College was a big step into the unknown, sharing our stuff and ‘space’ was off-limits let alone our room. Our rooms were our sanctum sanctorum; fiercely protected by locks and latches with posters warning people to stay out. Password protected files and hidden folders inside other hidden folders with inconspicuous names only to be shown to a select few. We were promised that those were the 2 most important years of our lives,our most frequent nightmare was the question ‘WHAT NEXT?’ and in the name of securing our future our noses were kept to the grindstone; some toiled, others pretended to toil and we made it to a plethora of esteemed institutions all over the world.
Frenzied scurrying to keep up with deadlines, hundreds of Xeroxes and attestations as the sword of ‘dropping a year’ dangled above us. Some broke under the stress and settled for whatever came their way, some persevered consoling themselves with the illusion of choice, some excelled and were applauded and loathed, the majority simply went with the flow. Counseling, admissions and countless road-trips later some of us managed to convince our parents to send us to far flung corners of the country, places that took Google Maps a few seconds to find and we settled down content with the knowledge that we would be running our lives.
The first few weeks went by quickly, fuelled by the adrenalin rush that comes with anything new. Routines to be made, routes to be figured, boundaries to be drawn and identities to be forged. Suddenly our rooms were a constant hub of activity, people filing in and out irrespective of the time. Everything from carefully decorated class notes to the morning toothpaste was suddenly a part of a common pool that miraculously other people seemed to have an absolute necessity of. It was the stark opposite of everything we had wanted for our entire teenage lives. That is, until the day we woke up late for class one day and discovered we had run out of toothpaste.
The days then started to fly by, as we figured out how to balance our expenses to match our stipend from home. Expansive lunches were followed by days of meager dinners. Every scheme that was released for our phones seemed to be better than the one we had, and we ended up with 4 SIM cards. One for messaging, one for STD’s , one for local calls, on and on and on. When running to the cooler everytime we were thirsty seemed tedious, we missed home. But cometh the vacations, and we couldn’t wait to return. A few years on, we had movies downloaded illegally by the dozen, we rarely stayed in our rooms, we were forever amongst friends all the time, files were no longer hidden but flaunted. We finally had freedom to do what we wanted, when we wanted. We yelled curses at the officials at every power blackout, we set off fire extinguishers, we burned dustbins at Diwali, we mended broken equipments in the room, we fought over soccer clubs in England, we fabricated stories to cover up for drunken accidents at the dead of night.
We did not merely live with each other, we lived for each other. Four years went by in a blur; we knew we all had to return to our lives as before. We knew this was temporary, and slowly we all turned into philosophers as the days drew to a close. Then the old nightmare returned to haunt us, WHAT NEXT? Some toiled, others pretended to toil and the frenzied scurrying to keep up with deadlines returned, hundreds of Xeroxes and submissions were made as the sword of ‘dropping a year’ dangled above us. Some could argue that we are better prepared given that we have been through it once before, but that is rarely the truth. We who have spent the better part of the last four years together are now scattered across the country bound with the promise of ‘keep in touch’.
Just in a few short years, we are back at the crossroads of our career. A few years on, life has come full circle. Reminiscing is our celebration; moving on is our silent tribute to it. Despite our failures, we are grateful since we know it could have been much worse; not all who came in have made it out with us. We pray for them.
Every year lakhs of us are released from four years of servitude.
We are certified users of ‘jugaad’.
We are ENGINEERS.
Ironically, we build your future.