their trip to some place, and…”

“So the word does exist! Will I find it listed in a dictionary?”

“Of course, you will. Perhaps not in all standard dictionaries, but you’ll find it…”

“Then, it’s a real word! I’m going to call Sujatha right now and tell her that it…”

“Let me finish, will you? Some dictionaries include ‘prepone’. Those that do, say that it is an example of Indian English. Its use is limited…”

“Mostly limited to India? You mean native speakers of English don’t use ‘prepone’?

“No, they don’t. I am not really sure if they will understand what we mean by it either.”

“So, what do native speakers use instead of ‘prepone’? Do they…”

“Some prefer to use the word ‘advance’. The launch of the new product will have to be advanced by a week.”

“I would like to advance my trip to Kashmir by a few days. How does that sound?”

“Sounds great. Before you start thinking about your trip to Kashmir, you’d better run home and cram for tomorrow’s exam.”

“But this is my downtime. I still have…”

“You have had enough downtime. It is time to get back to your books.”


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