[Of Broken Bones]
For a month, in my university, the fields and the courts become stained with the blood, sweat and tears of my batch-mates.
For a month, the hospital right next to our university sees record revenues as the out-patient walk-ins increase three folds, attendance falls to almost a third and the sun bathed fields remain packed with scores of students cheering for their teams. It is the time of the greatest inter-section rivalry the world has ever seen, an exhibition of the choicest expletives ever invented on earth as heroes of the game battle it out to win which is, arguably the most prestigious tournament in the world. The intersection championship.
As is with war, there will always be casualties. Bones are broken and blood is shed – and most of our hostel is filled with people on crutches and bandages. When you don’t play for months and suddenly want to try out the Cristiano Ronaldo crossover like Monty did – it is bound to turn out potentially life threatening. Or say, when you are jogging down the dark alleys of the university – you are too focussed on the match ahead and fail to see the ditch right in front of you. Even the women, who are generally disinclined towards sporting events, join in on the fields and display mettle that is not seen even during the placement season.
Our class representative, Sobhan, was a good captain, on and off the field. His batting prowess rivalled that of Sachin Tendulkar, and his temperament was as solid as that of Rahul Dravid. However, when it came to injuries – he was our typical Michael Owen. Take for instance the time, when he left a deceptive out-swinger by lifting his arms in a Dravidesque stance and was left standing like that because he had dislocated his arm in a not so Dravidesque manner. Or the instance when he was keeping wickets in his famous twenty year old hat, and the not so accomplished batsman tried a reverse sweep and the bat came crashing down on his head. Sobhan refused to learn his lessons though – as he kept leading our team to accolades after accolades.
[Professors and their love for insulting you]
Professors adopt unique approaches to encourage students. Some like to give away chocolates, some like to take you out for a dinner and a drink while some like to send you out of class for misbehaving. Yet there are some who have the ability to make you question your decision to come to class, or why you were born to your parents in the first place. Our professor, who taught us economic environment of business, was among the latter. He would walk in tottering and his eyes would be red – he could cut you in half, with his mere stare of disdain. I mean, he wasn’t afraid to call a spade a spade – calling us out for what we were – guinea pigs, “horribles” and parasites who fed off our parents’ blood. Typical conversations would be like:
Professor: “So tell me, what were the effects of liberalisation in 1991?”
Me: A random answer which closely explains why we better explains why we are the number one test playing nation in the world.
Professor *rolling eyes*: “You, stand up” (Pointing at the unsuspecting Shounak, who was playing Hill Climb Racing® on his phone.) Shounak stands up, trying to figure out why I was describing India’s ascent to the top.
“Make a statue of your friend,” pointing at me; “Then get a spade, dig a hole and bury him.”
Shounak, who has always enjoyed watching me roasted, happily obliged.
[The Topic of Sex]
As Asians, one thing we are definitely not good at handling, as a family, is sex. Despite our constant (and late, in my case) exposure to educational and engaging videos as we grow up – we still struggle to come to terms with it, when faced with situations like your videos (something about doing someone’s mother and the likes) popping up on the recycle bin while your laptop is attached to the projector in a room full of professors and deans baying for your blood (circa 2011, Civil Engineering presentation.) Or take for instance the family road trip to Calcutta during the final year of my MBA.
One of my father’s colleagues had decided to offer us a ride to Calcutta, in his compact Zen Estilo. My father sat in front, while my mother, my sister and I (all of us were fat) sat at the back – cramped for space. At this juncture, my father suggested that we listen to some music. Knowing his choice in songs (he was still stuck in the 80s) and his equally pathetic voice to follow, I winced inwardly. Grudgingly, the captain of the ship obliged. I supposed the CD were broke – as there were only shuffling sounds in the background. I think I may have imagined hearing a zip unzip, and hushed voices. Assuming that it was all a set up for a song of the yore, I continued texting my girlfriend. I began to suspect something was amiss when I heard, what I could only imagine – was the sound of slurping and a woman’s muffled, incoherent voice. When that gave way to a loud periodic thwack and what I can only describe as the dying screams of a pig being skewered – I realised what was going on. I was in the middle of a nightmare, and I was stuck between my sister and my mother. I eyed the speedometer; the car was clocking eighty – as I began to calculate the increasingly impossible odds of surviving a jump from a moving car. Of course, by now – the elderly man driving the car must have realised what was going on. To make matters worse, my father said, “I have never heard such a song. What movie is this from?” I wanted to blurt out – “It’s porn, for fuck’s sake. Oh my God, someone give that man a medal!” Instead I watched in horror, as the music player began to malfunction – while the background noises reached a crescendo. By the time, the CD was extricated – we had been subjected to five minute of loud and passionate lovemaking. For the next few minutes, there was absolute silence as we sped under the ominous grey skies broken only by the constant patter of the rain on the windshield and the thunder rumbling in the distance.
[The Drunk Afternoon]
As our academic lives approached their conclusion – lecture hours grew shorter and hours spent walking and reflecting under the golden spring sun grew longer. Most of us would begin drinking from the afternoon – watching our batch-mates play their friendlies or simply lie on the freshly painted grass, looking up at the immaculate blue sky. As such, our wardrobes were almost always stocked with left over alcohol and the generous grass (the one that you find growing unabated on the hills of Kasol,) form the night before. We had begun to receive tidings of impending room checks to capture any contraband that we possessed. As fate would have it – after one such crazy party, when the rooms were overflowing with alcohol and grass, and we were still tipsy from the night before – we heard that our much feared fathers had decided to take out time from their busy schedule (often spent romancing among the flowers or dissolving committees that have existed for decades) and pay us a visit. Time was of the essence. D Block decided to convene an emergency meeting.
“The warden is coming in fifteen minutes!”
“Are you serious?”
“Yes! What do we do now?”
“Let’s throw out the bottles! Get the bikes!”
“That’s a lot of alcohol! Can’t just throw them out! Can’t we hide it?”
“There’s no time! They know where to look!”
“And what about the grass? There’s plenty to last two more philosophy* sessions!”
We looked at one another. We knew what had to be done.
The next few seconds were spent in washing glasses, making phone calls to distant blocks – whom we would otherwise dismember before they laid fingers on our whiskey. Soon, people that we had forgotten that they existed, began arriving. Over the next few minutes, the alcohol quickly made their way into our stomachs – and the wisps of smoke from our hostel could be seen from miles out. Eventually, all our fears turned out to be baseless as we heard that only the ladies’ hostel had been ransacked. Unfortunately for them – they did not have the presence of mind as we did. The outcome was a hostel full of inebriates, and discussions about déjà vu, moment of inertia of a crutch, Deathnote ® and Venn Diagrams about women’s minds. The evidence to that afternoon is well preserved with me.
Maybe one day we could reopen those discussions over a well-earned bottle of whiskey or two, with the same set of guys – made grey with time, still preserving the same degree of decency, valour and kindness in their approaches to life. We met under extraordinary circumstances, thrust into the foaming sea on a stormy night. Like greenhorns, we struggled – struggling to balance life, relationships and our careers. I was lucky that I had an able partner in Sampriti, who helped in weathering the tempest and mending the hulls of our broken lives and times. Eventually, when we learnt to master our individual seas – it was time to part, in the end – a life too short, but exhilarating and eventful.
(Tribute to the class of 2016, #XIMB)