It’s the month of August, well almost September in a couple of days per the Christian calendar in India.
I’m preparing for GRE and I need to write something to activate my vocabulary senses and keep them on their toes. GRE demands after all that you ‘learn’ or must know (putting it subtly) word that are in the English dictionary and contain more than 8 letters but are of no importance at all whatsoever to you in your current or future life in the US of A.
There are too many political issues that I can write on, on a daily basis but considering that the journalists and the columnists are putting enough effort on it already I thought my efforts might well be futile in my endeavor to enlighten people about the plight of this country and its people at the merciless hands of the politicians.
Having said that, I thought it was better thus to talk bout myself and retain the memory of college whatever I can before I begin to forget even the bigger details of the life so envied by every young Indian (can’t comment on the other cultures, lest someone quotes me).
I’d finished my 12th std exams and was just heaving a sigh of relief for having conquered one of the biggest challenges my life had presented me (is what I thought back then), before I was marauded by the deluge of entrance examinations where I was competing with more that 4 lakh students to get to be one of the 1000 or so top students. I soon realized I dint have the capacity and I decided to content with a lesser prestigious institute and I was hence packed off to Chennai to the liking of my mother and against mine. Nevertheless I was more than happy to just leave home and not be under the supervision of a watchful mother hunting me down everywhere I went and everything I did. Freedom was my swaraj and I had had it. (I passed 10th class history mind it… this line was said by Lokamanya Tilak… or probably Bag Gangadhar Tilak, one of the 2 brothers, whoever cares anyway)
I landed in Chennai and went to my college, was a little surprised to hear a couple of people conversing in Hindi (much to my content, as I had least expected to hear Hindustani down there)
It was July 13th when the college was supposed to open and so on 12 July I accompanied dad to my college to dump my luggage in my hostel room. We reached only to discover that the UG hostel was full and the only rooms available were in the PG hostel. The supervisor was all smiles, greeting my dad with utmost respect and hospitality. I was impressed. I entered the room about 20×10 sqft with a shelf on one wall without and cupboard. Just 4 open shelves. There were 3 cots and 3 pairs of table and chairs. I put my suitcase on one bed to ascertain my ownership of that bed to the others who’d eventually come into that room. On our way out, we met a couple of guys who were from Ranchi. It was soothing to know that I had someone of our place (you see I was more of a Bihari, and still am than a Tamilian)
The date of opening was postponed by a week to 20July. So that one week I spent at my aunt’s place in Gandhinagar, enjoying my freedom and the extended holiday. I was in the college early on 20th morning. I walked up to the hostel and checked my suitcase and dumped my bag which had few more of my clothes. Roommates were 2 tall guys (taller than me of course) and one guy wider than me by a good margin. Both were south Indians I knew by the sight of them. Looks have signatures so vivid, they literally shout out to you the regional details of a person at first sight, but that’s confined mostly to the natives unless of yours the migrants refuse to shed their nativity.
I found the Ranchi guys just when I was leaving my room, there were 3 of them. We were walking towards the college when one of them said “Hey whatever happened to the Akshay guy who’d come over with his dad the other day”, thankfully the other 2 knew I was the “that Akshay” and corrected him in time. It’d have been embarrassing to make my identity clear after walking for 10 min with 3 people.
we were just about more than half way thru when this guy springs up from the lawn nearby and comes running to me looking all surprised and shouts, “Abey tu yahan kya kar raha hai be???” Rahul Banerjee, the dreaded company of all us classmates in school had chased me down 1700 km and into the same damn college out of the 250 odd colleges in Tamil Nadu alone. Here was a guy who was shameless to the core, uncouth, blatant and repulsive to the core. He was in the list of “The things I’d not want to see on my first day at college.”
And so started my college. I went into the campus all confused and dazed at which building housed my class and which class in that building was mine, trying frantically to find my registration number in each and every damn list fighting through the crowd. I finally reached my class. and picked up the last bench to seat myself. Looked around and found everyone speaking either in English or in Tamil. 2 guys entered and came next to me. I later knew them as Ajeesh and Praveen. Everyone was going “Hi, what’s your name, where are you from? I’m so and so, I’m from here and there, and I did this and that and scored more or less in my 12 boards.”
I sat there mum like a cabbage. The Lecturer entered and took the attendance and the rest of the formalities and declared the rules to us and informed that we’d be taken throughout the campus for a round. Everyone moved out and we kept walking. There were groups already formed. I knew none as I had missed on acquaintance in the hostel and day scholars were of course beyond scope. every bloody one was outside, I mean the whole mighty strength of fresher’s was out in huge groups going around the college. I was with my group for a while before I realized I’d lost track of them. and so I decided I’d rather keep joining random groups and see through the campus and get back the class once the tour was done with. I returned back to the building where my class was supposed to be but I’d forgotten how to navigate through the maze to my class. I found this guy who appeared to know his bearings and approached him, he spat back saying he too was lost. I just turned around to look for signs of hope and turned back again to see this guy nowhere. he’d just vanished into thin air. I was helpless, at least a min back I had a co-sufferer now I had none. (We Indians also like other humans like company. in fact we want it more than any other species of humans on this planet)
I soon found out my class and sat there. The day passed and I went to the hostel. I found none of my roommates in the room. and I found Rahul to be in the same floor and me. we ended up chatting and I got to know some details of what was going on in the hostel. I knew ragging was a culture and I couldn’t avoid it. My father had just this one thing to say the moment I dropped my suitcase in the room, he said “This is it, I can’t accompany you any further. You need to carry on from here on your own. I knew its going to be tough in the beginning but soon you’ll start loving it. Ragging is a culture in Engineering colleges so my advice is don’t come to the hostel till a day before college opens”. I’d heeded to that advice completely. I and Rahul kept chatting for sometime when there was some noise in the corridor. we moved out and Rahul enquired the reason for the chaos and discovered that it was past 9 and my roommate was not back yet. our entry time was 9 at night. some one claimed to’ve seen him being taken away by a couple of seniors away from the hostel. they’d contacted most of his friends and he was nowhere to be found. It was frightening to hear that right on the first day at college. We both got back into our rooms and decided to call it a day. In a few min my roommate was back and we discovered he was with one of his friends on the top floor. We went out and came back inside in bout five min. just then there was more commotion and this time there was a sound of a guy asking all the students to open up the doors and come out. We knew it was a ragging call. the lights were off and so we decided not to heed to the knocks on the door. The door was literally banged and punched hard. It sure was a frightening encounter for me. Rahul dint look very perturbed but deep inside he was shittin in his pants I knew. We kept mum till the banging stopped and what sounded like a meeting of sorts, started with someone talking bout the mess food not being good enough and stuff. We decided to walk out and found one of the PG guys abetting the protest for good food when we’d not even had a couple of meals. We heard his ramblings and then he asked us all to sign the so called grievance letter and we all did. Next day the guy was suspended on charges of inciting the crowd against the authorities.
That was the first day at college. Eventful and tiring. Left me wondering what was in store for the next four years. Strange how I remember so many details of it. Must’ve been more than just what I’ve expressed here to be so indelibly etched in my mind for 6 years now.