Monday, 9 April 2012

This day... That age...

I pondered long over what to wear. At the end the decision was made based on available time. I climbed into a (too big) salwar kameez in white and purple and smudged on some eye-liner. The hair was in a mess as usual, and I just let it be.

I remember that one year when I chose a pink dress that my mum lovingly picked out for me. I was 17, weighed in at 40 kilos, and if I had any curves at all to speak of, they were in my weirdly shaped forehead (it protrudes a bit, if you must ask). All the things that mum sent with me for 'special occasions' were pink, and rather childish. Oh well.

I drove myself to the hostel, confidently. Weaving through light night traffic and listening to some ear-popping music that I stole recently from a young friend. I smiled as some of the more explicit lyrics sunk in - I still cannot believe people can say these things and not use corresponding metaphors.

In those days, I used to listen to Bob Dylan and Jim Croce and The Beatles. A lot. I had a cassette player of some sort. When it konked, I tried to inflict it upon my unsuspecting girl-friends. Music I got all the way from Godavari hostel, from that lanky person.

I parked and paused briefly to note that a mallipoo seller outside the hostel felt like a bit of aberration, or maybe not. Who knew. The colourful rangolis welcomed us into the premises. Nasty brown sofas in the 'visitor lounge' The cycle park converted into food-stalls. I promptly refused the green, nuclear-sludge-like 'welcome drink' and passed into the hostel.

Shyam & a bunch of her groupies used to create these rangolis. I used to go to sleep at night - late - wondering who would decorate and if there could be any use for those paper-cut-out mobiles I am good at making. The next morning would bring these beautiful rangolis & other decorations around the hostel, to my surprised eyes and I would just not refer to my rather-limited skills with paper and scissor. The nasty brown sofas have not been replaced, yet.

The garden looked splendid. There is a swing in there now. It reminds me of some old Vyjayanti Mala song. Can't remember the song now don't ask me. You know. My room door looks the same from down below. "My room?" who am I kidding? In the intervening years, at least 17 new people have lived in there, a few of them boys (when our beloved hostel was converted into a Boys' dwelling, briefly). The mess has been torn down and extra rooms created. I walked further and turned right and there was the stage.

The garden used to be bare. They had just created it. That walk-way, which we called 'the ramp' - I remember spending hours sitting there talking talking talking heckling anyone that passed. Ah those were the days. The mess was large and airy but I still avoided it on days they had Fried Fish. We had the hostel night in the same place, at least in our final year. We placed the stage at the other end though. Girls had insisted on playing badminton in the evening despite the need for putting up the stage, stressing us out.

I was too lost in my nostalgia initially to talk to anyone. I sat there in the audience with a distant look in my eyes. I am not sure why I chose to go. Actually, I do know. Two of my PhD students live in Sarayu hostel now. The girls are going to be with me for at least a few more years. They invited me, and so I went. To chat with them. Get to know them better. And to be nostalgic for a bit, I guess.

The Chief Guest had to leave early. At least, she had to leave at a decent time. The program started very late. So they asked me, and I agreed. Despite my too-big salwar kameez and the nasty hair and my distant eyes. I went up on stage. I handed out a few prizes. I threatened to make a very long speech (Fasten your seatbelts, I said).

But my heart was not in it. It had travelled in time to that age. Our triumphant rendition of 'Obladi' - Shalini on the guitar, and begging Shiuli to join us while all the while she kept up the pretense that she was stoned. Wearing a butterfly green salwar kameez suitable for 10 year olds (airspy still teases me about that). Sifting through clothes lovingly picked out by mum. Hating all of them. Not daring to tell her. Stressing out about the "Rogue's Gallery" and hoping mine would be written well (and without damaging incidents).

When I first entered Sarayu hostel, that day in 1991, I walked in, not turning back to wave at teary-eyed parents who waited expectantly in a taxi outside. When I left, in 1995, I did the same. I walked out and flew away to distant lands. Returning just once one fateful July day. But thats a story for another day...


Choxbox said...

smaaaaailing away :)

yes those rangolis! have some pix of them, with us all coevred with colours too.

and they have a swing now?!

Preeti Aghalayam aka kbpm said...

Yeah Chox. Swing!! And I am reading your colour posts. Super interesting but been tied up so haven't tried it on the chile yet. Soon though and will report.