It lasted for three years and if you count the ones that I lusted for it, then we settle at four. When something lasts for around a fifth of your life, do you not miss it, do you not wish to revive it, everyone asks. I curtly answer a ‘no’. Because I am talking of my affair with the college I did my graduation from. It is funny how much had my emotions changed between yearning to be there and having been there. It was a constant conflict that played in my head.
College was ‘that only is education that leads to liberty’ on paper. But it was a mandatory 66.67% attendance in practice. It was the hassle of having to do the mental math on attendance every time I wanted to extend my stay at home because 85% attendance meant 5 marks on internal assessment, the easiest 5 marks that you could make in any subject. College was the 8:45 am lecture that involved a boring presentation which was black letters on a white background and which almost always ended up in agonized rants.
College was unkind words, that I had believed until then, I was incapable of enunciating for someone in a teaching position. It was a teacher putting forth a question, ‘what is salary?’ and the answer I wrote in the notebook, ‘the amount that Satan pays you to kill the life out of this subject’. But then college was the Political Science lectures in the third semester where I voluntarily made a note of every word that the lecturer uttered. It was of understanding a different side of globalization than what Economics had drilled in my head, a side about the Brettonwood Conference, about the rise and collapse of the Asian Tigers, a side about the western countries tricking underdeveloped nations into the tentacles of liberalization, privatization and globalization in lieu of finance that they dearly needed. College was the wonderful human being who taught Corporate Accounting and Cost Accounting in the fourth semester. It was awe for her intellect, her maturity, her understanding of the world and her balanced approach that ranged from problem in the text book to a problem in the real world. It was the want to make the most of what she had to offer in the small time that we had together.
College was being a paying guest and witnessing the food run out every night even before having looked at it properly. It was substituting cup noodles and chips for dinner. College was sabut masur and nariyal beans every Tuesday in the mess. College was double coffee and egg toast from the cafe every morning in winters. It was endless rounds of coffee and coke every time you stepped in the cafe. It was the rush to adjust the Pizza Hut weekday meals in the one hour ECA break on Tuesdays. It was going to a nearby coffee haunt on the premise of looking for a peaceful spot to study for the law exam and end up warming the taste buds to french fries, chilly cheese and pasta. It was conversations and arguments with friends over ghar ka khana (home cooked food) in the hotel room.
College was watching the world celebrate the outspoken. College was rejection after rejection. College was the twitching nerves in every interview and the complexity of sounding coherent and convincing at the same time. It was the desire to be a lot of things and a lot of people. It was the acceptance of the inability to be certain things. It was making peace with the inherent flaws. It was constantly looking out of the windows in the hope of achieving a sense of direction. It was sitting on the hedges in the foyer as the sunlight washed over my back and simply ogling at the boards or at the people passing by. It was sitting there and thinking if there is a need to fit in the crowd and to madly rush into the future.
College was naming the folder of the farewell pictures, ‘The much awaited end begins’ on my laptop. It was the exhilaration at the prospect of freedom and the prospect of beginnings. But then college was the morning of hostel farewell and being woken up to chocolate biscuits and coffee in bed. It was the lengths of trouble that people had gone to ensure that the final lap in college was worth sitting down and to marveling at. It was the intricate invitation cards, the graduation caps in the foyer, the brilliant voice that sang Royals on the graduation night during the play, London Thumakda on loop at the dinner, the secrecy around the titles, the extravagant feast on the hostel farewell and the admirable dedication it was served with.
College was scotch on the rocks. It was being enticed by the caramel colored liquid and of wanting to experience the wonder it will work on you. However, it was the bitter notes hitting the tongue and the fire in your throat on the first gulp. It was what people tell you about alcohol, that you will come to savor it with time. It was the realization that whether or not you expect it to, it inevitably does.