At the College Gate…

xaviers gate

Standing at the college gate you wonder what your future holds in store….looking back at the college walls I remember my first day. 

A letter I wrote to my past self. It has been published on Campus Diaries, an online self-expression platform for the youth, but please do check it out. And I hope you like it.

https://campusdiaries.com/stories/at-the-college-gate

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Just Be – the Conundrum of a First-Year College Student

The four years of my high school I spent in studying as hard as I could….so that four years down the line I could get into my dream college, and I did. I topped my class, passed out with flying colours and a lot of accolades, and before I knew it, I was standing at the gates of the college I had always wanted to get in, doing the course I wanted.

I should have been happy — but instead I felt lost. Where do I go from here? I wasn’t the only one. A few of my friends reported feeling similar symptoms of lethargy. We had lost the drive, the one goal that had been guiding our life till now. I lost interest in studies. Everything felt worthless. I tried planning for my career after college, but the road beyond the three years of college seemed so dark and gloomy, so full of unexpected twists and unknown obstacles, that thinking about it gave me goosebumps and panic attacks. I was almost in the midst of an existential crisis. I had spent most of my teenage life driving at breakneck speed towards this destination, and now that I was here, I had no idea where to go now.

It struck me quite suddenly, randomly out of the blue, but one day I just shook myself:

What are you so melancholic about? This is where you wanted to be for the last four years. You worked hard to reach here, and now that you are here, you are thinking of what to do when you leave?! 

Idiot! (Being me, I am allowed to call myself names 😛 ) Enjoy these three years to the fullest. Revel in the glory that is today. The rest will sort itself out, as and when it happens. Don’t think about that. 

Just BE!

Things You See On Mumbai Locals #5: The Hand of the Modern Indian Woman – The Best Of Two Worlds

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From in between the half a dozen Nike and Adidas armbands, the symbol Oum tentatively peeks out

…..

– this is the arm of the modern Indian woman. The red tikka or vermilion mark contrast sharply with her GreenDay t-shirt. She is just as punctual for the first day, first show of the latest Tom Cruise thriller, as she is for every puja or religious ceremony in the temple. She revels in her culture and is unapologetic of her bold sexuality.
The way the young girls in Indian metropolitan cities have assimilated the modern day trends with the traditions of the past is admirable and worthy of being written about.
In my college, for instance, girls have the option of choosing between two ways of dress – ethnic or western. A girl can, if she so chooses dress in tight figure-hugging jeans and a tee or a short black dress, but she would look just as attractive in an azure blue salwar suit with silver lace on the duppata and dangling silver earrings, with a tiny diamante bindi to finish the look. You could also, and many do, combine both forms and mix ‘n’ match – an ethnic kurti over jeans, a duppata thrown casually with a dress, or something as insidious as a traditional block printed dress or a tie and dye shirt….options abound, and the modern Indian woman is determined to make best of all of them.
If you move from her wardrobe to her food habits a similar fusion prevails. For instance, today on the train it was the birthday of a passenger. She is in her early 40s and travels regularly to work with a group of her middle-aged friends, who all wished her with a chorus of ‘Happy Birthday!’ today. She distributed packed chocolates and wafers among them, and they gifted her a packed red box that contained coconut barfi. Or the other day, I overhead a 30-something woman tell her friend that the manchurIan balls she prepared for her son’s birthday party had been praised by all, as had been the rice payasam she had cooked.
Just like the sacred thread which hides underneath the more modern accessories, underneath the modern exterior, the Indian woman has preserved her heritage and culture. Over the years, instead of discarding one for another, we have chosen to learn from all that’s new and modern while not forgetting the wisdom of the ages. Be it in her wardrobe or her kitchen – the modern Indian woman has skillfully fused the best of both worlds.

It’s Been Too Long

With the cool evening breeze, a waft of nostalgia drifted into my room today. Fond reminiscences of my high school friends came to me, and I had a sudden desire to pen down all the memories that were crowding my mind, insisting that they be heard. This semblance at poetry was the result.

It’s been to long since I had an ice-cream with you in the cloy summer heat,
It’s been too long since the long walks home down the empty street,
It’s been too long since I laughed so hard that the nearby trees shook –
And the birds took to flight, all a-clamour,
Indignant at having their siesta disturbed.

It’s been too long since the last plate of shared pani-puri,
The last time we argued about the merits of Harry Potter over Twilight –
Like we were discussing the fate of the world!

