It’s been a year.
One year and a term, actually.
And nostalgia slowly unfurls, fashioning a path made of scattered memories and overheard comments, shared laughter, real fear, diappointment and growing maturity- like a series of photographs unfolding in glorious technicolor before my mind’s eye.
The call from XL, the jubilation, the call to Raghunath sir,- ‘I got a call to XLRI!’
The fraxing even before the interview.
The interview itself, 43 minutes, a marathon session, Fr. James Santhanam smiling and booming, “So, Ramaa… what would you do as an HR manager?” Me: “I’d hire people, pay them and if they don’t work, fire them.” Prabhal Sen being nice as ever. “Name just one public sector bank, one private sector bank and one foreign bank.” Me- “Er.” Pray fixing me with The Eye, and arguing for over fifteen minutes about the merits of Carnatic vs Hindustani music.
And then, the admit. Mad joy, rushing around, congratulations, shopping, nearly bursting with pride, like a lifetime of prayer had been answered in one letter.
Spontaneous bonding with other prospective XL-ers on Orkut. Gtalking. Nicknaming each other (Drama Ramaa). Laughing, trying to get over our little fears and insecurities and wondering about each other, Promising to ‘teach’ each other our graduation-related subjects once we were in XL, little knowing how useless graduation was going to be once we entered the B school world. about this new place called XLRI and how it was going to be.
Opening my mouth in a big O at the openly flirty Neha Sood and her antics on orkut. A littl awed at her instant popularity and the messages coming in from the men of my to-be batch.
Packing. A card from my then 10-year old sister, “We’ll keep in touch and be there for each other!” A big, warm smile, hiding a wobbly lower lip and some tears.
Leaving on the first of many 36-hour train journeys to XLRI, Jamshedpur- Tatanagar Junction.
A long, butterflies-in-my-tummy journey.
Reaching. The auto ride to XL. 90 rupees.
XL. The Bodhi Tree. Random junta gathered under it.
Nervousness. Greeting some people. Keeping slightly aloof, not sure how I’d be accepted.
Reading the white notice stuck in front of hostel- My room- 104, Nilima Acharji. Room-mate- Rashmi Kamath.
Deep breath-exhale. What would she be like?
Cleaning out room, wrinkling nose at cobwebs.
Entry Rashmi. Conservative smiles, handshakes (!)
A long walk with Rashmi (“Committed? Me, too! Since when?” Giggles.)
The first week- Prep Course.
And then- seniors arrival on campus.
Start Project Bhasad.
Fear. Who WAS this unknown in my batch who’d squealed?
Reverence and awe at Akshay Sinha and Aditya Kankaria. Such gentlemen! Cheap unknown batchmate. Curse him.
Watching Hema burst into tears.
Trigger–> Me crying, everything in sudden slo-mo, Aditya laughing, saying, “Chill!”, Priyanka Tandon hugging me, “It’s going to be okay, sweetie- relax”, the REALIZATION, fury at the ‘gentlemen’, feeling foolish, OHhhh!-ness.
WELCOME TO XL!
Bodhi Tree, EL, Dracula, SPIC MACAY- maximum committees enrolment. Cheers!
Term I. First D+, home-sickness, some wonderful seniors by my side, as well as batchies- Krishanu, Priyanka, Prasanna, Chaitanya – too many to name, feeling grateful, and lost, wondering at the same time.
Starting to take long walks around campus.
Subjects, assignments, SUMIT SARKAR!, Xl life, amazement @ Bishu-da, hanging out at Dadu’s, listening to seniors’ stories open-mouthed. Inability to speak a word of Hindi- constant ragging from several quarters.
JLT forbidden, rule broken, promises of bed-dunking.
First term break. Relief, escape, and yet- somewhere deep down- missing XL. Don’t want to admit it.
Term II. Less acad rigor. MG Jomon. EM Rao! Coming out of my shell, making friends, made some wonderful friends. Taking deeper breaths. More committee work. Smiling more. Spending more time at Bishu da. Long term relationship issues. Depression. Friends, acad work keeping me busy.
SIP. Discovering seniors and their value. Truly getting attached to them. Slot 1 placement- ABG. Excitement.
Second term break.
Third term. Kakani-ed.
The phenomenon called facebook. Looking around cautiously. By now, slowly settling in. Exploring the campus. Running my hands across the posters on Floor 1 of the Learning Center as I walk past- Dennis the Menace, Exploitation of Women Workers, witty sayings. Getting to know people better for who they really are- warm, friendly souls- Sumit, Priyanka. Much love. 🙂
Photographs to take home. Taking a video of the hostel randomly one day and all floor mates- people cursing as I video their non-made up faces, dirty rooms, eavesdropping shamelessly on random conversations and recording it all. Namrata’s room. The teddy bear discussions. Femina back issues doing the rounds. Giggles.
Too much. Shall put into words later.
Term 4. SENIORS.
Bhasad- our style. Endless Bishuda visits. Sleeping at 7 am. MCCD. Exec Comp. Aaarrrgh-ness. Giving Gyaan. Taking Sumit’s case. The Break-Up. Learning more about myself. Spending me-time. Slipping to a unique XL-style, “Mein senior hoon” lethargy. Better Hindi-speaking abilities –> compliments from all quarters. Better clothes.
Committee interviews- conducting this time. “Which was the last book you read? What was the last line on the last page of that book?”
Committee treats. Random dinners, as and when the mood strikes. Regent. Gossip. Novelty-NO! Boredom by now. Good old Chhapan Bhog, and the idly outside for Rs. 10 per plate.
4th Term break.
And the emotions take over, and my fingers type, my eyes smile, my mind races past memories woven together intricately, coming to rest on those unique, unforgettable ones. I break into a grin, thinking of all the people, and excitement, and thoughts, and days, and events, and promises, and comments in the past one year… every single moment… they all coalesce into one shimmering, warm image… one institution, four hostels, millions of memories.
My eyes break their faraway look suddenly. An XL-er pings on GTalk. I will be back on campus on Sunday again for Term 5.
I sigh. And smile.
Two more terms.