Tag Archives: college

COME AS YOU ARE

Picture Credits: Hardik Batra

Welcome to my standard night at ISB. It’s 4am and it’s both late night and early morning. I can hear the Gurbani playing in the east as Calvin Harris slowly morphs into Nucleya to the west of my room. Outside in the living room, people are discussing public policy in rural India over a game of Monopoly, and as I look out of my window I see a rabbit hop towards the wood heated from last night’s bonfire. It gets too close and immediately backs away, hopping once again into the darkness. None of us gets a how-to guide, you see? Everybody’s just somewhat winging it.

The wine is over and the temperature is at it’s lowest for the day, so we bring out the rum. The Monopoly has begun to disturb friendships, so we bring out the rum. We’re out of ideas and the paper is due in two hours, so we bring out the rum. A little liquid courage never hurt anyone, so we bring out the rum. Only to wake up the next morning, thirsty, exhausted, drowsy – yet somehow more accomplished, dearer, warmer.

I won’t lie, it’s been an especially gruelling year – but that’s what we came here for in the first place, isn’t it? A year that would ideally have taken two. Not just in what we learn and experience but also physically, mentally, emotionally. Some days we surprise ourselves and own it – the classes, the assignments, the study groups and the networking, still somehow managing to spend quality time with the ones who matter. And yet, some days, we leave our spectacles in the refrigerator.

That’s the beauty of life at this pace. Ever so often it reminds you that you’re still human. Allow yourself a breath – a wasted day, a missed deadline, a failed interview. And then get back up, immediately. That’s what we came here for in the first place, isn’t it?
A year that would ideally have taken more time.

And now with graduation day almost in sight, I try to think of all the ways to tell people all the things I wish I’d known when I began my year here, most of which have to do with emotional stability. That even as you start out, you will meet people who see the same stars as you do. They will inspire you, overwhelm you, bring out the best and worst in you and slowly become a part of you.

But people, as people do, change. Sometimes you just outgrow the ones you started out with, for you mature with experiences, not with years. All of a sudden you’ll be looking at the same stars, seeing different constellations. And nobody is better or worse for it, we just make our own momentum as we go from bone crushing hugs to firm handshakes.

And then there’s the ones you find and keep – different momentums, different starting points and all that jazz. But the same escape velocity. They come out of nowhere and as they do, you realise that for this one year, you’re always one decision away from a parallel universe. And for that one reason, this year is the beginning of anything you want.

I wish we could have bottled this year, like a perfume. Breathed in a little every time life got dreary or uninspiring.

But we can’t, so we bring out the rum.

Mohali Skies

All know that the drop merges into the ocean, but few know that the ocean merges into the drop – Kabir

For the first time in almost 3 years, I sat in a classroom today.

It was hours past noon and my eyelids were fighting gravity, my hands periodically jotting down sentences I barely managed to hear to completion. From across the room, a friend would pass a sly smile in my direction every time the instructor made an attempt at a joke.

It wasn’t so different from sixth grade after all.

We were just studying scarier things from friendlier people, finding comfort in the midst of strangers, united by anxiety, fear, ambition, and luckily, a sense of humour.

Just till a few days back, the previous class was still here. Guiding, supporting, frightening us for the year to come. We learned forty five new names a day, twenty one new background profiles, maybe one odd fun fact. And then next day, we all had the same questions – What’s your name? How old are you? Where are you from? Gathering information on demographics, as if it mattered.

This is why we forget people – we don’t ask the real questions. Ask a person how old they were in their earliest memory. Ask a person what fuels their midnight lamp. Ask a person if hot chocolate and Ed Sheeran give them the same feeling. Sing a song with someone. Run a race against someone.

Then try forgetting them.

All of a sudden we’re walking on grass at four in the morning, fuelled by wine and the need to let out our ideas, pausing for breath now and then because we’re overwhelmed by the pace of this time machine we’ve volunteered to ride in. We let ourselves into each others minds, too much too soon, for better or for worse.

We learn. We had been waiting only to realise we shouldn’t have waited to create the things we wish existed. We learn that almost everyone is just skin, bones and questions, and that’s okay. We learn that we have more patience for others than we do for ourselves, and that’s not okay. We attempt to walk down a path with it’s jarringly new topography with someone who can’t adapt to our pace. We learn from what people say. We learn from what people don’t say.

“Averaging reduces variation,” I scribble onto my notebook as I look out the classroom window. The sun is setting in colours I can’t name. Blues merging into pinks, oranges emerging from yellows. It takes an uninterrupted sky to realise the horizon is infinite. Luckily, we all start as strangers.

In Staccato Rhythm

It’s a rainy day in a college by the road, and my two corridor mates are introducing me to a blend of guitars and endlessness they call classic rock. I’ve heard its kind before, but never when steeped in someone else’s enthusiasm.