It’s been too long since we shared songs over our phone’s Bluetooth,
Since we talked in hushed whispers under the librarian’s nose,
Since we giggled over certain words and talked about others in an awe-struck whisper,
Been too long since we discussed our futures on the playground swing!

Back then, life seemed so simple,
The future just within our reach,
All we needed was to pass the exam, and the world would be ours.
Grand dreams, solemn promises to never lose touch,
Promises fade, only memories don’t….

Been too long since I laid out the tale of my heartbreaks to you,
And you with a sympathizing air told me:
All boys are fools. You are better off alone“.

Been too long since we bunked of class,
Since riotous games, crazy dares and long hours of playing charades,
Been too long since our group studies, where we did everything but study.
The marks are inconsequential now when balanced against the memories.

The last laugh, the last cry still echo in my mind.
It’s been too long since, dear friend, we relived those memories in time.

The Room of Requirement

Today’s Daily Prompt: An extra room has magically been added to your home overnight. The catch: if you add more than three items to it, it disappears. How do you use it?

My own room!! Oh yay!! Been waiting for that for so long. 

Hmm…only 3 items are allowed :\ Ah, that’s okay, we will manage. All I need is:

  1. My Laptop with a Good Strong Wi-Fi Connection: So that I can type away to my heart’s content, update my blog posts, chat with friends, download e-books, watch films and videos. 
  2. My Diary: As much as I love the rhythm of my keyboard, it really can’t compare with the magical melody of my pen’s nib scratching against the blank white paper, leaving beautiful inky designs behind. Looking at a blank white page in my diary always gives me an adrenaline rush – if you keep a diary too, maybe you can empathize. A blank white paper today will be stained and etched with my heart’s dearest secrets tomorrow. Events I can’t even imagine today is already destined to be etched onto that page in the future. How can one not find that exciting?! 
  3. My Mp3 Player: My third love (after reading and writing) is music, so having my mp3 player with me at all times is a must. In this room, my own secret lair, I can blare my favourite songs at the maximum possible volume, and maybe even sing along (I hope the room comes with soundproof walls 😉 )

There my Room of Requirement is designed. Now, where is that extra room??????

Talking about the Future on the School Bus

10320348_757120340986332_8630196627970622781_nHave you ever wondered why we only remember snippets of our memories? Like one precious moment in time we managed to catch just before it slipped away, and stored it in the treasure chest of our minds. It might be a little dusty with time, but the essence remains pure.

This is one such memory carefully preserved in my memory box – the details are a little dusty, but it is still cherished.

What do you want to be when you grow up? – the favourite question of every adult whom you met. Today we had just written a paragraph in class on what we wanted to be when we grew up, and the topic was still fresh in our minds. By we, I mean me and my two best friends – who for the sake of anonymity, I am calling S and M. 

“So” I asked, looking out of the school bus window, at the receding building, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” 

“You tell, first”, M demands, testing the waters, testing if it is a trick question.  We were only 4 years old. 

“I wanna be a doctor” I replied proudly. “Like my uncle. He stays in London”. I never knew which held more fascination for me – the profession or the distant land, synonymous with all the magical places I read about in books (maybe that is why when I finally visited the city, a few years ago I was vaguely a little disappointed). Whatever the case, that was the only career path I knew of and deemed fitting back then. 

Now, S followed, a little tentatively, “I wanna be a teacher”. We turn up our noses. Being a teacher is the worst thing you could want to be at that age. A teacher was a wooden ruler wielding monster back then, who mercilessly gave homework to students. “Not any teacher”, she is quick to defend. “A good one, like Rina Miss. I will help students. I will be kind and never shout at them”. This was, still understandable. Rina Miss was all of our favourite teacher. She was kind, and always took extra interest in the underdogs – those who were bullied in the playground, those who didn’t seem to have friends, those who had problems at home. She would call them and talk to them at length. Sometimes she would give us chocolates and small gifts like pencils or ball-point pens (a rare privilege allowed to kids). She would take interest in what books we read and what films we saw, and when another teacher scolded us, it was to she who wiped our tears. 

Now it was M’s turn. She proudly puffed up her chest – “I want to be a wife!” We broke into peals of laughter. Marriage only had two meanings for us – 

  1. A game to play with when we were playing with our dolls.
  2. An occasion where we had to go dressed up and would be served tasty food, and would have our cheeks pulled by a dozen people we never remembered meeting. 

