Every day for the past five years I've taken the Jadavpur-Taratala auto from my house to University, and then back again at all hours of the evening. I didn't wait at Bengal Lamp for the auto today like I usually do, I walked up to 8B, because I wanted the journey to last longer. I'm not good with goodbyes. Usually, I like pretending it hasn't happened.
Today was the last day of class. For us PG IIs that means no more semesters, no more assignments, no more running about the corridors dodging lit cigarettes and professors whose classes you just bunked. And as Bob so insightfully pointed out, no more bunking classes. When a junior told me to write something for a yearbook they're going to make for us, I sniggered at the impossibility of the task. How do you sum up a coming of age, how do you sum up five years of .. and I can't even finish this sentence. I sat in an empty classroom for a long time today, just because. I can't say why, maybe because it's a privilege I shall be deprived of, and no, it didn't take the final day for me to figure that out. So I sat in class while students walked by to the departmental library, and I thought- lucky bastards. And I can count the number of times I've been to the library on the fingers of one hand. But I swear, if you told me today to go and read every damn book in there [even the ones on Lacan and Derrida], I would. Just so I could walk down that corridor again, just so I could enter the computer room or go sit in a class and say, yes, this is where I belong. This is home.
Studying for a test this morning, I suddenly had a panic attack, and randomly messaged friends, because I needed to get it out. When it sinks in, nothing else matters. You just want to go to college and hold on to something. Anything - just a stupid desk or the department ledge will do. I thought I'd go and pick up an MPhil form, but better sense prevailed. You'd say this is the unwillingness to move on, to start with a new phase of life. Where there's going to be no mollycoddling, and certainly not the kind of freedom JU allows. Perhaps it's that. But it's also the cups of coffee at Milon Da's, those three years of ghastly chowmein at Moni Da, the swim at the jheel, playing 29 anywhere possible. The bridge. I walked past the bridge several times today, like we do everyday, and it was difficult. There are memories there. With the same people I meet now and pretend I haven't seen. There's a video being made for us too- these juniors are great - where all of us come on camera and make fools of ourselves, and it's difficult knowing that that video will not have the three of us in the same frame. There's too much of these five years on that bridge. Too many people, too many episodes - the bitch brigade coming to beat us up, the falling in love and the break-ups, the slut, the grass, the cigarettes, the mihidana wala, Cezanne the diva dog, that slippery shortcut from the bridge to Moni's, playing wordgames or charades, or just sitting for hours on end with nothing to say but comfortable in our silence.
And when I was sitting alone in class today, this one junior comes rushing in in a tizzy and demands,"Rohini, tumi choley jachho?!Tumi PhD korbe na ekhaane?!" and I say, "Na" because there's more finality in having to spell out "Hain choley jaachhi" than I can deal with in public, and he goes,"Shit. Aami tomake bhishon miss korbo," and I know he's an incorrigible flirt and he's probably caught each of us girls and said the same thing to them, but I can see he's genuinely sad, and if I didn't know better, I'd sit him down and tell him how unbearable this is and how I will miss every damn thing in this place.
We took a lot of photographs. This is probably a very disoriented post, but if you think I give a damn about coherence right now, then you have no idea who I am. I grew up in this place, man. And no, I don't just mean from a waist size 28 to a waist size 30 and some. Humour doesn't help. We've gone through the whole day trying to think this isn't true, I think. I remember the last day in school being about tears and promises to be together always and forever, and to live in each others' basements if all else fails, and all the signing of the uniforms and the general breaking rules. That was 2001. Six years down the line, we're either busy with our jobs, or our studies or our boyfriends. And yes, I'm humongously to blame too.
There were no promises made today. Maybe we don't want to have to break them. Maybe we've grown up.Maybe it's because you don't need to say these things to family. And this was family. And I don't just mean JUDE. I've sat at the Union room- nursing heartbreak, fighting tears- till11 in the night for days on end, with people I didn't know, watching them wrap up after an evening of carrom, and I've felt safe, and it was OK because this is just as much home as sitting in front of the comp typing crap. I've come for a jog here very early in the morning with Shoots and J because there could possibly be no other place as beautiful.
That's what it's been. Beautiful. And saying thank you just doesn't cut it. But I am. I'm thankful for these five years. I'm thankful for the friends I've had, for the friends I don't have any more, for those people, with whom my best memories of JU are inextricably linked. I'm thankful for the professors and the stellar lectures and the impossible boundless unimaginable freedom that we are given by them- of speech, of creativity, of space. I am thankful to every single person in the faculty for being family and not just faculty, for trusting us enough to know that we will not disregard the feeling of oneness you help us create, that we will not direspect you for the leeway you allow us. And I sincerely hope we have not let you down, like you never have.
Even now, at this very end, we're being eased into our future. Heh. Thank you Rimi Di and Tintin Da, for helping us cope with a sense of loss too overwhelming with your kind offer this evening.
Thank you the juniors, without whose relentless insanity I would never have grown up. Or had white hair. Thank you to the friends I have, and the friends I have lost. We've made memories and I'm taking them with me, because looking back on these five years will be incomplete without what we've shared, and I want to tell you in a totally non-lesbian way that I love you, and though you will never read this and though we both don't like having other people's boobies on ours, if I had the guts, I'd go up and hug you. But I don't have the guts. Only the ego.
This is becoming some sort of award acceptance speech. Damn.
With all the stuffy rooms and the dirty benches and the filthy toilets and the decrepit buildings and the moss and the jheel and the long winding paths and the bigger jheel and that kingfisher and those kingfishers and the stairs and the dark and the lamplight and the fireflies and the mosquitoes and tea cups and politics and poetry and madness- you're beautiful. Thank you for letting me belong.