Last week of July was a period of anticipation and uncertainty. Meticulously packing my bags and picking out the stuff I would need was a tough job. The difficulty lied in choosing what not to take. The stuff you won’t need in your life almost ever again. So I left all my IIT JEE books alone, not sparing them another glance. I was hurt over not getting into IIT, but little did I know what adventure awaited me in Manipal.
It was a 32 hour train ride along the idyllic landscape of the Konkan Coast, dotted by lakes, striated by streams, all sandwiched between clear blue skies and lush green meadow. At the end of the ride was a town we reached at around 8 in the night. It looked like a quaint old town with little activity but that just Udupi. As we entered Manipal we realised how active the university campus was.
After some confusion, I checked into my room in 18th Block, which was about to become my new home for the next few months. My room had the perfect location. More on that later. That night I didn’t bother unpacking. Because a part of me didn’t want to be there, that was reluctant to accept the failure of not being in another part of the country, in another college. I was in denial. This lasted a month btw.
Before a week could pass, before my mom could even leave after helping me settle, I broke down twice, started hating my surroundings, the place, the weather, the terrain, the food (though I am sure I’m not the only one)…everything.
But then mom left, with the hope that I’ll reinvent myself. Be what I actually was before IIT JEE happened. A winner, in all aspects of life.
By that time I got to know my class (at least a fraction), and all my teachers. My teachers were good except one. And he happened to teach my favourite subject (not taking names here). Over the semester the whole class got into a cold war with him, with certain people having regular skirmishes with him. To be honest, he had personal vendettas. But that was all. All other things, faculty related were A-OK. Class mates took a really long time to open up but they are all chill folks. All of them.
Oreo shakes, and Jack Shack burgers (Spicy Chicken, for me) and Sunday morning dosas were suddenly the new black, and End Point/Malpe/Kapu our new Goa. This interval, of the first month was marked by meeting myriad number of people and asking them their names, branches, sections only to forget it 7 seconds later.
Then the talent evenings happened, where we realised what talent lay within our own classes. Not my section though. There was but one performer from my section which was a bummer. We gave him a standing ovation in class for being the only representative from our class. From raps to break dance, from guitars to violins, from poets to photographers, we saw it all. People were really talented. During that time the favourite conversation starters for guys to use on girls was “Hey I saw you perform and you were good.” Just saaayyiiing.
Fast forward to the middle of the semester, right after the first sessional exams were over. Everyone was going back home for a week. I was not ready to go back home, didn’t feel like going, whatever. But that was a great time, because during that time I interacted with Ronald, and Srijan; two classmates I never spoke to before and we became really good friends, and we did stuff together, and still do! We went to Delta Point, which is the quietest beach around and had hella fun.
Then the Ed Board happened. And something tells me, I shouldn’t speak much about it now, because there’s a greater adventure that’s in store for me. But let’s just say, it’s one place where I feel at home. Really, some of the best people/seniors I know are right there, in one room: the Ed Board room.
I kept myself busy with designing, and learning stuff because really, I was alone there. I committed myself to the routine: wake up, class, lunch, lab, home, sleep, study, read, dinner at 8:15, back home, study some more or play and sleep again. Repeat. Weekends were non-happening. Evenings were dull.
But then my squad started forming. And I made a conscious effort to bring everyone together. Squad one was a table of four with me being the only non-CSE person, but Proms, DK Bose senpai, and Benarasi babu (they know who are) are really cool people. Our convo was mainly about languages, and anime and movies and trying to solve the mystery of Proms’ ancestral roots, whether he is Konkani or Marathi or what. Till date, we don’t know. All four of us are hardcore foodies. So we all clicked. Squad two is Ronald, his Don Juan roommate Ambarish, and “I’ve done it all” Srijan. Classy af people. CLASSY AF.
Somewhere between that routine of waking up early, arduous hours in the academic block and grueling labs, food that makes you homesick, being homesick, the post midnight hostel-mates’ discussion about everything that mattered (we’re talking stuff like Flash/Arrow, music, ‘stuff’, women and CS 1.6), the mad rush to complete the assignments, parties at Remix, biriyani from Dollops, breathtaking sunsets, heart breaks, battles won and lost, Manipal had succeeded.
I had fallen in love with the place, the college, and I had fallen in love with life.