I love my college. I love my friends. Did you get that? Do you want me to repeat? All right, if you’re clear on that, and are ready to proceed with the silent suspended “but” that wants to wrench free from beneath that full stop, I am going to tell our freshers one teeny-tiny truth about life –
Oh, wait. No. No, wait. That sounds more ominous than I’d anticipated. I cannot believe how nervous I am, writing this piece. I am trying to elaborate on what my friend Sayaki told me when we were sitting on the school steps, holding our stilettos in our hands: ‘It was so much better last year.’
For starters, on this Xavotsav, the sophomore crowd was a little perforated. We had been standing for about five hours straight, because the guards were being extra cautious about letting us sit on the corridor ledges. More or less, we had a constant group which just stood around and talked. It was remarkable how much at ease I felt this year. Last year, there were people dancing all around me, some pulling me into their circles, some ridiculing me for being too stiff. This time, I was just another person in the group, who, like, everybody else, was not dancing.
We were waiting for Papon and the East India Company to come on stage. We knew, however, that no concert starts while there is even a glint of daylight in the sky. We ambled around the college campus, greeting people, waving to old friends from school who were more enthusiastic about coming to St. Xavier’s College at that time of the year than we were.
To be brutally honest, we didn’t have the pressure to make the most of our first Xavotsav and this wasn’t our last Xavotsav. There wasn’t unbeatable excitement to capture every bit of the biggest party of the year in our college (and we do have a lot of parties) because we were neither seeing it for the first time, nor were we going to see it for the last time as undergraduate students.
Then again, this was THAT time of the year, and we did dress up. We were expecting something, if not new experiences or memories for the road. We did change our profile pictures on Facebook. We did, in fact, we did like it. For very different reasons, we did.
While my girlfriends and I were sitting on the school steps, exhausted, our bodies resonating with “Lean On” booming from all of the gigantic speakers set all around campus, I realized, it was not just the fest that felt different from last year.
Soon, our entire group was resting by the stairs and the corridors. If one was to mathematically calculate the difference between freshman excitement and sophomore ennui, it would be in the fights that raged and blew over, the parabolic ups and downs of opinions about people, the sudden bursts of adulthood in the midst of raving childishness, and the friendships that tightened into familial bonds.
It was nobody’s fault that we chose to be spectators this time. It was a lapse in the party mood, a reprieve granted in between two stages of excitement which allowed us to sit and contemplate, talk, instead of dance, make memories of a different kind from the obvious little things we probably wouldn’t remember without the photographs.
We did have innumerable photo sessions. There were green neon lights installed on the edges of the field. Basu, the one who is present in the Iron Man and Hulk poses in most of our posed photographs, gathered the rest around him and with the green neon light illuminating them like ghostly characters, we compiled a photo-album of everybody pretending to be Marvel’s heroes.
Somebody spoke about a fight breaking out in the Jubilee building which barred us from getting our bags from there. I had to leave early and hence, my bag gestated inside Utteya’s bag for three days.
The boys lifted the chair Parangama was sitting on and paraded around campus with it.
There was no pressure to enjoy – we could, if we wanted to. And I have the best set of hooliganish friends, who cannot sit still for more than two seconds without erupting into something wild.
Papon and the East India Company came on stage at eight o’ clock in the evening. My phone was buzzing out of control, because I needed to be home soon. Again, my friends insisted that I dance. Before I could laugh it off, Papon started with an Assamese folk song, and Asmita put her hand on my shoulder. Seeing no escape, I swayed in the rhythm to which she swayed, and somehow, the last semester seemed to get embedded into the duration of one song.
This is how memories are collected into the genie’s lamp of time. Most of the time, we don’t realize when our hands brush against the brass. Perhaps I am on the road with my headphones on, with my iPod set on shuffle, and Papon’s “Moh moh ke dhaage” comes on. The genie lamp, on being brushed, releases the poltergeist and it makes you stop wherever you are and gulp the garnish of nostalgia the air has suddenly taken on.
So, here’s what I wanted to tell you juniors.
Perhaps the memories don’t sum up to anything quantifiable. Perhaps that is why, because of their sheer power through things felt rather than spoken, they have the ability to last until the brass of the genie lamp frays – and, even then, all it takes is a little accidental touch.