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Remembrance of times gone by...

I had to visit my college a few days ago. Something about getting my last two marksheets etc. I went there with Saboo, one of my three best friends from college (along with Saumya and Shantnu). After all the office-work had been concluded, we decided to eat in the college cafeteria or the 'Mech Canteen' as we call it or called it in our heyday.

I did know that it was going to be a nostalgic experience what with going back to college again and especially since it's been just a few months after we'd passed out and all. But the sheer weight of memories that hit me once we drove into college (indeed just as soon as we passed the familiar streets leading to it) was staggering! I am usually prone to over-analyzing my thoughts and I usually try and quantify what and why I am feeling so that I can understand it better. However, this time I just let myself go.

As we drove through the streets of Rohini, past metro walk, I remembered the many, many times I had been to that mall. Right from the days of first year, when we didn't have bikes and had to take an RTV, the nights in second year when we seemed to spend more of our nights and evenings there than at hostel. I remembered the fun times in those streets as we raced our bikes in wild abandon, caught up in the fire of youth and the promise of two years more. It seemed that college would last forever then. Youth always does tend to be short-sighted. Life was all about enjoying yourself as much as possible until the week before the Mid Sems or the End Sems. And even they were fun in their own way: a flurry of frantic last-minute study to cover up for an entire semester, of stolen moments of leisure and sleep, of the hundreds of extremely interesting conversation topics that somehow always seemed to come up right before the night we were all grinding for the toughest exam of the semester!

As I entered the street leading up to college, I saw the 'English Wine Shop' with it's perpetual stream of visitors. That reminded me of the innumerable occasions when, bags in tow, we rode there and bought our liquor. I remembered most (if not all) the occasions I ever went there. The feeling of anticipation as my mind conjured up visions of the enjoyment to come, the feeling of tension as we sometimes raced there to beat the closing time of 10 pm... All came back in a flood.

Then I saw the 'Sutta Points'. The first and original Sutta Point: a long flight of steps leading to two shops, Future Point (hence the name) for books and the Om Sai General Store, from where we bought our cigarettes. This was the place we all used to sit and smoke until we moved to greener pastures in third year. I remember long conversations with my seniors as a green 'Faccha'. Questions about the future, about placements and about life after college. It all seemed so distant then! I wondered if I would ever be where they were. Somehow I never truly believed I was about to leave college until the day I actually left for the last time. That night came back to me in a flash.

The flurried packing up, the last goodbyes as hostel-mates. I remember feeling really sad as I bid all the familiar faces goodbye. I almost physically saw the severance of a common connection: of living in hostel, sharing the same privations, the same meals and the same rooms and routine as the people around me. In hostel, our individualities all coalesced into one description, into one concept of shared space and comfort. All the rooms were identical, hence there was a bond that I fail to describe in mere words. Even now when I meet a fellow hosteler, we share this bond, of remembrance and common memories. All of us have lived in those cramped, yellow painted rooms with walls of peeling plaster. All of us have shared those horrible tasteless (ah but they seem so tasty now!) meals served in the mess and have cribbed about it or alternatively tipped each other (BCH mein kadi bani hai... jaldi jaa!) as to where a better option could be found. We all have run out of water while bathing or washing, at one point of time or the other. Ours is a solidarity born out of sharing and suffering together. And all of that ended on that night when none of us was ready to let go. We were supposed to leave by 5 pm, yet somehow all the goodbyes and farewells and reminiscences dragged the time well past 9 pm. Yet we had to go. I still remember the feeling of being close to tears, of feeling a heavy inexpressible weight inside my chest as I dragged my trunk up the stairs of my apartment building for the last time.

All of this I felt and remembered and here I was not even through the gates yet! Once past, I remembered the countless times I'd entered in the morning, on foot in first year, zooming on a bike second year onwards. And that brought on the day I'd first got a bike for my own in college. Freshers Night, third semester. I remember that joyride through the campus as the four of us revelled in the feeling of independence and power. The cool breeze tickling our hair, the beautiful trees of campus: their leaves coloured golden in the light of the sodium vapour lamps.

The canteen. Noisy. Packed. There is a new momos stand that has opened up. I see it but I don't see it. The crowd is strange and different. To me it is the same. I see the familiar faces. What time is it? 3 pm. I remember I have to rush back to a class I have by 3.15 or I won't get attendance. Then it registers. There is no class. The old crowd is gone. Year after year I sat in the mech canteen. First semester I was a terrified fresher ("Oh I hope I'm not ragged! So many seniors about... whoa! That girl is hot!!!") sitting with my (then) new friends ("Hahaha! Saumya you call 'Ghar' as 'Ghauw' how funny!"). Second and third year it was with a different poise and a casual nonchalance ("Look at the facchas! So scared! Little turds, let's rag the shit out of 'em!"). Fourth year till before I got placed it was mainly in formals, to grab a quick bite in between interviews ("Dude are you sure _____ is shortlisting? That sucks man!"). After placement we rarely went to the canteen. So the memories that were triggered were those of the early days.

After placement I remember suddenly realizing how little time we had left. Everyday became a scramble to enjoy myself to the fullest and to mentally note and remark upon every tiny detail so that they became like framed plaques on walls. So that whenever I heard the word 'College' I would remember those days first, the days of excess and abandon, spent in playing AOE or drinking or sleeping. However, that is not a true picture. I'm growing to believe that near the threshold of ever major change in life, I tend to distrust and fear the future. Finding shelter in those 'plaque' memories, I tend to hide my face from the fact that even in college, during boring lectures, on hot days, on days of water scarcity, while commuting back home after exams etc I used to hate college. Especially in my first semester. I missed my school life and again formed 'framed-plaque memories' of my last days of school. If I'd been more accepting and open minded then, I believe I'd have been better adjusted more earlier. Thus this time, I decide not to be scared of what's to come. I'll face whatever it is with optimism and positivity and preserve my memories as they are, as reminiscences and not refuges.

Comments

  1. DCE, of course. I have a special connection to the place, you'll soon find out. I even had tea and samosas in that mech canteen one "fest night" :P

    I'm stuck in college for another year and I swear to God, I can't wait to feel nostalgic about it. Familiarity breeds contempt. With me, especially familiarity of a place.

    ReplyDelete
  2. DCE? We seem to have mutual friends oddly. Interesting. I'd like your take on it. Will be interesting.

    ReplyDelete

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