Engi-nearing the End

20th May 2017

A lone standee banner stood next to the deserted canteen on the roof. Although the glass doors leading to the terrace tried their level best to adorn the place with the brightness of the Mumbai summer, the desolate canteen screamed of gloominess. The four of us stood there just reminiscing about our time in college. The staircase leading to the canteen had served as a seating area as well, and had been the place we frequented the most.

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As we walked down the stairs after the last examination of our student life, we were reminded of the memories and experiences spanning over the past five years. Eight storeys replete with our stories. We walked past the labs and recollected the funny memories – writing assignments and the lab experiments on A4 sheets, completing the submissions in the nick of time, messing with the equipment (and annoying the hell out of our professors), and especially the viva sessions which bore great resemblance to stand-up comedy programs for our professors. Life as we know it was coming to an end, and the best way to celebrate it was taking a walk down the memory lane (quite literally).

As we walked down the stairs we saw our classrooms and recounted the craziness those walls have witnessed over the years. From sitting between two classmates (during the first lecture of one of the strictest professors) who had a twenty-minute-long argument about the merits of reading Chetan Bhagat novels, to fun soft skill sessions where we competed as teams trying to build tallest “buildings” with blocks, and working on a derivation for a couple of weeks only to realize that the basic assumptions were flawed (and then disregarding EVERYTHING and repeating the entire effort once again), to the annoying Smith Chart problems that we rarely solved correctly, and finally, presenting in front of external examiners the mess of a research project. It felt like a flashback button playing the best memories getting activated – the internships that lasted for weeks where we learnt to work hard and party harder, the placement sessions (speaking of which – the super competitive group discussions), the feeling of immense relief while signing the spot offer letter confirming my acceptance, and finally, dancing our asses off in our sarees during the farewell. In essence, the college experience had been like a mini-version of life replete with ups, downs and bittersweet memories. Although it was very much different than what I had imagined my college life would be, it was an experience I will treasure forever.

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The end of our eight-storey journey brought us to the library (the heavenly place with infinite charging sockets where silence existed only in theory) and the girls lounge (which also doubled up as the meeting room for all the college events) where I learnt the most important lesson in life – “In the end, gravity gets us all.” The sound of the Dhol grew louder as we proceeded to the exit – the class representatives had organized a celebratory dance at the entrance to commemorate the end of our half-a-decade-long roller coaster ride.

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After dancing our hearts out in the scorching May noon getting our clothes drenched in sweat (and a policeman ordering us to disperse immediately), we clicked photos together for the #OneLastTime. The most memorable one was the class selfie, with the class rep shouting “Okay Class!” for the last time.

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As everyone scattered in different directions, I felt a void and a sense of numbness sink in – life as we know it had come to an end, and that our journeys are going to take us to different destinations. I sat in the rickshaw ride back home I felt empty, and finally FELT what Robert Lynd was trying to communicate in 12th grade – the reality weighed on me, like a hand laid on a top, making an end of the spinning, making an end of the music.

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End of an Era… Farewell ’17

19th April 2017

“I’ll be there for you…when the rain starts to pour. I’ll be there for you…like I’ve been there before. I’ll be there for you…coz you’re there for me too” sang the girls. I cheered and sang along with them the title track of F.R.I.E.N.D.S until my eyes almost welled up – although everything was just as it always had been, something had changed. My gaze shifted to my classmates sitting a couple of rows away, who were chatting and cracking jokes as they always did in class. When the band finally stopped playing, I realized that half a decade felt just as long as the snapping of fingers. The fact that the last semester of my university life was coming to an end finally sank in. The farewell celebration that my college organized for my batch was one I wouldn’t forget in a really long time – replete with endearing speech (and a slideshow of the batch’s funniest photos), beatboxing performance by a batchmate, dance tributes, and “shayri” sessions by one of our beloved professors.

The farewell was a collection of humorous incidents. The director of my course found a very interesting solution to the punctuality problems – we were asked to reach the venue by 7.15pm. For those who walked in late (presumably more than half of my batch) the dinner coupons were not distributed. We came up with a memorable solution to that – four of us ended up eating from a plate (“Jhoothe se pyaar aur badh jaata hai”)! The part that I loved the most about the farewell was the dance floor.

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The hall looked was exactly like a disco – with the strobe lights and the fog machine. I was amazed by the girls – dancing in a saree while wearing high heels is pretty much commendable. It was like a twisted Cinderella story – the DJ stopped playing as soon as the clock struck ten, and about a LOT of 20-somethings walked out dripping in sweat. My classmates enjoyed a nice photo session for the next half-hour at the entrance of the hall. The class photo was the best of them all – in addition to the liveliness and the explosion of colours, it captured beautifully the plethora of our emotions.

