Sunday, May 06, 2007

Remembering Those Years

Exactly six years ago to the day, my life changed. By evening, the various coaching institutes had already come up with the solutions and the indications were fairly good. Sitting today in my home in Bangalore with one of my flatmates, with nothing better to do on a Sunday night than the usual, I cant help but think about those years that lead to it all .

School was...well...easy. I was a good student, had the best set of friends to hang out with, the teachers knew me and my parents never complained about anything. I didnt know what failure was. I didnt know that life wont always stay the same. The last two years in school were madness. Get togethers, farewells, parties, cricket; the fun never ended. What hastened it was that one of the most (ok, the most) popular girls in our batch was leaving school to study in Singapore. That was the perfect trigger to the festive spirit that continued till the end of 12th grade and a little more. Classes became a mere formality and even the teachers understood that. Especially our English literature teacher who taught Hamlet to almost empty classes. In fact there was just one boy who regularly attended her lectures sitting in between all the girls who by nature were more sincere than the boys. We made so much fun of him that he was often on the verge of embarrassment.

Anyway, we used to arrive almost an hour before the official assembly time and play what we termed as Australian Cricket. The most striking part of the entire exercise was that a 2 feet, cylindrical bamboo stick substituted for the bat which meant that edges flew thick and fast. We therefore had a slip cordon in place for all the edges. Laboratory windows were broken more than once and we went to apologise to the Vice Principal demanding a second innings! It helped that we were the 'bright' boys in school and so everything was forgotten and forgiven pretty soon. A few classes were also attended in between all the fun and laughter. Then there were the quizzes for which some of us were officially allowed to bunk classes. Lunch was quite often taken at one of our friend's house which was a 2 minutes walking distance from the school gate. Again there was some cricket that followed which on occasions extended well after the lunch period was over. In fact, I remember one occasion when the Principal on his way to school after lunch spotted us playing cricket when we should have been attending classes! What I dont remember is how we explained it. Classes got over at around 3:30 in the afternoon but school didnt. It was time to either play some really silly games or go to the nearby Vora Brothers to have soya chilli and some Pepsi.

Till the time Neha left for Singapore, we had lost count of the number of parties that we had had at each other's homes and at times in the school. It was the best time spent in school. The farewell was happening a year in advance and all because of her leaving. People got closer to each other, understood each other in a different light. Some people cried when she left, some fell in love with her, it was all very emotional and dramatic at times. She left sometime in the December of our 11th grade, after celebrating her birthday; before celebrating mine and so I made her promise to send me the first postcard from there.

In between all these, there were the Physics, Chemistry and Maths tuitions. We changed tutors and made our life hell by attending tuitions in the wee hours of the morning even during the rains and the winters in search of something we werent even very sure about (or at least I wasnt very sure about). But even the tuitions were made out to be more of fun activities than educational ones. Laughing behind our tutors, imitating their mannerisms, even laughing at how we didnt have a clue about some physics problem, we didnt realise that we were about to get the shock of our lives. What helped keep us in this illusion was the confidence our peers and teachers had in us. We were supposed to clear all entrance exams easily. There was never a doubt about it. Even slam books (that sounds so childish now!) were full of references like...'when u get into such and such college...'. So the cricket and the parties continued as a huge chapter in our lives drew to a close.

I vividly remember the day my father left me in a private hostel from the balcony of which I could see the Convocation Hall of IIT Delhi. It was a tough decision. The urge to leave everything and join DU was overwhelming. I was never a fighter. Things either came easily to me or didnt at all and I saw my first failure in life as an indication of the fact that it was not meant to be. I never saw it as a result of my foolishness, my overconfidence and my extreme optimism. My first reaction was, what the hell... I have a good percentage.. let me get into Stephen's and study Maths Hons. So standing in front of Hindu along with my father, almost ready to fill out the forms while all of my friends were either preparing for life in IIT or dropping a year in pursuit of it, he asked me one last time about my decision. I have always been instinctive when it comes to decision making and so I said the first thing that came to my mind. I said 'Ok dad, lets give it one more try.....'.
Anyway, that day when he was leaving, he just said one thing. He said 'Son, you never really deserved it this time around. You never tried hard enough. With all this fun and frolic, it was always going to be an uphill climb. Anyway, thats history. If you want to do anything this time around, just try.... a lot harder and you can get it.'
I cried. I cried for what must have been about 5 minutes. Non stop. Not because I had failed. Not because I hadnt achieved what I had set to. But because I had let down my parents and all those who thought I was capable of it. Because prior to that moment I hadnt even felt bad about it.

The year went by amidst some serious studies and realising the mistakes of the past year. There were several trips to home. There was VVS Laxman's epic innings in between. New friends were made in the hostel. I grew up. A lot. Living alone, caring for myself, cutting out on the fun things in life to achieve something. These were totally new experiences for me but I somehow managed. The experiences of that year, the ups and downs, the agonies and ecstasies are too much to put in this post.

The last day before I would leave for home having done with all my entrance exams, we were having one last bakaiti session. All of us had done reasonably well in the exam and so were expecting a call. The brightest amongst us by a long way had his birthday on the 18th of June, the same day the top 1000 would have their counselling session at IIT Delhi. I told him, 'Chal yaar, milte hain 18th ko Delhi me tera birthday manane.....'. He didnt make it.

There are a lot of factors that affect our lives. Instantaneous decisions, luck, surroundings, circumstances. In hindsight everything looks much more clearer. The mistakes that we made, the what ifs. But thats life. These lines from Rushdie's Midnight's Children put it aptly.

Reality is a question of perspective; the further you get from the past, the more concrete and plausible it seems - but as you approach the present, it inevitably seems more and more incredible. Suppose yourself in a large cinema, sitting at first in the back row, and gradually moving up, row by row, until your nose is almost pressed against the screen. Gradually the stars' faces dissolve into dancing grain; tiny details assume grotesque proportions; the illusion dissolves - or rather, it becomes clear that the illusion itself is reality.

Those were memorable years. In more ways than one. I dont want to get into the paths I could have taken other than this. That's not the point. Remembering those days which have largely shaped the person I am today, is.


BehindKlosedDoors said...


anonymous coward said...

I dont even know what to comment about the post since it was quite flawless.

I think that all of us need a kick in the butt when we start getting complacent. One should never rest on the laurels of the past. But the hard work done in the past; which made possible the present should not be forgotten. Any action/inaction in the present which squanders the hard-earned fruits of past actions is deplorable.

"Thy business is with the action only, never with its fruits; so let not the fruits of action be thy motive, nor be thou to inaction attached." Gita: Chapter II-47.

sunny said...

nice one again :-)
Nice choice of quote....everything perfect in this post..and true. Had a similar situation after 12th, and did something similar...

Shreyas said...

awesome post :) of the best to my understanding, thtats the real atish talking...
although i had a contrary perception about you...i remember you were very judgemental of Bansals and actually left midway to join VM. I thought u were the arrogant maggu types.
The drop year is something most of us have the same story.
The day results were announced for 2000, my uncle had his 25th anniversary and all the fmily was celebrating, firecrakcers bursting, people having fun, infinite sweets...but i took a moment to cry, for 5 minutes and 'cleansed myself'.
The rest, as cliche would have it, is history.

Captain Subtext said...

The post made my day! Coming here in the middle of mindless work at office was worth it.