It’s yet another rainy day, in an apartment by a different road. Four years of my steadfast indifference has done nothing to dampen their enthusiasm. There’s new songs blended in now. One of them now hunts and gathers new music from the scuzzy underbelly of the city. The other has rekindled loves from his past. I still don’t understand it. I’m beginning to suspect I don’t understand music at all.

It’s the wee hours of the morning, and I’m sitting in a shared cab back from work, listening to my borrowed tastes. It fills the silence better than inflicting conversation on my fellow corporate drone. His stop is before mine. I come home to a girl who is no longer here.

It’s been ages since college when we set out to ride back to it. The road is the same, it’s sweltering hot, though. We’ve forgotten most of our CDs. This was before we, as a country, could afford streaming. There’s no classic rock. There’s the corridormate-turned-flatmate’s newest find. He goes on about how we should support the local music scene. For the first three hours of the drive, he insists it’s all alright that we can now recite the lyrics in our sleep.

I’m at the beach by the college by the road. The breeze brings back memories. They say music brings back memories. Places do, too. Smells, sounds, the feel of a place is stronger in my mind than notes in the ether. I’m convinced. It’s not music that I’ll miss.

It’s Sunday and we’re all staring at each other across a wooden table. This used to be a bar for Sunday afternoons, it’s now one for Friday nights. It plays every song you know, smeared into one explosion of sound. It reminds me of clubs, not in a bad way. New people are at the table. They remind me of clubs, not in a bad way. New people bring new music.

It’s a lazy Sunday in a new house, and the rain has obliged. I’m sipping tea with a girl I’ll hurt. She’s talking to me about electronic music. That can’t be good, I tell myself. I profess my borrowed inclinations, scoffing at the idea of anything new being good. Funny that the corridormate-turned-flatmate, in his final months in the city, would wax endlessly about how the goodness of anything new.

It’s the same early morning on another day. There’s no one in the cab today, no one waiting at home. I stumble in sleepily to soundtracks seeping through my flatmate’s locked door. Soundtracks, I understand. I begin to wonder if I’m overthinking this. One of the classic rockers left long ago, the other left less long ago. The guitars are no longer endless where I live.

It’s raining as I bid them farewell, the first time. My flatmates, neighbors, collegemates and the girl. Raining. Rain is a place by itself. I wait for my flight at the airport, watching the drops race down the glass. Drinking seems inappropriate, like I’m tarnishing the memory of the past years with more of the same. I plug in, and listen to more of the same, taking my mind off the last things I’d seen.

It’s a different early morning. I’m in a different cab. It’s driven back from the airport by two grim chauffeurs. I reach home to utter silence. The entire flight here, I’ve drowned anxiety in simple mash seasoned with the occasional weird taste. There’s no filling a silence. That phrase shouldn’t exist. Silence breaks. You can only break a silence.

My second farewell is less charged, if more permanent. I’m back across the oceans. I move from the job with the late night cab and find another one. I move from the city with the job with the late night cab and find a new one. With new people. There is a bookshop under my house. I almost never go. My little portable speaker is still in my boxes. I’ve forgotten the playlist on my phone.

It’s a cold winter’s day as I trot from the bus into work. I rummage about in my backpack, looking for a mouse. I find earphones instead. I plug in. It’s the playlist I’ve built over these years of growing up. It’s every rainy day, on every road, in every house, in every cab, for every farewell. It’s everything silence isn’t. I’m still unconvinced I understand it, but it’s getting harder to believe that.

It’s the same day’s evening. I call the corridor mate. He’s crossed the same oceans as well. We talk like it’s all one day, seven years wide. He has new songs, of course. So do I, now. I hear the new ones, while I finally listen to the old.


This post was originally written by Abhijeet Sathe.
All rights remain with the author.

When Life Gives You Lemons

Nobody tells you that when you wish upon a star, you’re actually a few million years late. That star is already dead. Bummer, eh?

I turn twenty three in two days. I’m kind of in between moods right now. You know how it feels to be pissed off and ladylike? Utterly confusing. I suck at it. Of course I don’t know how to act my age. I’ve never been this age before. I’m usually a calm person but some situations really test my giveashitometer. Like when I see fresh bird droppings on my car and I go out  and eat devilled eggs by the window just so they know who they’re messing with.

I wish men could be dealt with the same way. You get over the bunch of them and you meet someone tall with a crooked smile and there comes that feeling you thought you’d forgotten. But sooner or later you find out that he’s the same old dal-chawal sold to you on the menu as well steamed long grain fine white rice from the brilliant yellow fields of Punjab, a golden lentil broth on the side, garnished with pixie dust.

And then the inevitable happens. Khichdi.