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As I walked out of the hall, a number of memories flooded my mind. Five years of sitting through lectures, writing assignments, struggling with practicals and lab sessions, racking our brains hard for the mid-terms and the dreaded final exams seem to have just come to an end. And so have last moment cancellation of lectures, not-so-original presentations, the ingeniously hilarious vivas, the impromptu movies (and that crazy trip to Lonavala). Somewhere between fighting on WhatsApp groups about people going AWOL before presentations and sitting for the final placements, we grew up. We walk out with our heads held high, and an undefinable bond joining us. As one of my close friends rightly pointed out – although this farewell may take us apart, we stubborn rascals will do everything to keep things from falling apart.

Celebrating a Visionary

15th August is an important day for Indians. It was on this date in 1947 that the British left India after about three and a half centuries. To me though, 15th August means more than the anniversary of the day we became independent. I celebrate the day as the birth anniversary of a visionary – Thatha ( my maternal grandfather), whose choices have uplifted and shaped many lives.

My Thatha was a human with the heart of God. My words are gravely insufficient to describe his greatness. He effortlessly played many roles – a father-figure, friend, pioneer and mentor to name a few. Even now, he lives on through us, inspiring us to do the same and guiding us to take his legacy a giant step forward.

The first thing I remember about him is the glow in his eyes when he saw us during our summer vacations. He was always waiting there to receive us, sitting on the sofa near the swing, reading Deccan Herald. There was always an infectious smile on his face – a smile I will miss every second of my life.

I admire the way he organized his things. He preserved the smallest of things, no matter how old. The way he maintained everything he had – his electronic gadgets or the medical reports of his children, could really put most of us to shame. I will always be a fan of the perfectly manicured lawn and the beauty of the Mayflowers that grew at the edge, apart from the cacti on the compound wall. Creativity ran in his veins. He designed household furniture depending on the practical day-to-day usage. I can visualize him designing one of the wardrobes in the storage room. The latest idea I saw was that of a newspaper holder made of a PVC pipe, so the newspaper wouldn’t get wet in the rains.

He was always there to help us when we needed him, be it with our projects, assignments or with the civil-related problems. His mere presence reassured us that everything was going to be fine. The thing that I admire even more is that he wouldn’t think twice before asking us for help if he was facing any difficulty with any of his gadgets. His love for learning inspires me to aim higher in life.

There was never a dull moment in for him – there was always something interesting to learn or do. He had the latest Apple gadgets with the latest software updates. We would discuss about the most interesting apps in the iStore. The more I learn about him, the more amazed I am.

He will always be the brightest star in the sky – our guiding light, helping us to be better individuals, and encouraging us to make an impact on others, the way he made an impact on us.

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9th July 2013

The best word I could possibly use to describe Thatha is “Pioneer”. His life has been and will always be an inspiration to others. His teachings and accomplishments act like a spark, igniting passion in other minds to achieve their goal and to bring out the best in themselves. His presence, in person or in spirit, is a guiding force for others. I remember Thatha to be kind, cheerful, hardworking, strong and highly optimistic.

As individuals, we all touch and affect the lives of people around us in some way or the other. The smallest choices we make today might have an everlasting impact on a lot of people. Born of a humble family of traders, the most difficult decision for him must have been to choose education over village life. I really respect and admire him for encouraging the education of his siblings and for taking the initiative to give them good start in life. There is nothing any of us can do to repay him for this gift.

Grief, gratitude and remorse are the most prominent ones in the variety of emotions running through my head since I heard about his passing.  Grief, as I won’t see him again; gratitude, because he doesn’t have to suffer anymore and because he is now in a better place; and finally, remorse coz I could have spent more time with him. I take solace in the fact that I had a lot of happy memories, the most vivid ones being the Murudeshwara-Coorg trip last June.  I really enjoyed being with my grandparents. My native place is never going to be the same without him.

One of the greatest things about him was his adaptability. Besides facing all the curveballs life threw at him with a broad smile, he had a childlike curiosity to learn about the newest gadgets available. This is something very rare as I have observed that most elders are technophobes. He had the latest Apple products – be it the iPhone or the iPad, and took enough care to avoid a single scratch on them.

Before I conclude, I would like to share the most favourite memory of mine. Thatha had set up the sprinklers in the front lawn and we cousins spent quite an amount of time playing with it. This will always be one of the best moments of my childhood.

Thatha will always be the guiding light of our lives. It’s now our duty to take his legacy a step forward and take our family to the next level.