Lift You
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Lift You

Six Bright Memories From My First Year of College

Here’s how it went!

New People

When I started college, the only person I knew from before was Sharol. We’d planned throughout the first week to meet at a certain time. On that day I was sitting in a class trying not to fall asleep on my desk. When I looked up through the glass door, I found a girl in a black mask waving at me in the corridor. Sharol later told me she had been prowling that corridor and trying to catch my attention for the past fifteen minutes while trying not to be noticed by the professor. It was lovely to see her after three years. We laughed and then bought Maggi noodles to eat together in the garden.

As a first year student, you can hope the people at their college will be friendly and approachable. But you cannot know for sure till you try talking to them. My hopes were not only met but exceeded. In fact, since all of us were first years, everyone was hungry to make friends. And I mean that there were Instagram handles and phone numbers flying about from the very first class. In the coming days, I honestly found the people at MCM incredible.

The difference the transition from teenagehood to adulthood had made in all of us was crystal clear to see. Most of the people I met were free of the immature or petty vibes high schoolers exude. They were tactful and mature, intelligent and kind.

I saw countless sweet and cheerful people who knew how to hold themselves confidently and speak well. They were eager to meet newcomers and extend friendship. Just about everyone was cool in some way of their own, with individual talents and dreams to achieve. I enjoyed meeting a lot of them as I went through my year. It makes all the difference to the atmosphere of one’s college experience.

Things slowly change from you walking quietly into the college to suddenly knowing so many faces that you find yourself smiling & waving at a dozen people in the corridors everyday.

To all the people who are still having a tough time in high school, just hang in there and get through. You will find your true friends in college.

The First Day of College

My first day of college was not lonely. I mean, of course I didn’t have friends yet. But after the pandemic, and the two years of internet sleepwalking around my room like a baby panda, the outside world was heaven.

The first day was fairly exhausting though, and so I hunted down a green bench in a well shaded spot to rest after the end of classes. I lay down on my back and put my earphones in. As the music swelled around me, my eyes went up to the rustling white branches of an eucalyptus tree above me and I saw the scattered blue sky peeking out through them. The sun seemed to twinkle through the cracks in the branches as well. I could feel the tension and tiredness slowly seep out of my brain.

That day, I spent over an hour walking around our little campus. I kept hearing one song over and over on repeat on my Spotify playlist. It was about things getting better.

Five years had passed since I had walked into a good educational establishment. If I’m being honest, my high school was awful and irresponsible. And only in my first week at MCM I could see that this place was well run. This college had over half a century’s worth of history.

Everyone followed their timetables properly. The food was great. The professors were knowledgeable and responsible. Many students were of high calibre. To someone starved of a good system for so long, all this was a huge relief to me. It gives someone a much deeper sense of gratitude.

I remember walking down the white corridors and past cream coloured pillars that day, listening to that one song on repeat and blinking away the tears that came under my eyelashes.

The pandemic had been hard on us all. But it felt like everything was truly okay again because I was back in the real world at last. And this was the one thing I realised about everyone who was around me as well.

Human beings are not meant to be isolated. We’re stronger together.

The Food!

This is a super short section, but it really deserves an honoured mention.This whole year, I kept bouncing around like a happy duck from one good MCM food place to another. The prices are student friendly and we have variety. Fresh juices, Indian street food, Nescafe, a Bakery, etc.

I keep wondering about the best value I could fit into the change I had. I’m sure many others did too. A food break gives you some time to rest and relax in the nature outside. It also was a great motivation to summon the energy to get through your classes. Plus, it’s food. What more justification does one require because well, you know….it’s food!

Joining the National Cadet Corps

This isn’t me, I’m behind the camera.

I never saw NCC coming as a part of my college experience because in the beginning, I didn’t even know what it was. And perhaps I never would have had I not met an inspiring girl on campus.

One random afternoon, I was leaning against a tree and listening to music when a senior suddenly tapped my shoulder. She introduced herself as Surbhi, and then pointed to the ukulele in my backpack. ‘Do you know how to play this? Come, sit down and show me.’ By this point, I will admit that a lot of good things in my life have started because of this lucky ukulele.

We sat under a tree, and she asked me if I was from the NCC. I was not, and so I started interviewing her about it to learn as much as I could. She told me everything.

I was quite struck by the confidence in her personality. There was no visible self consciousness in her. She appeared utterly fearless.

This is a specific trait I have only seen athletes display. It is easily visible in the way they hold themselves and the upright way they walk. It’s unrestrained and freely moving. They all have this opened up, self assured sort of personality. You can tell that they’re athletes from afar.

I found Surbhi really cool. She credited her strong persona to the NCC. I wanted to learn how to be just as fearless, and so I filled out the form. It took a long while to get there but eventually I was tested and selected.