I’m feeling a little over-worked and under-intoxicated. Break ups usually leave me feeling a tad bit wild, I think. I start booking tickets to all corners of the world and getting new piercings and not waxing because lulz, lemons.
Nowadays I just get home and get the cheese and crackers out and think Screw you, recommended serving size. You don’t know my story.

I don’t know what happened. It’s sad and hilarious at the same time. But I think I learned things from my time with him that one should eventually learn. People love differently. Silence, I discovered, is something you can actually hear. And you can tell so much about a person by how they leave you. It’s sad how Wile E. Coyote is remembered for his barbarity, and not for his insanely realistic paintings of tunnels. People never forget how you make them feel. And be careful, sometimes what’s left unsaid says it all.

Then, of course, there’s the mommy angle. From what I’ve heard, parenting is mostly about telling your kid how many minutes of something they have left. Moms, spurring their offsprings to go forth and conquer the world and also get a mani pedi and find a suitable boy and HAIYO RABBA IS THAT A TATTOO AB SHAADI KAUN KAREGA.

So when life gives you lemons, contrary to popular belief and one too many T-shirt quotes, there’s not much you can do. You don’t even get to ask why. And some part of you doesn’t even want to know. Sure explanations can be helpful, but so can ignorance, paychecks and new senior recruits at the office.
So helpful.

And as I move a day closer to the first time in life I’m not excited about my birthday, I ponder over the idea of possibly not letting life happen to me again. It’s time I owned this shit. With abs and stilettos and calculated risk and my own little business because heaven knows I make one hell of a difficult employee.
Those shooting stars are long dead, and I’m feeling more alive than ever.

I’m in a really good place spiritually.

Please fuck off, lemons.

Namaste.

Something to Forget Me By

Why was it that during the first ice-breaker in college, when the whole class had to go stand up and say their name and where they were from, I got so incredibly nervous? Like, I know my name, I know where I’m from; this shouldn’t be a problem.

Maybe it’s the pressure of first impressions that society’s created on us now terrified mortals. That’s probably why my best friends on campus include a girl I hated for the whole of my first semester just because she gave me the heebie jeebies and a boy with whom my first interaction included him running after a mini-football on the Bogmalo Beach shouting “Hey! Easy! Mommy told me not to get my ball wet!”

There was a time I’d complain about the freeze-dried fruit distribution in my Gelato. Now the post Sunday lunch Mother Dairy butterscotch ice cream makes me feel sexy. Like I’m eating a soft spoonful of an affair. With crunchies.

But time moves on and so does life and the fat get thin and the thin get fat and group dynamics change and re-change because nobody really likes fat people, and at the end of four years you’re left wondering how you ever got along without these people who are now more family than family itself.

And yet, forever’s not what it used to be.

He’ll finally get out there and become a standup comedian, flying for a show to Russia, flying business class, in fact, because that’s just how he rolls now. She’ll probably be the CEO of some company that you always thought was a bank’s name.
And you’ll read about them in the papers and wonder if you should call. But instead you’ll just post something on their Facebook wall and get on with your life. Damn shame.

And yet, they’ll be a part of you. In their own small way. Even the random people you interact with everyday. You might not remember their name or face ten years from now. But you’ll remember them as the person who introduced you to your now favorite music, or the guy who helped you pass that godforsaken subject, or the girl who saw you crying and said “If someone breaks your heart, just punch them in the face. Seriously just punch them in the face and go get some ice cream”.  Even if she was just quoting Wiz Khalifa.

And suddenly, after your college years, you’re not the same person anymore. You like sleeping because it’s like being dead, only without the commitment. You aren’t ‘weirded out’ by alcoholics and junkies because you realize they’re just humans with a different passion than yours. And you realize fat people are the nicest of them all.

In French, you don’t really say “I miss you”. You say “tu me manques” which, I am told, is closer to “you are missing from me”. I love that. It’s beautiful, really. Like you’re a part of me that I’m currently functioning without. I’ll miss everyone I leave behind. And when I do, I hope there’s a part of me in them. Something I left behind. Something to forget me by.

Of Graduation and Vodka

I had butterflies in my stomach right from the moment I booked my ticket to Goa, somehow managing to shut the laptop slowly because the sand stuck in it between the screen and keyboard still crunches from all the times I set out to the library and ended up bag and baggage at the beach.

As I slept though the flight I dreamed about my years there. I remember seeing the world through the bottom of a Smirnoff quarter. Peace was a permanent state. We lost phones so easily because we didn’t really need them. We spent our afternoons looking up the Wikipedia pages of our idols to see where they were at our age. We stayed away from the boys who smelled too good because anyone who smells that good for an 8 am class is obviously marinated in perfume for lack of baths. Every pizza was a personal pizza if you tried hard enough and believed in yourself. Facebook needed a relationship status called, “Man, I don’t know… Ask her…”
We could lie around in the sand, drinking vodka (because we soon learned that if you drink enough vodka it tastes like love) and looking at the stars and talking to anyone about how we missed being the age when we thought we would have our shit together by now. If they weren’t interested, they’d pass out right next to us or throw up on us.
You win some, you lose some.

