Did I tell you that I have fallen in love?

Did I tell you that I have fallen in love?

I have fallen in love with smiles. It started with the smiles of strangers which made me feel less lonely when I was alone. And then the smiles of acquaintances – starting slowly and then all of a sudden, as if recognising an old friend. And now, the smiles of friends. Smiles which greet me wherever I go. Overflowing with happiness and meaning.

Did I tell you that I have fallen in love?

I have fallen in love with walks. To be fair, I always loved walks. But never like this. These random strolls into nothingness where there is not a single person in sight. Walks reserved just for me and my thoughts.

Did I tell you that I have fallen in love?

I have fallen in love with my watch. It wakes me up and gets me going. It picks me up every time I fall. It guides me at every step of the day. It is the friend that I turn to when a lecture drags on forever. And it is the friend that I desperately hang on to when the starts time running too fast – begging and pleading to make it stop.

Did I tell you that I have fallen in love?

I have fallen in love with the light which peeps into my room through the window.

I have fallen in love with my dorm which I almost miss as much as I miss home.

I have fallen in love with CR7 which brings me close to my 90-member family.

I have fallen in love with the every day things which force me to stretch myself a bit more.

In short, I have fallen in love with life.

In all its glory.

I love its excitement. I love its warmth.

I even love its struggle and uncertainty.

I love life because it’s just the right fit for me.

Because life is, just like my thoughts, perfectly imperfect.

 

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The Night Walkers

Don’t worry, they said. Term 2 would be easier, they said.

Term 2, Day 1, 11:30ish pm, IIMA Campus

As I walk towards the placement office, I am joined by a few others stepping down from their respective dorms. And together, we, like an army of soldiers, march with determination to submit our applications.

Well not quite…

We do walk towards the office – but with our heads hanging in submission. It is just the first day – but tomorrow, we have 5 classes. With 3 cases to be prepared, 2 of which require powerpoints, homework from today, club work, and an already overdue assignment from the previous term – the day has just begun for most of us.

But you know what? Despite all of this, when people ran into their friends or classmates, they stopped to ask about their weekend. Despite all of this, right now, groups of people are gathering to celebrate the birthdays of their friends in different dorms. Despite all of this, Whatsapp groups are overflowing with easy banter and teasing. Despite all of this, we are somehow HAPPY!

Out of all the things that I will learn from this place, THIS will be my greatest lesson. There are good days and bad days. And of course, there are really bad days. But you can’t let those dampen your spirit. You just have to learn to enjoy the challenges, celebrate the surprises, and believe that things will get better.

Because in the end, we are all in this together. And we all will live to see another day…I think.

Rains and me

‘Anyone who says that sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain’

Rains have always been special for me. There is something about the pitter-patter of drops that draws me in.

Back when I was a kid, I would often sit in the balcony, watching a storm unfold, trying to weave a story into it. Or I would sit at my table, observing the drops glide down the window pane as I penned down my thoughts on paper.

Rains have become even more significant since I have come to Ahmedabad. They are no longer just miracles of nature. Instead, they have come to reflect important milestones of my journey on campus.

I still remember the first time it rained here. I had been living in the hostel for a little more than a week, struggling to keep up with the fast pace, and more importantly, struggling to fight the loneliness which threatened to engulf me.

I hated being alone. I was always either talking to a friend, or on the phone, or just sitting in the library (right in front of the door where I could see people passing by). I would come back to my room only when I knew that the moment I touched the bed,  the world would cease to exist.

Then one day, I was walking, engrossed in my own world thinking about how I would finish some work when I was shaken awake by the first drop of the season. And then it hit me. I had walked all the way to the library, all by myself.

That was the first time when I was truly alone. And yet, I was not so lonely.

A few days later, another bout of rain came. It was a weekend. I had packed my bag and was ready to go to the library for a whole day of studying. It was all planned. But as fate would have it, it was raining so heavily that I had to turn back. My clothes were muddy, I had almost slipped twice – the rain didn’t seem as romantic that day. But things worked out as they always do and one hour later, my friend and I were sitting outside our rooms, relishing some not-so-crisp pakodas with the not-so-warm chai, as the sound of rain meshed with her playlist to set the perfect background.

That was the first time I spent a whole day in my dorm.

I admit that rains are not always so friendly. Yesterday, my dreamy world collided with reality as drains started overflowing, walking became difficult on the waterlogged paths, and mosquitoes took a sudden liking to my blood – you get the picture. I was ready for it to stop and the scorching sun to come back.

But the thing is, I can’t stay angry with the rain for too long. It’s drizzling again. I am sitting in my room – but more out of choice than compulsion. As I write this, I am thinking about the past month and how quickly it has passed by. I am thinking about how my life has changed. How I have changed. How I have started doing things I had never thought I would be able to manage. And how I have probably taken another step towards being the person that I want to become.

Yes, tomorrow work would again threaten to pull me under, but so what?

Today, I AM HAPPY.

