I never imagined walking in through the same gates, past the same two men (who asked us a different question today than his usual), and through the same arches, the same overcrowded stairways, and towards the same photocopy-place we had for the past five years would feel so different. Their cold What work do you have instead of a strict, yet playful Put your ID around your neck seemed strangely wrong. The repainted arches, and the redone Multimedia Room made you feel like a lifetime had passed, when in reality it had been hardly four months.
Standing in the heat, waiting for the photocopy guy to listen to you, and then explaining the nuances (3 copies of 2 sheets, 4 copies of 1 sheet, and 5 of 4 sheets) and him laughing, felt like nothing had changed. I look out the window and see a girl, probably late for her classes, help a visually challenged person get to the Resource Centre at the other end of the campus like a thousand others before her. I see a group of friends, probably First Years, clicking pictures in the first quadrangle, just like every fresher in the history of the college has done before them, and I see the various organizers of the college fest with dozens of colourful papers strutting around- the full load of stress, frustration, and nervous breakdowns not hitting them yet, like every batch before them.
There are so many things that have changed- I can never be seated in the first bench of the corner row of the Psych Lab and be slightly irritated if someone else occupied it; I can never go for the Seminars in Khandala, and sing along at the bonfire with the professors, and other classmates, juniors, and seniors; I can never sit in the foyer or the canteen and eat Special Maggi, or Paneer Kathi Roll, and gulp 3 cups of coffee in 5 hours because I slept for 45 minutes last night; I can never pull off eating a red velvet cake at 10.30 in the morning, or take a cab because there were only 5 minutes left for the lecture and it’ll take exactly 8 minutes to the campus and half to the staircase 3 to run up 3 floors; I can never miss a lecture for which I got up at 5.30 in the morning, by 3 minutes and decide to have a quiet breakfast by myself only to end up meeting a friend, and together decide to bunk yet another lecture just to bitch about an annoying classmate that we both hate. I can never enjoy the light breeze in the terrace classroom while studying Lord of the Flies or reading a sonnet or arguing about Foreign Direct Investment in Retail. I can never pretend to listen to a professor rant on about Environmental Psychology while listening to Singing in the Rain or Citizen Kane that the students in the class next to us are studying for Understanding Cinema. I can never write 10 pages of colour-coded notes in a 40 minute lecture with closed eyes because I was too sleepy to keep them open; or actually dream because I ended up dozing off while writing an important assignment. I can never sit in a corner with friends and taste every sandwich in the menu at 5 in the evening when we have yet another submission the next day. I can never call up another friend at 3 in the morning to ask her why on earth are we using this particular statistic and 15 minutes later ask her how to state the result APA style, but end up bitching about everything under the sun for a good 50 minutes. I can never crush on someone two years above me and join every club he’s a part of, or stand outside his class at the opposite end of the campus just to catch a glimpse of him. I can never wait in line for a professor to approve our hypothesis till 9 PM, to get home at 1 in the morning because all the public transport systems were blocked due to heavy rains.
No, I can never do these things- because things change, and people change, and priorities change. I know I’m only moving forward, but no matter how horrible some days in college felt, and no matter how much of a struggle it was to get to the end, and even if they told us that now we’re Alumni, I know Xavier’s will always be there to welcome us home.