To my misfortune, every year I celebrate my new year on the run .. like, literally on the run this particular time . Vacations had just ended. I was unhappy for leaving behind home and family , but more than that , the thought of having to attend classes again was more painful . It happens to all the students of manipal, Every day passes with excruciating agony of attendance shortage. Nevertheless, as soon as you step foot on the threshold of bidding adieu, like a machine , emotions are overcome by tasks . Task of taking your seat , checking out people around , double checking your seat ,calling mom for a final goodbye and putting your earphones on with the favorite song . Soon, it’s all back to being just you, “alone against the world” as I generally put it.
I don’t like travelling, especially when on road, and particularly when alone. I also have an irritating tendency to talk and not listen. So, earphones were out within an hour or at least it seemed like an hour. Anyways, so I look at the guy sitting next to me. He looked ‘rough and rugged’ with stubble on his dimpled cheek. He was smiling at a book he was reading.
Well that’s nice I thought, Chetan Bhagat is always a nice conversation starter. I looked at him with a sheepish smile ‘Revolution 2020 huh’ I said. He gave me a nod and continued reading. The sad part about a girl being ignored is that we are not used to this situation. We are supposed to be the one ignoring the attention.
I took the assault with pride, turned away and started staring out of the window blankly. I always insist on taking the window seat. The big glass windows of the Volvo buses allows a view that no canvas can capture .The sun was dull yellow amidst the pale clouds, hillocks on the periphery like we used to draw when we were just kids and the grass perfect pastel green . It had just started to drizzle .I wondered how it would feel to just sit in the center of the fields , with arms wide open , letting my white little top tell me the direction of the breeze . Feel a few drops of fresh rain on my face. All I could feel right now, in contrast, was the cool air blowing at me through the ac nozzle incessantly. I looked at the nozzle and turned it away. ‘Irony just doesn’t work well for me’ I thought with a deep sigh.
Just then, the guy turned at me and said ‘do you mind?’ signaling toward the ac on top of our heads pointing straight at him now. I quickly muttered ‘oh sorry, it’s just, I dnt want …’ he stopped me midway. ‘Actually we can turn it off if you don’t mind’ he said in a polite yet commanding manner. ‘Oh yeah … sure … we can’ I said. He smiled at my stress on ‘we can’ I think.
‘So are you a fan of chetan bhagat’s?’ he said in a way I thought was mockery. I noticed he had finished reading but was scribbling something in his notebook for quite some time. The loner sorts I thought.
I wasn’t a big fan but I had read all his books .Critics have had their problems with him but all youngsters loved him. I wanted to sound profound so I just said ‘I like a few of his works .. What about you?’
‘This is actually the first of his works that I am reading ‘he said …
I stretched to pick up my bag and grab a packet of Oreo. He looked at my backpack which is essentially a Lenovo laptop bag.
‘So you are a student at manipal, which course? ‘He said which is no rocket science considering all our bags have the manipal logo on it. ‘I am a bds final year ‘I beamed. ‘What about you .. Which course?’
‘I am just going for a reunion, I graduated 5 years ago from kmc ’he said plainly.
My jaws were left open, in my head of course. Appearances are deceptive smita, I thought to myself and let out a smile ‘that’s nice .. I am sure you miss your college days, im sure I will too when I pass out.’
‘Ofcourse you will too! Those were the best days of my life, he sang in the bryan adams tune excitedly .’ We both started laughing . The stranger bubble was definitely burst . He started telling me about ‘the bds people are dumb stories” I retorted with “kmc people are nerds stories ”It was getting fun , this trip !
He showed me an old diary that he had kept close to him. ‘My friends have asked me to bring this diary along. I used to make it a point and enter a particular detail I liked when I was in college. This diary was very popular and useful.’ He said like a proud father would on the success of his child . I looked at it like an obedient kid . I started with the first page. It was a sketch of an empty roon .. ‘This was my first room at nehru hostel .‘ I was glancing through all the sketches marveled in blue and black gel pens. My eyes stopped at a view of a bench . The picture showed huts covered with clouds , stream of river amidst the rocks , another hill at a far distant and birds of various types . I was elated by what I just saw. He noticed me gawking at this particular page . ‘Aint end point the serene most place ever?!?!’he said .
I looked at him with my eyes wide open and ashamed , I had just been to end point once or twice to play football . Some constructions were taking place last year, they had changed the route. I had never noticed its beauty before. I was awestruck.
As I turned the page in utter disbelief, I saw he had made a picturesque view . It was not end point for sure . I dint know which place it was . He looked at me and with a surprised face said ‘arey, it’s the place right in front of your dental clinic, near valley view hotel .‘ ‘Oh that ‘I said ‘We have marena there now It’s a centrally air conditioned indoor sports fiesta. Its huge and very bitterly maintained by the staff. I have’nt joined . I don’t have the right shoes “I said all in one breath, not noticing how shallow it sounded.
I suddenly found him looking at me with pitiful eyes. ‘The most beautiful of things, cant be captured , cant be made , it is found . Someone great did find manipal . Should’nt we protect what is ours and keep It real instead of fidgeting with it. I saw you look outside the window the time it was rainin, can anybody bring back the same moment for you .. What do you think?’
What did I think … that was a perfect question .. the perfect question .
I see a building in front of my hostel being made in place of a swimming pool, the background of which was vast land covered with green grass and hilltops .I see the increasing number of cars covering the clear sky with coal dust . I see the beaches with garbage dumps on the sides. I see trees but I don’t see the pretty birds of the diary any more. I see, I feel … I know.. But do I think?
Has anyone of us really put our minds to it? For the first time, I did not have any answer. We are progressing in terms of academics, in terms of technology, but we are paying a price of what has been gifted to us ? You can bring a revolution 2020, make human more humane, make politics more viable too . But nature once lost cannot be replenished in its original beautiful form.
As lights turned off, everyone slept but I kept thinking. The next day, Vikas (the alumni) gave me his diary. I couldnt believe what I was being offered. But it felt like I was being passed a torch of light, a legacy. I turned to the last page. It had a picture of me looking at the window, it was that same moment, but with a rain drop on my face and an expression more content.
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