NITT Diaries — Chapter 1
It All Starts Here
Cold feet. Jittery hands. And a heart that’s thumping like crazy. I’m not even sure what I am feeling right now. On one hand, there is this strange sense of fear in my heart and on the other, I can literally feel the boulder of responsibility on my otherwise weak shoulders. My throat feels dry and I feel like my heart is in my throat.
“NIT, the pride of India…..”
Oh there goes the clock tower. It must be 6 o clock now. Dang! Our performance is in less than an hour from now. My feet are colder now. And let’s not talk about my heart. Don’t get me wrong. I am happy to be here. Happier than I was when I arrived here at least. This sudden surge of emotions seems very familiar. The last time this very same wave of emotions hit me was when our Ola cab slowly moved in through the gates of this institute of national importance…
It was a sunny Friday morning. A little too sunny I’d say. But of course, this is Trichy, what was I even expecting? As we moved in, I glanced out of the window and let my eyes take in everything in front of me. The admin block was adorned in flowers and amidst the decor was a beautiful clock tower. The very same clock tower that repeats the same sentence in the same monotonous tone over and over again. Our registration process was scheduled for 9 am. We had to be at the Lecture Hall Complex with our parents around that time. I glanced at my wrist watch. It was 8:15. Ughh. We were early, as always. Papa is a tad too punctual for everything. Be it a family dinner or a registration process. And as usual, Maa started fussing over how we couldn’t have a proper breakfast because of Papa. I plugged my earphones into my ears and trust me, I can still bet I know what their entire conversation would have been.
“Babi, wake up, beta…Its time to go to the next room.” Maa shook me awake. I guess Sam Smith’s music can indeed act like a sedative. Papa and I seated ourselves opposite the person who had beckoned us.
“Anirudh Jhun…How do you pronounce your surname, ma?” she questioned.
Just the question I had expected. After all, I had spent 14 years of my life correcting people. I can actually count the number of people who got my surname right the first time.
“Anirudh Jhunjhunwala, Ma’am” I replied a little too politely. After all I had to impress every single faculty and prof here. That would also explain why I got a military haircut and a perfectly clean shave. (Bye-Bye Mohawk and stubble. Just kidding. I have always had a clean shave and a perfectly apt haircut for school.)
What I learnt is that the registration process is basically a formality where you are first shifted from one table to another in the same room and then shifted to the adjacent room. And it doesn’t end there. The cycle repeats itself at least two more times before you can officially call yourself a student of NIT Trichy. As we walked out, we could hear Maa speaking in her usual excited high pitched voice. Looks like she found someone else in Mechanical engineering department. When we neared her, we realized she was speaking in Hindi. Ah, so she found another guy from the Mechanical department who was from the North. BINGO. And on further investigation, Maa realized that he too was from Rajasthan. Oh now that’s definitely a lottery. Rajeev and I weren’t really very alike…in any way. Infact we were probably opposite poles of a magnet. Whether or not I got along with him was definitely not a priority to Maa. Despite my frivolous attempts to politely evade from this boy I just met and immediately disliked, Maa was insistent that we be best buds. So after shaking hands with them and instructing us that we were to be best friends for the next four years, Rajeev and I parted ways. And I hoped that we literally parted ways.
Now that we were done with the registration process, we suddenly realized that we were famished. We found a couple of boys and girls clustered in a circle wearing ID cards or something. Apparently they were seniors from the Orientation team and it was their duty to aid us. One of them told us to go to some place called Buhari if we wanted to have lunch. On reaching this place, I found one wall covered with posters that said Marrybrown with pictures of burgers and fried chicken. Ughh non vegetarian food. That entire area was like a NO ENTRY zone for me. So we ordered a veg biriyani and sat down. When the food arrived we thought they had made a mistake. Each plate was surmounted with heaps of rice. Each plate had enough rice to feed an entire population. Not really. But the quantity would definitely suffice for three people. It was when we started eating that I realized that the next four years wasn’t going to be a cakewalk. Growing up in a Marwari family, I crave for our delicacies every now and then. I’m not saying South Indian cuisine isn’t good enough, all I am saying is that my taste buds are accustomed to something entirely different. Maa started her whole oh-my-son-how-will-he-survive-oh-lord rant.
It was when we were leaving Buhari that I first saw her for the first time. Mahogany hair tied up in a messy bun, a dusky complexion, freckles on her nose and a dimple on her right cheek- that was pretty much her. She wore a pale blue shirt and white jeans. Extremely ordinary. Yet there was something different about her. She was talking animatedly to a girl she had just met. She then laughed at something the other girl said. And that’s when something really embarrassing happened. I tripped over the strings in my sneakers. Both the girls glanced in my direction. Jeez. Couldn’t I have fallen two minutes later? Maa called over to me, “Babi, are you okay?” Not now Maa, I thought. And that’s when she giggled. “Great going Maa. Really appreciate it.”, I thought. I grumbled an ‘I’m fine’ and we were out again in the scorching heat. Even under the canopy of trees, it was still scorching hot. That’s the specialty of this place. Note- I’m calling this place unbearably hot and I’m from Rajasthan.
I was drained of energy. It wasn’t a particularly good day. Definitely not the best day of my life. But little did I know that there was more in store for me. That evening, after all the remaining hustle bustle of buying a mattress, a pillow, bedsheets etc etc, we decided to finally set up my hostel room. And to my surprise, unlike earlier in the evening when I had come to inspect my room, it wasn’t empty this time. With an awkward smile, I waved at the only guy I had met that day and the only guy I did not want to run into ever again. My first roommate had arrived. Rajeev Agrawal had arrived. And with him arrived my never-ending miseries.