(Okay, okay, so I this isn’t a BRAND NEW note. I confess I wrote it a year back, exactly 41 days after coming to XL. Only slightly modified for today’s reading.)
Do you remember how it first felt to come to XL? How was your journey? I’m someone who started out hating XL with every fibre of my being, and then sometime during my internship, fell in love with her. A Summer Internship Convert, as we’re called. 🙂 This is one take on my journey here.
On the 25th of March 2008, a small, bespectacled, nerdy girl from Chennai, South India cracked the interview to what is now officially India’s fifth, or fourth, or third best B-School (depending on which magazine survey you go by. We, at Xl, of course know there is no contest).
And Then There Was Pandemonium.
The very next morning, next door aunty throttled in at high speed and attempted to dislocate my cheekbones, all the while blowing kisses into the air. “I always knew you would make it. Such a studious child! Like my three daughters. Where to, IIM Ahmeddaaabad aa?”
Vaguely wondering how my mother had managed to trumpet the news by the unholy hour of six-thirty in the morning, I massaged my cheeks, convinced I would have to go in for cosmetic surgery.
“Er, no- XLRI.”
“Oh.” A disappointed pause. Furious thinking. Then, brightening, “That thing in Jam-shed-poor?”
“Exs-sellent place”, she pronounced. “Our Madhu’s sister-in-law Kripa’s friend Sandhya’s husband went there. Such an intelligent boy… You don’t go visiting the men’s hostels, you hear? The boys will come from North India”- a shudder- “one never knows what they may do.”
Evening, seven-fifteen or so. By this time, around seven million calls had come in, with callers alternately congratulating me, wanting to know if it was “the XLRI in Nungambakkam, Chennai” and expressing severe disappointment at the disclosure of Jamshedpur as my destination, warning me against cultivating ‘bad habits’, advising me to eat only the purest of vegetarian food, and expressing further thinly-veiled disappointment that I had not made it to the nearest local college offering an MBA.
“Very good college, SIET”, my uncle mourned. “Cheap, too. Very close by. I can drop you in the morning and pick you up also. No auto charge, even.”
“Uncle, it is a residential programme…”
“So what? Reside at home and complete it, no? Why should you travel all the way to Bihar”-
“Jharkhand.”, I interposed meekly.
He glared -“Jharkhand and study? God knows how the climate will be! And you have to stay all alone. Who will take care of you? By the way, it is an all-girls college, no?”
And then, in the middle of all the hullabaloo, there was the task of Packing.
Packing was mother’s domain. A tentative list was made:
1. Soap, shampoo, comb, talcum powder and other personal care items.
2. Meera Shikakai and Parachute coconut Oil- for traditional haircare.
3. Lots of clothes.
4. Priya Pickle bottles.
5. Wristwatch, mp3 player, a few books and the mobile phone.
6. One thousand seventy three other items, with about twenty-six being added every day.
My mother packed and re-packed, and re-re-packed, ably assisted by my sister who made lists and ticked off items and fetched and carried, while my father got the loan documents together and I supervised. My role consisting of chewing masala papad and alternately saying “Yes, I need that” or “No, I don’t”. All in all, a fair and just distribution of work, you could say.
As the D Day grew close, the entire family rallied together- formidable aunts and harried-looking uncles. It was the first ‘big thing’ in ages since the marriage of a distant cousin three years ago, and besides, it was ‘Ex-Yel-Aar-Ai’. Even if most of them were a little hazy as to where exactly it was and what I was going to study, it didn’t matter. It was supposed to be “top” and anything “top” associated with the family was a matter of pride. A parade of faces inspected me and pronounced that they had “known all along that I would go Somewhere.”
Where exactly, I wondered. Besides, atleast 70% of them had never clapped eyes on me before.
Finally the Packing drew to a close, mainly because there was no more space for an extra suitcase, handbag or backpack. On the night of the 11th of June, I boarded the Alleppey-dhanbad Express, accompanied by Sesha who advised me to Meditate Six Hours A Day. It adds peace to life, he informed me solemnly. And what about time for studying? Never mind about studying, he declared, with an airy wave of his hand. That should take care of itself.
One day and two nights later, I got down, groggy, filthy, and badly in need of a hair-bath, at the Tatanagar Station. And some thirty minutes later, reached the gates of XLRI, Jamshedpur, and collapsed under a shady tree at the entrance that seemed like a saviour at the moment. Father Enright Men’s Residence, I read, looking up at the nearest building. Next-door-aunty’s warning came to mind. Full of the rush of excitement that comes with starting something new and momentous, I stood up, picked up seven groaning bags and started walking down the path to Nilima Acharji Women’s Hostel, wondering what life was going to throw at me for the next two years…
It’s been about one year and 1.5 months since I got here. My hair is now washed (at intervals- don’t ask me how regular). Bodhi Tree has become a fond, familial part of life – to cry under, to grax, to simply lean back and listen to Raag Ahir Bhairav or the Beatles. The Father Enright men’s Hostel has seen far, far more of me than next-door-aunty would like.
And, So Far, the ‘North Indian’ boys Haven’t Done One Single Thing.
Well, one can only hope.