I had some irreplaceable experiences in my first year as a cadet. They are invaluable because I couldn’t purchase them, I had to earn them. After many months of on ground drill, we were taken to a shooting range and taught the basics of how to load, aim and shoot a beginner’s rifle. We also did a ten kilometre run in Punjab university as part of a health and fitness drive and that happened right at the crack of dawn.

In spring, we were taken to march with several other contingents all the way to Sukhna lake in complete cadet uniform. A rather filmy moment happened to me while we were marching on. Schoolchildren were also marching with NCC contingents for that occasion, and I found myself next to a little girl in a white frock and two white ribboned ponytails. She wished me ‘Jai Hind.’ That totally made me feel like I was in a movie. Furthermore, my parents were pretty proud and happy on the day I wore the complete uniform.

My joining the NCC had more emotional significance for my family as well because my father has been a Colonel in the Indian Army and served for 25 years. Both Mama and Papa were excited for me that day and I will always cherish the proud expressions on their faces. That truly made me so happy.

I Flipped Two Elective Subjects

This is a story I often like to tell. I began MCM with three electives: English, Sociology and Public Administration. By the end of the first month, I had the last two switched to Music and Fine Arts. This is like that 3 Idiots dream movie sequence isn’t it? How and why did I do it you ask? Ta da.

Now picking fine arts was an honest to god risk.

Mind you, I haven’t picked up paintbrush with an ounce of talent until the wizened age of nineteen and this was a college course.

I might as well have jumped into the sea without having the faintest idea how to swim.

I would always come across this mysterious white door on my way around college every day. It had a black, neatly painted sign on top saying ‘Fine Arts Room.’ I was determined to discover what it looked like on the inside. Well when that day finally came, I honestly think I just stood there and stared at everything with stars in my eyes for fifteen minutes straight. I probably scared the artists. You could call it love at first sight. It truly was a room that made any artistic soul feel an instant presence of warmth.

There were charming shades of sunset skies, cascading hills and silhouetted animals painted on the walls. Small framed quotes and pretty landscapes created by former students were hung neatly all around the room. I found suddenly found myself standing between a white life sized sculpture of a Roman angel and a majestic, peacock blue wall mural of Goddess Sarasvati. There were wooden easels and desks in the room, and fresh sunlight and the fragrance of paint. You could also see many evergreen trees through the window panes. My decision was pretty much made by that point.

‘I have to find some reason to keep getting in & out of this place everyday,’ I thought, asked the art professor how if I could get into the program. She said it was late but I could try to write a letter. So I hastily scribbled out a letter and headed to the administration block. The wonderful Suman Ma’am obliged and flipped the subject immediately. It remains one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The subject turned out to be incredible and introduced me to some of the best friends I found in college.

Now music was more surprising in the way it came about.

In the coming months, I kept feeling blessed that I got to change these two subjects. I cycled to college everyday and handled artistic objects like acrylics, paintbrushes and the sitars all as an official part of my education. This would have never been possible as an official course of study in, a foreign college for example, because I had no academic background for these subjects. The system would have pigeonholed me into English Literature alone. But here, I was incredibly free to follow my curiosity. They let me spread my wings.

I have been playing the piano for roughly a decade now. Youtube has been my main guide. The Music Instrumental Room is found at the end of a yellow pastel coloured corridor at MCM. It is like a tunnel you must enter, like Harry Potter entered Diagon Alley to go down the maze part for the first time.

I finally summoned up the courage one day. The professor there was Dr. Layaka, and she truly sweet and welcoming towards me. She saw that I wrote my letter properly and gave immediate signatures for a subject change. She is the main reason I was so quickly shifted, and I am still thankful to her for that.

She had asked me if I could play anything, and I told her I could play a few instruments.

Then she asked me to come to the next room to play the piano over there. All the the music professors who were sitting there together, along with the department head. But you know, no pressure.

When I first sat down on the piano chair, I tripped a little and awkwardly crunched the keys under my elbow. Deepa Ma’am, the department head, gravely asked me if I could use both my hands when I played. I think the inner thirteen year old me was flabbergasted by that and felt like she had to prove herself. So I zoned in and focused properly on playing.

At one point, all of the professors got up from behind me and came to sit in front of me one by one. ‘Is she playing the piano’s automated music system?’ asked Deepa Ma’am, but then she saw with her own eyes that it was just me. I got the tempo of my songs wrong a few times, but I did manage to perform all my best songs for them by sheer memory, no sheet music necessary.

After I was done, Deepa Ma’am gave me her rare smile and a compliment. This hasn’t happened since that September afternoon, so believe me it was rare indeed. But it was a really cool compliment. She said, ‘We’ve had this music department for the past several decades. I have seen orchestra players and regular pianists. But no one has shown me the fluid hand practise and movements that you have. You’re the best student pianist I have come across yet.’

Doing It Anyway

On the subject of music, let me tell you about the brightest memories I have through it in my first year at MCM. Mind you, I have never intended to step into college and be known as the musician kid, I thought it would be the writer kid, the way it had always been.