And maybe today, IIMA is finally home. 

The 13:45 Thrill

Every day, when the clock strikes 13:45, IIM Ahmedabad erupts into chaos.

Go to the mess, you’ll find students nervously checking their phones.

Right outside, there will be a group lurking around the noticeboard.

Walk around and every 10 meters, you’ll overhear the phrase, ‘aya kya?’

You might also come across some omniscient gurus declaring to their groups, ‘I am telling you, it can’t happen today. They haven’t circulated the slides yet’. Or some damn pessimists saying ‘It will definitely happen. The professor was clearly hinting at it.’

The ‘it’ is IIMA’s (in)famous surprise quiz which is announced at 13:45. You can’t possibly know which day(s) it will be announced. Worse, you don’t know for which subject it will be announced. So, every day, the campus is abuzz with, ‘You’ll see, today it will definitely be ID’, ‘No no, PS will happen’, and of course, ‘FRA won’t happen, right?’ Knowing smiles are exchanged in corridors. Professors’ remarks are dissected for clues. And greetings are substituted with pleas for remedial sessions.

One of our alumni once told us that even today, at 13:45, his body goes through a sudden sense of urgency. I am starting to understand why.

But different people have different takes on the concept. While some are ready to throttle the PGP officer, many feel that these quizzes prepare us for the ‘surprises’ that life throws at us. And then there are others who say that they simply make life interesting. No day passes us by in a slumber. The adrenaline rush slowly builds up throughout the day before reaching its peak at 13:45. Whatever it is, I think that very soon, it will become an ordinary part of our not-so-ordinary routines.

I have been wanting to write about my life at IIMA for quite a few days. But every time something would come up, and I couldn’t find time to do this. But I think it was for the best. Because what better way to start my ‘Chronicles of IIMA’ than with the legendary 13:45?

 

I am an ELSA

On Monday, I walked out of my college for the last time.

I had been imagining that day for quite a few weeks. I had thought about what I would say, what I would do, and even at what point I would not be able to stop myself from crying. It was the day when everything would end. When I would ‘graduate’, leave an all girls’ environment, and bid goodbye to those red walls and green lawns. Yes, I had a lot of expectations about this Monday.

When the day finally came, I went to college, reminisced some moments with my friends in the morning, and sat down in my classroom for the LAST paper of my undergrad life. Time flew by quickly, and before I knew it, the 10-minute bell rang. This is it, I thought to myself. In 10 minutes, my life would change.

9 minutes.

5 minutes.

4,3,2,1.. ‘Stop writing’.

It was over.

As I walked out of the examination room, I felt… well nothing. No nostalgia. No weight being lifted. Nothing at all. I hugged my friends, shared wishes, and even shed a tear or two, but I did not feel anything different. What was wrong with me?

I came home and stood in front of the mirror. I looked the same, sounded the same, felt the same. What had changed? Nothing. And yet, everything.

I had changed.

From ‘Feminists? You don’t find those kind of girls in my department’, to ‘I think I agree with the concept of feminism, but I don’t think I’ll ever call myself a feminist’, to  ‘There is one thing I can’t compromise on. Feminism.’ I had changed.

From the person who cried when she submitted her National Service Scheme form, to the person who can’t imagine a life without helping others, I had changed.

From the person who believed that she was the smartest girl in the room, to the person who marvels at the brilliance of the people around her, I had changed.

From the girl who entered a Women’s college with a lot of scepticism, to a woman who would have it no other way, I had changed.

I think Dramsoc summarised it perfectly when they said –

‘I have seen a lot of changes in the past three years. Good or bad, I don’t know. But the world seems new. I never questioned anything. My eyes were open, and yet closed. Jokes were jokes and concepts never mattered. But when I came here, I began to see things, question things. And now, I can’t unsee.’

Yes, I have changed. A lot.

While some might tell you that the magic of LSR is a myth, that it’s nothing but a bureaucratic setting which gives no voice to opposition, others will tell you that the magic is not in the institute but in its people. While some can’t wait for it to end, others struggle at even the thought of leaving.

You know what I think? I think that there is some magic in LSR. There has to be. How else can you explain the fact that at the end of the day, these not so like-minded people can sit together for a cup of coffee and spend hours arguing, fighting, laughing, and loving? I don’t know if the magic is in the walls, the lawns, the people, or the air. I just know that I am an ELSA. And that’s all that matters.

 

There is something about turning points.

Something exciting. Something terrifying.

I was having breakfast with my father, complaining about the coffee. He laughed and said, ‘What will you do when you move out? You know that you’ll have to make it on your own every day, don’t you?’

I was talking to my mother. She was scolding me about always leaving the bottles uncapped. I laughed and said, ‘What will you do when I move out? You know that you are going to miss these small things about me, don’t you?’

I was talking to my grandmother, asking her to ensure that she doesn’t accidently take my pillow because I can’t sleep without it. She laughed and said, ‘What will you do when you move out? You know that you can’t take it with you, don’t you?’

