Part 1- The First Night
As the aeroplane touched down on the runway of Indira Gandhi international airport, a plethora of emotions,. Predominantly joy and fear kept me preoccupied. I knew my life was going to change, for better or worse, I still had ample time to figure that out.
Drop me off at the Hostel first, you guys can go to the hotel later.
I was trying to reason out with my parents, while waiting for my luggage. The wait lasted for a lifetime, not in real time, but only inside my head. My parents decided to ignore my plea. They have already decided that the hotel would be their first stop, I knew I could never change , no matter how hard I tried.
The people around me, were exactly like me, in their own world, without a worry about the real world. The only difference between then and me is that, they spoke a language which I could neither speak, nor understand. Those were the days when Hindi was still believed to be the national language of the country and feminism was still considered to be an elitist movement, reserved exclusively for women.
As we boarded the ancient, blue coloured omni, my journey to he next phase or life, officially reached the next phase.
The traffic in Delhi, can be a great source of enlightenment. Buddha attained enlightenment, when he sat under the bodhi tree, for many reasons, the Delhi traffic was similar to the bodhi tree, it blesses you with the gift of enlightenment, maybe modern philosophers were blessed with the gift of enlightenment when they were stuck in traffic, on the Delhi roads. Most people stuck in the traffic will never get entitled in life, I thought. Their minds were clouded with the thought of when would the traffic clear, so that they would reach their destination faster.
If only they spared a moments thought about their final destination!
The pseudo philosopher inside me was up and running. Although, I was thinking about enlightenment, I was still not being enlightened, for my mind was clouded with various thoughts.
“I’m finally going to study something about films! My lifelong dream is just days away from becoming true!”
I could not fully enjoy this feeling, the main reason being another dreadful parallel thought.
I was going to live in a hostel!
Will I miss the comforts of home?
Will I be able to enjoy the freedom of being away from my family?
Will I miss my family?
At this precise moment, I was gifted with enlightenment. The enlightenment to let go of everything and live the moment. The enlightenment didn’t last long though, I realised, it was not even enlightenment to begin with. The pseudo philosopher inside me has done his job for the day.
The signal turned green and the traffic was slowly clearing up. There was a sense of satisfaction in the faces of every single person around me. They are most likely to be stuck in the next signal, but that didn’t seem to bother them now.
This is my second trip to Delhi. The first time, I was here, the 21st century has just begun, and I had set foot in the northern part of India for the first time. Delhi was completely unlike my hometown, Chennai. The roads were filled with trees on both sides, in spite of it, there was no escape from the scorching heat. The roads on the other side, was wider, unlike the narrow roads of Chennai. The city seemed to posses a strange, yet enchanting air around it.
Although this was my second time to Delhi, nothing seemed familiar to me, thanks to my hazy memory. Delhi was different as an 8 year old kid, being a 20 year old adult, I could look into the city and its people, with a bigger and an open mind. What surprised me more was the ostentatious display of wealth by the citizens of Delhi. Never have I ever seen so many luxury cars in a single stretch of road. Was the city always a stage to display your wealth? Or was I too naive to see it as an 8 year old? The enlightenment which was gifted to me not more than a few minutes back, was snatched away from me. It took me years to master the art of never believe the pseudo philosopher in myself.
I would keep describing about Delhi, for a lifetime, but lets get to the real city, where I was supposed to stay for the next 2 years. The city was called Noida. To be completely frank, at that point of time,all I knew about Noida was through the news papers. The papers seemed to paint the city as of one of the most notorious and crime prone metropolitan of the northern part of India. I have 2 years to figure out, whether or not, there is any truth to the media’s portrayal of the city.
Noida was a miniature version of Delhi. The roads were same sans greenery. The luxury cars were the same, the buildings were the same, but the city lacked something, Delhi had. Probably the air was not enchanting enough, or probably it was my prejudice towards the city, I’ll find out soon.
