Thursday, December 31, 2015

This and that and New Year wishes

So the year has come to an end. In a few more hours, 2015 will be history. Like always, looking back makes me feel that the year passed at a breathless pace, in the wink of an eye. But God knows that is not how I felt when I was actually living through some of the days. 2015 has been a truly remarkable year, and not always in a positive sense. It has been a life-changing year in many ways, and I cannot deny that I am relieved that it is coming to an end in a quiet, uneventful way. In fact, one of the most ardent prayers I have for the coming year is that it be a comparatively peaceful, uneventful, unremarkable one.

The year started out with my preparing and then appearing for the ISC examinations, the final step before passing out of the boundary of school. I did not have a very happy school life, so I was very glad to have reached the end of it. I spent the early months with dad in Durgapur, and returned to Kolkata to sit for the examinations in end February. The exams – only six papers – were spread out over a month, a tedious month that I spent shuttling between my two homes because dad had his yearly admissions bang in the middle of the exams. With the end of the examinations in end March (or was it early April? It is incredible how quickly memories fade) I spent a few days in Kolkata, sleeping off the examination weariness and “hanging out” with friends, as our generation likes to put it, and then headed for Durgapur. Dad had been looking forward to this year ever since 2013, because the long breaks meant that I could spend a lot of time with him in Durgapur. We spent a very pleasant April together, eating out, watching movies, going on long scooter rides, going swimming, eagerly anticipating my upcoming college admissions. All was going hunky dory, and then May 19th happened. I have already written about the accident so I will not repeat myself now; suffice it to say that it was a traumatic event – as all accidents are – and the aftermath still hangs heavily over us. Thankfully, dad has had a miraculous recovery, and he is walking around with his normal marching pace. In fact, we have a trip planned at the end of the coming week; we shall be off to the mountains after a gap of nearly eighteen months, and I’m certain we will have a wonderful time walking around the lovely mountain roads. Some pain persists, but it is bearable, and hopefully will not give dad too much trouble during our trip.

This year was stormy in more ways than one. I lost three friends – one of them a senior in college who passed away days before Christmas – and so it is little surprise that I have been thinking quite a bit about mortality. Does one really ever know when one’s time will be up? We humans tend to take so much for granted; we waste so much time under the impression that we have forever to get things done. We let friendships wane, love loses its flame, we delay vacations and family reunions – all the while thinking that we can do it tomorrow, the next month, five years later. But how do we know that we will be around tomorrow? If there is one resolution that I want to make for the next year and ask others to think about, it would be not to keep things for later, especially in terms of human relationships. If you have had a fight with a close friend, go ahead and apologise instead of waiting for her to do it. Get back in touch with people you were fond of but have fallen out of touch with. Do not hold grudges; let complaints pass as far as you can. If you fancy someone, go ahead and own up. And do it for your own happiness, because at the end of the day, “none of us is getting out of here alive” as some smarty pants said on the internet. Holding on to all the anger and pain and longing is just not worth it.

After that sermon, I have to admit that “do it now” is a dictum that I need to imbibe and practise in a lot of less abstract and philosophical situations. There is a term called lyaad that my Bengali readers will understand. The closest translation that I can think of is an extreme level of lethargy in engaging in any activity whatsoever. It is the sort of lethargy that makes getting out of bed feel like an insurmountable ordeal, and settling down comfortably in a cozy corner you feel like staying there indefinitely. I have been bitten by that lyaad bug, so characteristic of Jadavpur University students. The fact is that I have always had the tendency to being lethargic; I have now found an environment fantastically suited to nurture the instinct. How bad the affliction is can be judged by the number of blogposts I have put up this year. I enjoy writing, yet this strange apathy towards any activity keeps me from doing the very things I love. If there is one thing that I have done diligently this year, it is watching movies and TV shows. Which would have been fine if I had been doing more productive things alongwith, like reading books and writing and playing my synthesizer and learning French and even exercising. This is what I need to change for the coming year. No more procrastination. I will set myself assignments and deadlines if needed, but I will get things done!