But then I started proudly carrying the ukulele in my backpack because I ‘now had music as an official subject, you know’ and that led to random strangers stopping me left and right on campus. They asked me to play for them, teach them, and ‘let them hold it for five minutes.’ It’s understandable really, they all just wanted to make their Instagram audience aware of their new found musical talents.

I have seen it proven that any kind of guitar is the ultimate symbol of college life for most people. They all watch too many films. Ah, well. Sometimes you just gotta shrug your shoulders and give the people what they want.

Even in the first week, when I barely knew how to play, I somehow found myself facing a wall of girls with gleaming cameras. I’ll actually credit all my singing progress to how much everyone at college actually made me sing.

The ukulele earned me a sunny reputation in my English Elective class too. Our professor, Apara Ma’am, is an angel. She let me play for everyone all the time. She actually asked me first and this helped me get over my own nerves. After some time, my ukulele became something that brought the whole class together. After studying, would all have a great time singing and enjoying each other’s company in class. Several intelligent voices and important thoughts were heard throughout the year. I do feel so happy to remember it. All of us received a lot of love, warmth and appreciation from that atmosphere, including me. In fact, Apara Ma’am had a classroom rule of always making us clap for any girl who rose from her seat to speak in front of the class. As far as class environment goes, these people were my favourite community.

Beyond the ukulele, my greatest musical talent is the piano though. It can create a softly magical and all encompassing sound of emotion.

In the ‘Music Talent Hunt’ in autumn, I finally did get the chance to perform on stage. I won in the instrumental category (teehee!) and also met one of my best friends that day. It was Pari. She won the overall crown for ‘Star Performer’ for her wild and crazy amazing performance.

It was truly a surreal day. During my performance, I remember looking up from my piano from that brick stage, and hearing the crowd suddenly start to sing along with the song I was playing on the keys. It didn’t feel real. Their voices rose in a song into the air like a perfectly imperfect symphony. My hands were trembling a little and I could sort of feel my heart beating through my chest, and I realised that a whole small stadium worth of people were actually smiling, singing and vibing along with my music. It remains a truly magical memory.

However my friends, remember this: You can’t always be impressive in life. *deep sigh*

I think it takes some courage to know you will make a fool of yourself, but do something anyway because you know you will enjoy it. And because you know you would regret not doing it.

The Dance Fest is an example of that.

My good friend Muskaan pulled me along to see the dance team tryouts, and naturally, that kind of thing attracted an immense crowd near the open air theatre. Our friend Jasleen was an incredible performer that day, and I mean she literally made me tear up. At one point after several hours though, I was getting a little tired of watching people dance. So I went near the backstage and asked our dance seniors who were conducting everything when the show would end.

The music was so loud that they couldn’t understand me, and so I tapped my watch to try to make them understand. A senior girl blinked at me and then said, ‘You too want to try out? Sure, we have enough time. You can go up next.’

Ah yes. Brilliant, because I’ve always been saying that I’m a gifted performer. This is the moment I ‘get discovered.’

Reader Disclaimer: I dance like a penguin on skates. And not a regular penguin.

That’s a penguin who just stepped out of a hip-hop concert and is feeling pumped about life.

It was a moment that felt like looking down at an ocean drop. My inner instinct told me that I should just close my eyes and jump in. Sharol advised me how to do it best, and I followed her guidance. Another awesome dance senior danced with me to help me out, and I had backup dancers too. And I was just really, really excited to do it. I felt like I’d overcome my fear and my confidence improved. I felt so happy about just having the courage to go on stage out of my own free will.

If anyone ever gives you a video of that one minute performance of ‘Uptown Funk’, (how would you ever find it though? *raises eyebrows suspiciously *) — well you would see that I did dance like a total penguin onstage. A giddy penguin who was flapping about and attempting hip hop moves. But hey — but that’s one happy penguin at least.

It was also really gracious of a girl I never knew to choose to dance along with me to cure my stage fright. People did cheer me on and sing to the catchy parts of Bruno Mars because they could feel I was having fun, even if I couldn’t dance. (aloha, stage persona!)

There are many more moments like that in college, where I came amazingly supportive people. They displayed true grace. I have a lot of these moments, and if I haven’t mentioned someone, do forgive me. My friends deserve a whole separate story of their own. This story is already looking as long as a Chinese paper scroll, and so I must try to show my readers some mercy now. But know that I do keep our moment in my heart and treasure it.

I feel really blessed to have met you all. There are all these wonderful memories and places that made my first year of college such a special experience.

Here’s to many more! ❤

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Vandini Sharma

Vandini Sharma

20 year old awarded & published 🇮🇳 writer. I write soulful, creative & lighthearted stories intended to inspire!✒AP, Forbes, HT & 50+ global credits.💖