After a journey, which lasted for more than an hour, we finally reached the hotel. I don’t remember, it’s name, all I remember is, it was a very generic name, on the lines of Hotel Noida or something.
There are times, when you enter the elevator as the first person and suddenly the whole population of China seem to enter the life and your forced to stick in the corner, like a lizard. I’m sure most of us would have been through such traumatic experiences in life. The hotel reminded me of that experience, for some strange reason, which I couldn’t fathom why. Maybe, The hotel was clinging to the road, gasping for breath, as there were so many buildings around it, without a section of free space. Even its architecture was similar to the man, with his arms wide open and his body sticking at the walls of the far corners of the elevator, not literally, but in my own world.
In exactly half an hour, I was outside the hotel, with my baggage and my parents, whose only baggage was me. We summoned an auto rickshaw and started my journey to Amity University, my journey to the next step of life, was officially getting closer. The people who drive the auto rickshaws are fondly called as auto-walas in most parts of India, the main reason for them having the same name although there are so many languages around the country is because their nature was same everywhere. In every part of the country, the auto-walas never charge by the meter, their fee were always exorbitant, and the people were helpless. It was 2012, Ola and Uber cabs, haven't made their entry to the Indian market yet. The few cabs available, charged more than what an auto-wala would charge. My father agreed for a sum of Rs 150 to be paid to the auto-wala for the distance of not more than 3 kilometers.I was having a good look at the city, as I had nothing better to do. I decide to not engage in any thoughts and let my mind waver. I knew for a fact that my life is going to take a drastic turn in a few day and now is the time to worry about it, but I was apprehensive of getting a cold feat in the last minute and running away from my choices, the last thing I wanted now was a cold feat.
The auto parked outside a cluster of buildings, all of the same size and colour, sprawled around a multi-acre land. The Buildings were made of red bricks and left as it is, without any trace of a paint job. It’s strange that I didn’t notice that the buildings weren’t painted, the last time I was here. It was only a couple of months back, I was in the university. I don’t remember anything of that trip and hence I don’t count it as one.
The university was 10 times bigger than my previous college, If i decided to take a stroll one day, I would probably lose my way, 9 times out of 10. A sudden pang of nervousness coupled with excitement hit me. Sometimes nervousness took over excitement and vice versa.
The college was filled with students clad in fashionable clothes. My fashion sense was never on point, I decided to revamp my wardrobe with T shirt and Jeans, chucking the formal clothes.
I was never allowed to wear casual clothes during my under grad days, the only rule my college management were anal about. After 3 years of wearing formal clothes, I started detesting them and never wanted to wear them again. I was relived that there was no dress code here.
No more formal clothes
I thought, while walking through the dimly lit corridor. We were able to reach the auditorium, which was already filled with 100s of students and their parents. A frail old woman, with an evil face was standing on the dais, giving a lecture on how to behave inside the hostel premises. She would be a woman of 50, but looked much older than that.
Her speech was sugarcoated, she almost sounded liked a righteous god mother to the hostelers. Now let’s give this woman a name. Mrs C, shot form for Mrs Crass. I had to endure an hour long lecture on the do’s and dont’s inside the hostel premises, although I clearly knew nearly half of the students inside, would bend and break the laws as much as they can. I saw no point in listening to her boring lectures, but I had to, there was no other choice. This was the first of many lectures, which I had to painfully endured as a helpless student of Amity University.
The lecture was finally over and we were put into a bus to leave the hostel, which was about a kilometer from the main campus. I’ll later than all the gods, for I was allocated a room far from the main campus. The bending and breaking of rules takes much little effort here, than it took in the main campus.
The Hostel room was small 8 by 8 room stuffed with a couple of beds, almirahs and tables stuffed to it. one barely had space to walk, let alone your own personal space. I was seated in my bed, with my mom and dad on either sides. They gave me a brief lecture on how my life is going to change.
Dad: This is your time to rise and shine, honey. I knew you’re passionate about films. You had chosen the course out of your own consent. I’m sure you will be successful, all the best.