The year has witnessed a lot of changing relationship dynamics for me. I have had a childhood friend drift away for no obvious reason and despite considerable efforts on my part to keep in touch. I had misunderstandings with a friend I made in my previous school, and we fell out of touch for months. It was only recently that I thought about it and realized how silly the entire fight was. I got back in touch with her, and thankfully things are all fine again. I made a couple of friends overseas, even got romantically involved with one for a while, only to face the inevitable demise that is the lot of most long distance relationships. But most interesting have been the various ups and downs with the people in college through the semester. By now I think I can no longer count how many times I have had to change my opinion about many people around me, and it has only been one semester! But in spite of the highs and lows I have met some really wonderful people, many of them with funny quirky habits, and I can only hope that some of these friendships last long. A very good thing about our college is the close-knit friendships that develop between seniors and juniors, at least in some of the departments. Or maybe I should not generalize at all, and just be thankful that some of my own seniors are delightful, and I can now think of quite a few of them as close friends. There is one particular senior that I am especially thankful to, somebody who made a conscious effort to talk to me when I was lonely and without too many friends. He helped me open up and make friends and even get over post-breakup depression. Afterwards I came to know that it was not just out of the goodness of his heart; he did have an agendum in his mind, but that does not make me resentful, because that does not change how much I enjoyed myself talking to him. I am fonder of him than any other friend or senior, and I am glad to have met him. Of course, most boys I am fond of tend to be more than slightly nutty, and that holds true this time as well. I am hoping the person concerned will never happen to read this, but even if he does, I have the feeling that he might agree with me!

But on to other things before I make this post sound any more like a cheesy chick-lit declaration of undying love! Getting into Jadavpur has been the undeniable high point of this year for me. Even till the beginning of the year I had thought of studying law, and I even prepared and sat for two law entrance tests. But to be honest I had lost all intention of joining law school after learning about life in law schools from a lawyer ex-student of dad’s. That kind of regulated, rushed, competitive environment did not appeal to me at all, and so I did not work too hard for the entrance tests. And in any case dad was due for surgery the day the results were declared. I did not even check which law schools I was eligible for according to my rank! Since dad and I had already made up our minds that I would stay put in Kolkata for my undergraduate degree, I did not apply to the Delhi colleges except for JNU. In Kolkata I had my heart set on Jadavpur University, though I did apply to a couple of other places. I was first offered admission to Scottish Church College in Kolkata, which I accepted with some reluctance. With Jadavpur it was a really close shave; I was 43rd on the waiting list for the General candidates, and I was the last person to be offered admission. I had given up all hope of getting admitted, so I went numb with shock when the admission office announced my name. The day of the admission and the first few days of class are blurred in my memory. My friends and I now laugh about some of my stupid actions from that first week. But I am a third generation JU student, the fifth from my family, and I could not be happier. For the first time I actually look forward impatiently to going to an educational institution and express thankfulness at the dearth of holidays, much to dad’s chagrin. I aced the JNU language entrance test and was offered admission about two weeks after classes started in JU, but I was already way too much in love with the place to even consider going off to Delhi.

My experience of the first semester in Jadavpur University will have to be a separate post by itself. There is so much to write about, so much to reflect on. From classes to friends to libraries to canteens to crushes to university politics – it has been a whirlwind. Some of the things I did were hilarious, some quite dangerous, and some downright silly. I dare not write candidly about all of it; someday I might have my own children reading these posts, and I do not want to scandalize them, or even worse, give them ideas! I am starting to have quite a collection of my own “don’t do anything that I would have done” experiences. Richard Castle would be proud of me! The second semester starts this Monday and I cannot wait to go back. This semester I hope to be a little more serious, a little more focused on my work. After all, I have only five more semesters left to make the most of my time here. Of course there is a good chance that I might continue with my post-graduation course here itself, but I hope to try for someplace else. Let us see how things play out.

Daylight is fading; the last day of the year is coming to an end. Soon it will be dark and comfortably chilly. I will snuggle into bed with a hot cup of coffee and watch Star Wars with dad. An ideal end to a less-than-ideal year. Here’s to love and hope and joy and renewed vigour and passion, and a wonderful time ahead. Happy New Year everyone.