Where I Belong
The first floor landing swarmed with students, heads bent over books, writing busily. We sat on the steps, leant against the banisters, wandered into the open Second Year classrooms, trying to be creative, honest, or simply trying to get it over with. Filling up ‘slam books’ is always tiring. After the first few books, our writing got automatic, and we often ended up saying things we didn’t mean.
Yesterday was officially the last working day of college. Four long years I have spent here, and despite my claims to the contrary, I shall probably miss this place. Just a little bit, when what I’ve had the past few years compares favourably with what is to come. I don’t know why that feels like such a crime.
We spent the afternoon writing these numerous two-page autobiographies. Most of my classmates were there, gathered in groups around somebody’s car (I really pity the person to whom it belongs), writing away as if their very lives depended on it. Somebody said we didn’t even take our exams so seriously. True. Camera phones were whipped out, banter flew back and forth. Though I have been on good terms with everybody, never really experienced any coldness or rebuff, I have never belonged to any group. I think I’m too fond of my private space for that. But I did feel kind of lonely yesterday, especially as the people I normally spend time with weren’t there. I retreated to the shade of a tree, leaned against the trunk, and started writing in a book that had been thrust into my hands. For the first time, perhaps, watching everybody else clustered together, I wished I were more popular.
And then one of my classmates pulled out her phone and clicked me as I stood there under the tree. All of a sudden, the unwarranted feeling of having been neglected that was building up in me disappeared; another picture was taken, people were talking to me. I felt wanted.
It was just one of those moments of total absurdity. I may not be the most well known person in class, but it felt nice to know that I wasn’t as much a non-entity as I imagined. Maybe I do belong here, after all. It’s taken me four years to realise that I do. And now it’s time to leave.
On The Bus
One of the few trips home from college at six o’clock in the evening, a full hour and a half later than the normal time. The blue dusk spilled in through the tinted windows. The hills looked more lush and velvety than in the mellow glow of sunshine; as it grew darker, they were silhouetted starkly against the pale grey-blue sky. (This was exactly how they’d looked the first time I’d ever seen them, passing that way on a trip to another town.) Long, unbroken streaks of cloud ran across the length of the sky, and a pale ribbon of pink on the horizon above the hills gave away the sun’s hideout; it was apparently reluctant to depart on such a glorious evening.
Everything I had ordinarily seen in broad daylight was now awash with electric light. The little temples that line the highway glittered with psychedelic lights, one of the numerous temple festivals on in full swing. A board in the distance announced a wedding. Soon, the interior of the bus was flooded in neon light, quite destroying the dreamy, lulling effect the pallor of the sky had cast upon it. I could continue reading the book that I’d put away because of the lack of light. But I chose not to.
I saw tired heads drooping on friends’ shoulders; hair tightly plaited in the morning all ruffled by the wind and the exercise of a long day at college. The Third Year boys at the back were involved in an animated discussion about the merits of a particular lecturer, career prospects, exams…I felt strangely grown-up. The last time we’d made these late journeys was during the recruitment drives; before that, during the Second Year exams, which were scheduled from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Nostalgia creeping in? Perhaps.