I reached Goa and within a day I met everyone. Like, everyone. My best friends, my corridor-mates, the girl who helped me pass Quantum Chemistry, the boy who made me listen to Arctic Monkeys for the first time; I didn’t remember all their names but I knew them because they were all part of me in one way or another. And we took rooms in a filthy motel halfway between the college and the beach and I felt like I was in the insides or a burrito, warm and safe and filthy and whole.

I’d spent years watching these people. Borrowing food, notes, sometimes smiles. I don’t think we knew it then, but we grew up together. In humor, in ambition, in purpose, in vocabulary. We fed off each other’s energy and grew and if anyone, and I mean anyone, had been missing from the equation we’d all be a tad bit different. They’re all people I’ll never stop looking for in a crowded place. I watched them through the evening, talking to each other about their lives then and now.

He told her about his new music venture and how he was so excited to work at the studio, and when she whined about being a corporate slave and how much she hated it, he hugged her tight and said it was all going to be okay. I’d seen that hug before. I’d seen it three years back, when he’d missed a passing grade in a subject that she’d aced. She’d hugged him tight and told him it was all going to be okay.

I think that’s what college was. It was a lot of everyone telling everyone that it’s all going to be okay.

The drunken texts one received and the words one scribbled on the last pages of notebooks were really all the love and knowledge one needed to get through.
And now I hope we all make it in this big bad world, away from each other. I hope one day we all have our own Wiki pages and 7 am showers and reasonable relationship statuses. And yet, some part of me hopes we’re not all people who define ‘making it’ as having our own Wiki pages and 7 am showers and reasonable relationship statuses.
I hope we’re all people who still define ‘making it’ as belting that entire pizza.
Try hard and believe in yourself.

Some People are Home

I walk out in an old red t-shirt, at its faded best.

The sun is harsh, but I’ve become used to it, such that I am aware of it but it doesn’t really bother me. We take the long winding route to the badminton courts. There’s a shorter route, mind you, paved and all. Right through the heart of the college campus. But this winding route, even in the heat, has some sort of appeal to it. So we take it. She and I. I haven’t known her long. But long enough, I have. And as we walk, we talk of what we know of each other. Then we stop talking, and our thoughts drift to our respective worlds.  And then there’s that comfortable silence. The one that, sometimes, feels like the best conversation you may have ever had.

Why are some people so easy to be with, I wonder? Things click, they get you, and suddenly, you’re not the only one. Anywhere. Anytime.

We enter the badminton courts. Now, in all honesty, badminton and I are like an eraser and an ink pen. We may as well be related, but we have issues, if you know what I mean. We get on the court and start playing.
See, this is the beauty of it. As she makes me run all over the court, with all her ‘baddy expertise’, and I keep missing every shot (like seriously, EVERY shot), I grin at her through the net.
She grins back.
And how.
As if to say “Yes sugar, you suck, but I love you.”

We play a little. I tire soon and she moves on to another game. Wow, she does play well. Every game she wins, she shoots me a dazzler across the room. I shoot one back. Then I hop back onto the court with a bunch of three other girls. I’ve seen them around for over a year, yet I don’t know a single one’s name. Maybe it doesn’t matter. We start playing.
They’re all better, of course.
I miss.
Twice.
Thrice.
My ears turn red.
Damn it! No one’s grinning at me when I screw up now.
While I’m thinking this, I see the shuttle moving towards me faster than ever before.
AAAAAAH! And I slip.
Great.

Just great.

But I see the curly haired girl walking towards me, laughing her lungs out. And before I know it, I’m laughing too. So are the other two across the net. And all of a sudden, it’s so easy.

Yes, the net is still finding the shuttle insanely attractive after every shot I hit. But I see mild smiles now. Ah, confidence. Now we’re all ramming the shuttle into the net. This is fun! By the end of the hour, I know their names.  I catch her outside, and we head back to the hostel. And I think of my hometown, my friends there, our conversations of boys and dresses and the latest fads, strutting around in our heels and shades, memorizing every nook and cranny of each mall.
Ridiculous, really.

We reach the hostel in silence, split to go to our rooms. I know she’s upstairs right now, bathing or watching Scrubs or something. I don’t miss her, no, but there’s a certain comfort in her being around.
There.
Accessible.
If there’s a thin line between friends and family, I wouldn’t know what side of it she lays. I look at my old red t-shirt, at its faded best, and think,

Hell, it’s good to be home.