I was fighting with my sister over something. My parents laughed and said to her, ‘What will you do when she moves out? You know you are going to miss her the most, don’t you?’

I was sitting by myself the other day, thinking, ‘What will you do when you move out? You are ready for this, aren’t you?’

There is something about turning points.

Something exciting. Something terrifying.

There’s a time machine in my room!

After a long day of work, I walked into my room to get some ‘me’ time. But, as soon as I opened the door, I jumped. Smack in the middle of the room, stood a strange structure, something like a chariot.

Chariot?

In my room?

My first thought was to run in the opposite direction. But curiosity got the better of me, and I walked in. I sat down on the chair and suddenly a panel lit up in front of me –

‘Where will thou go? The future or the past? Choose wisely. This journey will be your first and your last.’

Hmm. Interesting. But surely it is fake. Come to think of it, how did it get into my room? Is this a prank? Should I tell my family?  

I started to call out to my parents, but stopped.

Just a minute. What if it is real? Like in the movies? I can try it out, right? What’s the harm in trying? I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

In fact, I should try it out. That way I can give a full report to my parents. Yes! I owe it to the movement for complete information. I am doing this.

Will it work? I don’t know. Worse case scenario, it doesn’t work and I make a fool of myself. Best case scenario? Well..

Okay okay. One try, that’s it.

Where should I go?

To the future? That would be great! I will skip this period of anxiety and struggle. I will fast forward to a month from now, all results will be out and vacations will start! Perfect.

But then I’ll have to go through a long wait for the next phase of life to begin. No no, let’s just directly skip to the first day of my job. 

But initially it might be very slow. I won’t get any responsibilities. I might not get a chance to meet clients. I don’t want to live through that frustation, do I? Let’s just skip to my first promotion. No, my first business award. No, my first self-built home. Aaah! Where should I go? At what point in my life will things reach a level where I don’t want anything more? Let’s say I decide to go to that point in time where everything I have desired has been achieved. Will a direct jump be even worth it? Will I be able to recognise myself in the mirror? Will I not become a supporting character in my own story? A character with no history and no future?

No, I don’t want to miss my journey from here to there. Not the future.

What about the past? I could go back in time to those occasions when I was happy. I could go back to my childhood when I jumped about without a care in the world. I could go back to the time when I first got on the stage. Or to the first time I stepped into college. Or my first research paper. Or my first team. Nah! What’s the point? I have already lived those experiences. I still relive them in my memory every day. Why should I get stuck up in the past?

Here’s an idea, I can go back to reverse my mistakes! To that exam I didn’t prepare for, to the time I disappointed myself, when I felt weak, when I was insensitive, or arrogant, or anything that I didn’t want to be. I can go back and rewrite my life story. But then, how will I grow? How will I build up my own treasure of learnings? My character has built through my failures, not the successes. I don’t want to lose that! Can’t go back to the past either. 

Then? Am I not going anywhere? 

Tsk tsk. Such a great opportunity and I am letting it go. Sighing, I got out of the chair and started to exit the room. Time to tell the family about this mysterious machine, it’s of no use to me in any case. What a waste!

But is it? Didn’t this machine just teach me the most invaluable lesson of all? Life is not just a collection of disjoint milestones. It’s the journey between them. It is the struggles, the daily experiences, the warm hugs of friends, the warmer smile of strangers. It is the fights with my sister over the remote, it is the debates with my colleagues, it is the satisfaction of getting the right answer, the pride in asking the right question, it is everything. It is the ‘present’, the place where I belong.

It is where I want to be.

I took one last look at the machine and walked out. I had realized – it is the journey that matters, not the getting there.

 

 

Madhushala (The Tavern)

‘Madiralaya jaane ko ghar se chalta hai peenewala,
Kis path se jaaoon asmanjas, mein hai woh bhola bhala,
Alag alag path batlate sab, par main yeh batlata hoon,
Raah pakad tu ek chala chal, paa jaayega madhushala.’

(Seeking wine, the drinker leaves home for the tavern.
Perplexed, he asks, “Which path will take me there?”
People show him different ways, but this is what I have to say,
“Pick a path and keep walking. You will find the tavern.”)

-Harivansh Rai Bachchan

Have you ever wanted something really bad? As bad as an alcoholic needs his drink? So bad that it ruled your days and nights? So bad that every step, every action, every breath, was taken to move closer to it? Isn’t that ‘something’ your madhushala? You, like the drinker, are out searching for it, trying to figure out the best way to get it. But you don’t know where to start! You ask around, your parents, friends, relatives, mentors, and anyone and everyone who is willing to give you a time of their day. Alas! Salvation never comes. You are left helpless, confused, and tired. You don’t know what to do.

What should you do?

The answer is quite simple. Just make up your mind and pick a path for yourself. Commit to it completely. Give it your blood and sweat, and everything you have. If you do, I guarantee, you will find your tavern.