Mom: Be a good boy… and
She was not in the state to continue more as she started breaking down. I couldn’t bear the site of her crying like a child, I wanted to cry too, but I wsasn’t a kid anymore and men don’t cry. Yes! Such fallacies has been deep rooted inside my tiny brain.
Dad: Look at your Mom. She couldn’t just stop trying. Be a good boy for her sake.
I nodded my head and tried to make it as sincere as possible. My mom and Dad left the room after giving me a bear hug and a considerable amount of cash. I walked till the gate to send them off, my mother could never control her tears, I was embarrassed, but relived that my mother wasn’t the only one crying around the hundred meter radius of the hostel porch. There was a small round shaped structure in the middle of the porch, where they had kept some tree pots. The pathway was filled with about 4–5 huge trees. My parents took an auto and bid a tearful goodbye to me. One of the rarest moments, I have seen my father shedding a tear. I hid my tears from them and walked towards the canteen and quietly had a aloo parantha. I remember developing a taste for it, when I had it for the first time in Shimla, a couple of years back. I walked up to the 4th floor and entered the mini room, where I was supposed to spend the rest of this academic year. It suddenly stuck to me that, I was almost a prisoner inside the four walls. The thought of staying away from home began to haunt me. I was close to getting a cold feat, when suddenly a stick like figure with bags, walked into my room, I suppose he is going to be my roommate. The stick figure had a mass of hair on top of his head,although not long. He was looking like a cartoon character to me. Now lets give this character a name. Lets name him bestie 1, the nickname with which his ex girlfriend not so affectionately calls him.
We had introduced ouurselves to a point where we knew he was here to pursue his masters in journalism and I was here to pursue my masters in visual communication. We were supposed to head to the main campus for another orientation session (read another way to torture new inmates inside the prisoner). This time, the bus was filled with only students, everyone sitting inside, beginning a new phase of their lives with great expectations. This time, my roommate tried to make a conversation with me, in Hindi.
Sorry man, I don’t know Hindi.
The distinct chatter stopped and all eyes were on me, the moment I uttered those sinful words. The resentment in their eyes were palpable, I knew, someday or the other, these people will pounce on me and beat me to pulp, for having not known the national language. I still couldn’t comprehend, whether I really felt the hate in their eyes, or was it a part of my paranoid imagination.
Me not knowing Hindi, surprisingly did not surprise bestie 1, for he confided in me that his Hindi skills were only slightly better than me. With that one word he shattered my preconceived notion of Indians living above the south of India, although I know India is a country of more than a 1000 languages, I just assumed everyone in the northern parts of India, just spoke Hindi. A big shocker was on my way, most parts of the country which I presumed to be north India was not even part of it, east and west India was a legitimate thing. Too much realisation in a single moment.
Bestie 1 tutored me about the states in the eastern part of the country and the states in the western part of the country. The first of many times, I felt inferior to a person, after setting my foot in Noida.
Now, I don’t want to bore you by elaborating the day any further . Long story short, there was not a single student in the hostel, who took the same course as mine. Bestie 1 was shifted to another room in the middle of night. Lets not be soft on him, the guy who lectured me on the geography of India, had actually been allotted to a different room, he was to dumb to figure out. I was all alone that night, trying to get a good night’s sleep, but my thoughts drifted back to the comfort of my own bed, something I missed more than my home and less than my family. Would I be able to survive for 2 long years in a place where I didn’t speak the native tongue? Would my classmates resent me too, for being a non Hindi speaker? Was I just plain paranoid and ignorant? The fact that I believed Indians who do not hail from the south of India are cocky piece of shits, who loath and belittle south in Indians at every given chance. Willy my stereotype turn out to be true? Or will it vanish away without a trace? I had 2 more years to figure that out.
PS: I know, my writing is not as eloquent as many bloggers, if you can, please forgive me for that. Also, please forgive the numerous grammatical errors. Criticisms and praises about the blogs are most welcome. Did that sound sincere enough for an end note? Kthanksbye.