Wednesday, August 3, 2011

  Back-to-School: Part 1
The journey begins

Experiences are probably the most precious fragments you assemble in life. Though I won’t go to the absurd length of calling them jewels or rubies you find by the Indian Ganges’ side, I would definitely call them intellectually fortifying and remarkably unique. It amazes me the amount of experiences we gather in one lifetime: good, bad, actual, intangible; it takes only a few years to fill the jorum, and then layer upon layer of add-on experiences sediment such that in one given time you feel almost stacked to the brim if you open the archives. Anyway, the point is that your perspective of a certain situation, a certain experience, is liable to change after you walk away from the scene and observe it objectively under the solid canopy of logic. The stripping off of emotions, intimidations and other attachments that may have blindfolded you when you experienced something greatly helps in analyzing the deposited data acritically.

For years my dream of being re-initiated after an educational hiatus to the vaulted tenements of some scholastic establishment has propelled my actions in life in no uncertain manner. This drive became an idee fixe with me such that for years I labored under the impression that life would cease to exist for me if I did not get back to school. And now that I am back to academia, officially, the feeling of accomplishment and mental peace that I thought I would be experiencing are conspicuous by their absence.  The initial ecstasy of winning a battle where I was both the protagonist and the adversary, where one side of me reflected truth and optimism while the other mocked and derided my ambition, is gone for good. May be the mind is maturing after all, taking in the banal and rather than idolizing it and poring over its hidden intricacies is accepting school-life the way it is: a routine. At least that was what I thought after my first two days in class. Today I will write about my impressions on the first day of class.

The first day of school began like the initial chapter of a novel: full of promises. The day preceding this inauguration started and ended in a flash; I could never recall another day which traveled so fast. It seemed as if I was caught up in some strange fast-paced reverie which none of my deliberate actions could slow down. Hence I allowed myself to be wafted and rested mechanically and finally found myself the following morning around nine am before a classroom with likeminded young scholars waiting with bated breath for the classes to commence. We stood outside a moderately sized climate controlled schoolroom to which we were directed by the security personnel. We exchanged pleasantries and wished each other good morning while the janitorial staff prepared the room for us. We waited in the corridor and watched the podium being cleaned and dusted with a grass-headed broom and then a trash of Parle-G biscuit packets and empty coffee cups swept with the same besom. We were dubious at the time, all six of the waiting souls who were admitted in the first counseling to this prided course of Masters in English and Communication. We felt uncertain as to how many students would be there in the class after all, how long the first day orientation would last and many more. We shared our speculations and doubts and felt more uncertain. 

The room finally cleaned, we were allowed to walk inside the compartment and park ourselves on the wooden benches. I cannot tell about the other girls, but the moment my derriere touched the wooden b, I felt my heart expanding with satisfaction. I realized at that specific moment that I was back-to-school, finally.The initial satisfaction was brief though since in a few moments our seniors, second and third semestrial students of the same course, walked in with ample gravitas and ishytle. They perched atop their desks in turns and laughed and talked while a handful of freshers’ observed them and chucoted among themselves. They knew we were inspecting them and directed their actions accordingly. All of them tried to look smart and confident. Finally, the teachers and the other first year students arrived, and the orientation officially began.

In the first stages of this orientation we were given an overview of the course by the professors. The professor who began the rigmarole was a mild, happy looking academic. Following her the other professors went to the podium and presented their statements. We were given the regular details and were strictly warned about the importance of daily attendance on final results. Such talks penetrated from me a genial smile since the presentiments sounded much like the ones I heard on the first day of my high school. I kept my merriment to myself though and decided to listen on.

Among this group of pedagogues one academic took it upon himself to warn us about the “torturous” ride that waited for us in near future. He made it clear in no uncertain terms that it ain’t a jolly ride. But by the time he had ventured to issue the caveat, we had somehow understood the truth by heart.

Following this professorial counseling session we were asked to come to the platform one by one and introduce ourselves. The freshers’ walked in silent trails to the dais and presented themselves. Some talked about their hobbies, some about their future plans, all talked about their academic backgrounds. The general lack or oratorical skill was evident. I wasn’t much impressive either in my speech, still, thanks to the BCL creative writing class, which required me to open my mouth in public; I managed to get on well.

The preliminary exercise continued for an hour or two before it ended with a couple of seniors embellishing our expectations of the course with adulating phrases. We were encouraged and motivated with talks of festivals and cultural programs and seminars and other academic packages that would be part of our two year service at the school. When the professors ultimately got up and informed us that the official orientation was over it was nearly one-thirty.

The finale of the grand opening was announced with the recitation of a lovely poem called The Soldier rendered by one of the kind-hearted instructors. It is a poem about a cavalry-person returning from some battle. 

It took me a solid one-hour thirty five minutes metro ride and a subsequent fifteen minutes rickshaw ride to reach home. As the rickshaw stopped at a traffic-light glowing red, I looked around and observed a man crouching in a fetal position and sleeping, his face was covered with a cloth that had once been white or some such monotone and now looked like a sticky blackened piece of fabric. His slightly heaving body and total unconcern to the bustle of the busy city somehow made me think of this soldier in the poem our professor read. I wondered would the soldier himself be aware of his destination; do we ever know where we are heading in life? We may lie unconcerned ignoring the reality by covering our faces, we may fool ourselves with wise presentiments, with pretenses of perfection and satisfaction, but the truth is we never know where we will be tomorrow; and no poet's warnings could prepare us for this voyage. Hence, to think that life’s endless episodic puzzles could have some decipherable equation that just needs a certain amount of skill to solve is tomfoolery in itself.

P.S. : Picture from internet.