Once we managed to resume seriousness, we gave some serious thought to the question. “You will have to leave your parents”, I said gravely. As a girl, that was the biggest obstacle to marriage, in my opinion.

“I won’t”, M said, confidently. “I will make my husband leave his house, and come to live with my parents. My mother said that long ago that is how it happened. Men left their houses after marriage to come, stay with their wives”. (I have thought of this strange piece of knowledge for long. I guess my friend had misunderstood, or maybe her mother was talking about matriarchal societies)

“That is such a nice tradition!” I said. “Why did they change it? Why did our mothers shift residence after marriage?” 

For a moment we ponder this incomprehensible question. This ridiculousness of our mothers. “My father has a nice house” S said, almost defensively. We all were quiet. We couldn’t really debate this topic, without debasing either one of our parents, so we left it.

“When we get married, we won’t be like our mothers” I decide. “We will bring our husbands to our home. I will never leave my family!” images (1)

More than fifteen years has passed since this conversation took place. None of us are married….yet. I am pursuing a journalism career. M is pursuing English majors, and S just cleared high school. Very little remains of that ignorance and confidence now. Back then, all insurmountable problems had a simple solution. Sometimes I wish I could view life as simplistically now too.

(This post is in response to today’s Daily Prompt: Futures Past)

 

 

 

Moving Into Sunshine

jennifer-pendergast4I set down my suitcase and stare at the stone portico. I stand in the shade, overwhelmed for a moment by memories, cruel till the end, unwilling to let go. I remember a dimly lit room, torn scribbled in books, the wail of shattering glass and the sharp crack of a leather belt.

Then the moment passes. The leaves flutter in welcome, flashing smiles of orange, gold and green. The breeze wafts through my hair – like a caress. It brings with it memories of bedtime stories and lullabies from a long-forgotten childhood.

I clench the scholarship letter tightly, and walk through the university gates, to a fresh start, away from my step-father. It’s all downhill now.

This story is posted as a part of the Friday Fictioneers.

Let’s Teleport!!

Today’s Daily Prompt says: Your local electronics store has just started selling time machines, anywhere doors, and invisibility helmets. You can only afford one. Which of these do you buy, and why?

SquareVendor-AnywhereDoors

A nearly impossible choice in my opinion, but if I had to pick just one I think I would buy the anywhere door. I mean I would love a time machine or an invisibility helmet, but I want an anywhere door the most. As a child, one of my favourite books was ‘The Wishing Chair’ by Enid Blyton – a chair that could take you to any place you want. I always dreamt of owning it, but an anywhere door will do too.

Here are the 6 reasons I chose this product over all the others:

1. I love travelling but hate crowds or traffic. With the anywhere door I can visit the entire world in fractions of a second. I could study in Oxford, party in Las Vegas, shop in Paris, and stay at some beautiful place in the countryside, without worrying about travelling time. I can even visit exotic locales like the top of Mount Everest, or the deep recesses of the Amazon Rainforest, without breaking a sweat.

2. I would get to sleep in for longer. If I cancel out the time I spend in travelling every day, I could probably have more than an hour left on my hands. I could sleep in, watch TV, read a book, really the options are endless.

3. I would never be late for any appointment, ever. No more running in late to class, muttering hasty apologies to the professor as he glares at me with livid eyes. I would get up, get dressed and just open the door – tada! I am at college.

4. I can attend all my favourite concerts, movie premieres, book signings, fairs or any other event, even if they are happening across the globe. Shopping would be so much cooler with this – pick up bread from France, olives from Italy, milk from Gujarat and chocolates from Switzerland. The best of the entire world right at my doorstep, literally. 

5. I will never be out of touch with my friends and family. I could pop down for a visit, any time I like.

6. As the product specifies ‘anywhere’ I could even visit fictional places from books, like Hogwarts, Narnia, The Enchanted Forest, Camp Half-Blood…..the possibilities are endless. Get me my Anywhere Door already!!!

Turning 18

ImageSo two days ago was my eighteenth birthday, and just like that I crossed over the threshold of childhood to adulthood. And now, two days into my life as an adult I still don’t know how and when time passed. As a child like most of my peers, the only thing I wanted was to grow up – to be an adult, independent to take my own decisions. There were so many things I dreamed of doing ten years ago at this time – cook like my mother, use a knife to cut vegetables, learn to light a match, go to the shops on my own, go to college, stay up late – small dreams of the forbidden. Now that I finally am an adult why doesn’t it feel so? I haven’t yet had any over-night epiphanies nor have I realized the deep philosophy of Life. I don’t feel grown-up and not at all matured or wise, yet I am supposed to be so, am I not ?

