It was 5 am. The moon, after a night-long vigil, had decided to veil herself behind some passing clouds and give herself some rest. Some enthusiastic stars were still twinkling as merrily as ever. The stragglers had all collected their snacks from Bishuda and moved on. The early morning walkers were still about an hour away from waking up, he guessed.
The world outside was dark. And unfriendly.
He sat at his window, with a frown on his brow, thinking or rather brooding... on how life had unfolded over the last two years. He thought about how some pieces had fallen into place neatly, and others had morphed into something else... something alien. He thought of the journey through the last two years - with more ups and downs than a Disneyland roller coaster. Charles Dickens' immortal quote floated into his mind, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."
The letter confirming his application to XLRI had turned his world on its head. From a complacent, 'settled' life, it seemed as if he had been thrown into a violent maelstrom. There was a constant rush to finish one thing or another. Sisyphus must have had it easier, he thought one day, musing about the futility of it all.
But to be fair, there were oases of solace in a desert devoid of emotion. There were friends always there to rally around him, when life landed some hard punches. Huffing and puffing under the workload, he did manage to maintain a poker face and hide his emotions away. Life was a bittersweet symphony for him - with sprinklings of happy and sad moments in equal measure.
Somewhere down the line, he fell out of love and then fell in love again - with people, life, and XLRI itself. Slowly, he reconciled to being mired in academic mediocrity. He reconciled to the sleepless nights, the dreary days. He looked forward to long walks and heart-to-heart talks with friends. He enjoyed the late night meetings and the constant striving to improve.
He learnt to not fly off the handle at the slightest of reasons. He learnt to value people. He learnt that it was not a show of strength to be implacable and steadfast to an opinion, but of weakness.
It was 6 am, and the moon was back, though the stars had decided to play truant and disappeared. However, the moon had a new companion - the sun, who shone his first soft rays on the world, caressing it into wakefulness like a doting father.
He awoke and smiled, for he realised that in two years, he had learnt to be an XLer.
The world outside was bright. And friendly.