Tales from the Yale Summer Program, 2013
(Because making excuses for not updating can be changed into a multi-part post. Read and Review, please? Enjoy. :P)
It was on the way back, from her internship, when she got an email, which congratulated her for being selected for the Yale Summer Program. She couldn’t contain her excitement, but had to, for everyone in the bus were at least ten years older than her and she didn’t know any of them, which is why she screamed it out in WhatsApp groups (hello, caps lock!) because, hey! Spamming was her birthright and she shall have it. Little did she know that she was going to loose what kept her sane, and what she loved the most.
The first week of the course was pretty okay (If spending half her monthly pocket money in a week was considered fine.) considering she was in a classroom full of complete strangers. But, she survived, thanks to the others not knowing each other either. Restaurants around the college she studied in for three years were discovered, and so was a lot of housing problems, Dharavi and analysing papers she hardly understood. It was the week of the first shower of the season and discovering that people, other than herself, love Friends and How I Met Your Mother. It was also the week when she spoilt her first smartphone, and finally got hold of an Android JellyBean device. (It didn’t even need persuading, thanks to the impossible shower that greeted her at the sea. Soaked, is the word.) It also, unfortunately soaked her copy of The Game of Thrones, which would refuse to dry up even when dried with a hair-dryer. (Why do those things exist? Apart from blowing up your hair disproportionately, of course!)
The second week was the week that hit her harder than Dudley Dursley hit Harry Potter. Ever. Classes started, and with it came a professor who would make her nervous for the months to come. It was bad enough she missed lectures, but why point it out? It’s not like she was ‘chilling’. Added to one term of Summer school, she also had to study for eight papers, four of which didn’t remotely interest her. (Who picks these papers, anyway? Stop shoving it down our throats, people!) But the violence that she heard about made her think twice about everything she heard, or read. She decided that atheism is the way out. (Also known as escapism and refusing to take sides. Learnt from the country she lives in, perhaps?) Because Religion instigates violence, and it has ceased to be what it used to be, and doesn’t provide for anything, but fuel for violence, at least in her city.
Third week descended and she found herself amidst thinking about a term paper, and lots of submissions. Oh, also talking about gender, labour and beautifully done documentaries. Mills and Malls, and Caves and changing from Mumbai to Bombay was just about the only things she talked about. (Except Grey’s Anatomy, because Grey’s forever and #LoveForShonda.) She realised that she wasn’t the same person she was before the week started and, apparently, coffee could keep her up for about three hours at a stretch, before her eyelids would refuse to stay away from her cheeks. The fifteen minutes of treasured time with her Friends was utilized in standing at the coffee counter, screaming, “Bhaiyya, ek Cappuccino,” and bitching about the Professors, who thought their job was to push students to become the creamy layer on the top. Her friends from Yale would spend hours talking of Friends and Grey’s with her, and singing Soft Kitty, Warm Kitty because it annoyed another friend of theirs.
Come fourth week, and the research for the term paper would begin in full swing, and she realises that the solution to all the problems in the world was Inferno. She realised that she would miss these people, who was all she had in the name of social life (even though they would ruin Grey’s and warn her that she was going into a pit. Stop it. Stop it before it leaves you weeping. Stop it before Mark Sloan dies. Stop it before… Oh, wait. Bye, bye sanity!) In any case, they would still quote Friends and talk about that weird one-act play Chandler goes to called “Why don’t you like me?” This became a ritual, and they would be heard screaming “Why don’t you like me?” in a crowd, that would look back at them, not realizing that they were tired, and drained and coffee was the only thing that kept them alive. So they didn’t care. It was also when they talked excessively of caste and Dalit problems and how similar they were to racism in the Americas. She learnt that reservation was Ambedkar’s idea of getting, not equality, but representation. She also learnt that her countrypeople came to conclusions without understanding the dynamics of what their ideologies and values imply. She learnt that she isn’t an atheist, after all, but, ideologically, is a secular humanist. She also learnt that religion is a way of life and giving it up, practically is an impossible task. She learnt that zoning out during her college lectures, especially in lecture of subjects which she didn’t understand at all, and topics she understood, but opposed the professor’s Point of View, is actually an effective coping mechanism. (Coping, here, refers to staying alive, in face of a cognitive breakdown due to information overdose.)
And, finally the fifth week comes, and with that does extra dosage of coffee, better friendships, ‘seducing a friend and taking her home’(to study, because they are awesome like that.), to realize that you have mosquitoes in your house, which apparently are bored of you and were dying to get fresh blood (Jeez, people. If you’d have told us, we’d have gotten more people, no? Not.) Talking of Bollywood, art, cinema, culture, theatre, and everything under the sun happened. And, visiting Dharavi happened. She would have loved to say that Dharavi changed the way she thought of the world, but it didn’t. All it did was change the way she thought of Dharavi. What did she think now, you ask? She thinks that Dharavi is hyped. That she has seen and interacted with people worse off. She thinks that the people in Dharavi are richer than at least 10% people in Bombay. She thinks that people look at Dharavi with sympathy, when the people there don’t deserve it. She thinks that people there should be treated as equals. She also presented her first research paper and fell in love. With Excel. (Her friends ask her to date excel. She told her, ‘If I could, I would. But I can’t, so I shan’t.’)
And thus, that phase is over. The phase of Mills, and Malls; Weekends of road trips and trekking; getting wet in the rains, even with your windcheater and umbrella on, and smelling of sea, salt and wet clothes (okay, I know you didn’t want to hear about it.); and talking, debating, discussing in class about everything under the sun; eating out every day; everything that defined her life for those five weeks were over, with a dinner at a fancy place, and lunch at a dessert place. She tried not to feel deserted, as if her life was over, because it wasn’t; and she tried not to think that she might be meeting some of these friends for the last time in her life. But she went home (by the ladies special, like every other day) to watch the latest epi of Grey’s Anatomy, not knowing that the saga of sleep deprivation had just started; and this was only its first chapter. (To keep her from thinking of things, she watched the first episode of A Game of Thrones, and was scarred for life.)
A/N: The characters in this post are only fictional. Any resemblance to a person (attending an autonomous college) living or dead, however, is purely incidental. The ideas presented are of the author’s own and if you don’t agree, you are requested to shove it up yours. That said, please review, and let me know what you think. J