There were no fanfares and trumpets to welcome me into the world of grown-ups. Nothing around me seems any different than two days ago, except small things here and there. No longer do I have to climb a chair to reach the top rack in the kitchen. In that one moment when I look around myself from the eyes of an eight-year old me, I feel like Alice felt when she ate the cake that made her taller. I remember looking up at my teachers, my parents, now I stand shoulder to shoulder with them, and yet I am not half as wise as they are. The old picture books in my bookshelf have been replaced by huge, drab volumes that contain hardly any pictures. My old soft toys and worn out barbies are arranged neatly on shelves, no longer gateways of my imagination. Nowadays, sometimes it is almost unthinkable to me that once upon a time I considered these plastic figures with glassy buttons for eyes to be my playmates, my friends, that I kissed them goodnight, and wished them good morning. The eccentricities of a child!

When I look at old photos I get a brief glimpse of how much things have changed. My parents’ faces have become more lined, parts of their hair have become grey. I don’t fit in my mother’s lap anymore, and it often seems fantastical that I ever did. My father doesn’t lift me up in the air now, and the one-sided acquiescence both reluctant and otherwise I was used to as a child, has now transformed into lengthy debates and discussions between me and my parents. My country now deems me responsible and mature enough to decide to a certain extent its future, to elect a leader worthy enough of leading my country, but politics is still as confusing to me as trigonometry was only a few years back.

Of course there are certain things to look forward to, but adult life comes with such huge responsibilities that I am not sure I can handle, and sometimes all I want is to run back down the time line to my carefree past. I feel like I am standing upon a cliff, where behind me lies my past and all that I have experienced, while in front of me lies the murky depths of an unknown future. And I don’t know whether what I am feeling is apprehension or anticipation.

On The Last Day Of Exams………

The final bell rings, the examiner’s voice echoes through the room ‘Keep your pens down’ – it is almost like she is asking you to keep your gun down!

The paper is taken from your hands, its gone………..and that’s when you realize that its all over. All those months of studying, of frantically making notes (most of which you did not have time to read that morning), all those hours spent in class, the eternity you spent at the desk, mugging, learning – culminates into these last three hours, and it is all over!! You are free, free to do as you like.

The battle has ended, peace has returned, and though you don’t know whether you won or not, you are just happy that it is over, finally, wonderfully, gloriously, remarkably, unbelievably over.The long walk through the forest has ended, the long night is over, as is the steep climb, now all left to do is drop our burdens and breathe in the pure, serene air of freedom and wonder where next shall you journey, which college, which course, so on and so forth. But maybe before carrying forward, a backward glance at the road you have covered. True that there thorns and burrs all over it, but there were also roses. Roses, whose smell you are gonna miss.

Today my higher-secondary exams ended (stating it explicitly, just in case you didn’t get it), and as I stood in the school hallway with my fellow veterans, discussing the gruesome war and the fierce attacks of books, I remember the first time I walked in through these gates which I would be crossing today for the last time. Shy, inhibited, scared but determined I had entered, and leave a new person. Along the way, I have made wonderful friends, some rivals too, but then life is only half glass full. This will probably be the last time we all will stand together under the same roof. Everyone is all smiles today, discussing their vacation plans and exchanging promises to keep in touch. I will never sit in this classroom again; never again shall we sit in the library talking in hushed tones, under the baleful glare of the librarian, who every now and then hisses like a snake at you; no more standing in the long line at the canteen haggling with the lady behind the counter over change. I will not walk down these familiar paths again the days triumphs and regrets still fresh in our minds. The ice-cream parlor – the haunt of the school children, the stairs where we would hide after bunking classes. The jokes shared, the secrets confided, the stories, the gossip, the scandals, the guffaws in class and the elaborate lies woven to fool the teachers – all are now just a bouquet of nostalgia.

In the end, I don’t know what marks I will get or what college I will get into, and I don’t have the faintest whiff of where I am going to end up in life, but what I do know that I am going to miss these times. The biggest irony is till yesterday, I couldn’t wait for it to be over. Now, I wish it could have continued forever………….

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