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Friday, December 11, 2009

Nostalgia bites…

I walked down the lofty corridor of The Saint Thomas Men’s Residence, with a wistful look on my face. Walking slowly, I absorbed all the sights – the notice board that congratulated the receivers of recent placement offers and had details of some competition or the other in garish colours, the whitewashed walls, and the lack of all human activity.

I smiled as I recalled all those futile trips I had made to the board to check if my name was on the shortlist for some company or the other. I could almost taste the feeling of defeat that had encompassed me on not seeing my name there, and feel the encouraging pats of friends on my shoulder.

I walked to the lift and smiled as I remembered the number of times that it had broken down, and I’d had to trudge up to the fourth floor using the stairs, huffing and puffing and cursing using all the expletives he knew in various languages. I decided to take the stairs this time, just to relive those memories.

Perhaps the current crop of students were on their term break. Perhaps, they were attending the class of a prof who’d have flunked them if they missed. Perhaps, they were sleeping after submitting an assignment due at 9.00 am.

Room no. 414 – the place that had seen fleeting moments of frustration, grief, delight and boredom. Sadly, it was locked. Idly, I wondered about the person who lived there now. Did he also make the room look like a tornado-struck zone? Did he take a minute out of his routine to admire the view from my window? Did his alarm ring incessantly in the morning till an irate neighbour pounded on his door in irritation? Did he belt out his brand of ‘music’ much to the consternation of nearby folks? Did his room also overflow with books of all kinds, shapes and sizes? And most importantly, had he inherited my love for LFC over the years?

If looks could kill, mine would have shattered that lock into a million pieces, giving me access to a flood of memories from the years gone by. But, nothing of the sort happened.

I took the lift this time.

On reaching the ground floor, I decided to go over to Rooms 15 and 16, where more laughs than an entire season of ‘F.R.I.E.N.D.S.’ were created and shared. Room 16 was unlocked. I couldn’t resist knocking, almost expecting a familiar voice to say, “Yeahhhh, come in!” and opening the door to be greeted by some of the awesomest people on this planet.

A stranger opened the door, a questioning look in her lovely, hazel eyes. “Yes?” she asked. I snapped my gaping jaw shut, with an audible snap that made her jump. “Oh, nothing! I’m just an alumnus, who graduated in 2010. I was visiting someone in the city today, and decided to come over to my alma mater. Sorry, if I disturbed you.”

She invited me in with a warm smile, but the room felt cold. Gone were the decorations, the charts scrawled with funny one-liners, and the book-rack with the coffee-maker on top of it. Gone were those people, I’d half-expected would be lounging around the place. I didn’t see any of them there, but I still heard the faint echo of their voices and their laughter.

“Are you ok?” she asked, with some concern.

“Yes, I’m fine. Actually, I think I ought to go,” I said, looking at my watch.

I stopped by at the pond with the fountain. Multi-hued fish swam about, frolicking in the clear water. A moss-covered waterbody, with ugly catfish was what it had been, until a friend had come up with the idea to clean it up and maintain it better. We’d all pitched in – some had donated money to the cause, some had helped in selecting the right varieties of fish to keep, and others had rolled up their sleeves to do the ‘dirty’ work. (Of course, some had stood and snickered at the futility of it all, but then looking at the brightly coloured fish today, made me snicker back at them.)

The benches outside the Mother Teresa hostel were unoccupied. A strange phenomenon- made possible only by the fact that the students were not on campus. Otherwise, there would always be a bevy of folks – some reading, some engaged in long, intimate conversations with faraway loved ones, and others simply hanging out.

Ah, a familiar soul at last! Dadu – the proprietor of the campus eatery, warmly greeted me with a cup of coffee and chattered away, trying to bring me up to speed with all the changes on campus lately. I was too lost to respond, and made do with randomly sprinkled ‘hmm’s and ‘haa’s. The old rascal didn’t forget to charge me 12/- for that measly cup of weak, sugary coffee. When I pointed out that one thing that hadn’t changed on campus, was his propensity to fleece his customers, he just grinned and made the age-old excuse, “Kya karen Sumit, har cheez ka rate badhta hi rehta hai?

Deciding to take a look at the classrooms of yore, I felt a twinge of sadness at seeing that they had been revamped completely, with state of the art infrastructure and advanced gadgetry. Having never been especially attached to the classrooms, (since a large component of my learning had taken place not inside but outside them) I moved on to take a look at yet another place that was special – the Placecomm office. For, it was there that the 16 of us had spent long, sleepless nights slogging towards ensuring the best of placements at XLRI. And what a brilliant job we had done too!

I strolled over to the GMP area, the location for many heart-to-heart talks with friends. The silence there threatened to choke me, so I had to beat a hasty retreat and take refuge in the huge common room of The Father Enright Men’s Residence. The old TV where we had watched countless Premier League matches, cheering on our favourite teams was still there. The memory of bunking two important classes and a quiz just to watch Liverpool trounce the Red Devils 4-1, and revelling in the gains from the ‘tradeoff’ I had made was special.

The TT table, a little battered because of the rough handling it had undergone over the ages still stood, a relic of the times when there had been epic tournaments, having played best-of-5, best-of-10, and even last-man-standing games played amongst us.

The last stop was the iconic JLT – which had been the forbidden place early on, but had turned into a regular haunt in the final term. Funnily enough, the XL journey had begun with a dunking for ‘trespassing’ on JLT and ended with a dunking to celebrate getting placed, and the corresponding DJ nite, where all of us had exchanged hugs and fond farewells.

I walked out of the campus slowly, as a lone tear made its way down my cheek. I turned up the volume of my iPod to drown out the silence, and those haunting words pervaded my being:

Socha tha MBA kar le, hum tum bhi thoda sa padh len, lo aa gaye hum XLR….

12 comments:

Bunty said...

...

Sumit said...

Kya hua bhai?

Roshmi Sinha said...

Nostalgia is priceless...

PS: Welcome back!

Arslan said...

I'm confused.. Is this written in the future?! Are you looking ahead to how looking back would feel like? Coz as far as I know, it's still 2009.

Sumit said...

@Roshmi... thanks! :)

@Arslan... you got it! It is written in the future. :)

Nandita Mathews said...

soo nice!!!!

Tangerine said...

Well written as usual! Its making me nostalgic too...

Corinne Rodrigues said...

Sumit.....welcome back! You never fail to touch the heart, do you?
Hugs
Corinne

Anu said...

1. Such awesomeness deserves a place for itself at PG :)
2. I LOVED the entirety of the post EXCEPT "to watch Liverpool trounce the Red Devils 4-1". Grrrrr! There is a limit to public assault. We shall not remain quiet.

Lazy Pineapple said...

Lovely post. You took me back a decade with your post. Do keep blogging. you tend to disappear.

janus said...

i know the feeling now, that you foresee for yourself :D

prashant said...

Nostalgia is priceless...
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