LB “Double” U…

Go fall, come winter. Go winter, come spring, so on and so forth. Seasons, or¬†quarters in¬†particular din’t really seem to make a difference until lately. Perhaps the course of a true Masters student’s life is rather restricted to a particular circle. We are either caught up with courses and lab work or events, part-time jobs, and potlucks. And woosh! Life has taken 10 weeks away from you without your knowledge. Things from A to Z, and everything in between happen during this period. The impact hits rather late. Mind you, often the impact is good. Having drawn more pleasure than pain from it, I would like to lovingly call it LB “Double” U, or Life Before Undetermined Unemployment. ūüėõ

The applause I received right after I came to the US was the best one I could ever receive. Unforgettable and precisely more unforgivable. Moving on from morons to Math 541, I made one of my best friends here (Thanks to Matlab). I often wonder what took the 12 of us to get together when we practically were neighbors. I recall going on a 3 day trip to Florida and being bullied by a “frienemy”. Oh, how I hated her then. One very important and¬†advantageous aspect of LBUU is its unlimited extent of the ability to make mistakes. There are no standard set of rules,¬†responsibilities,¬†immigration issues, tormenting credit card statements, insurance policies, taxes, healthcare plans, investments, paying bills on time, and grocery lists. Most importantly, there is no undue pressure from your parents to bring home their future son-in-law. ūüėÄ ¬†Life seems so much simpler and easier. The mistakes we make then, we get an easy chance to learn from them and rectify them, to an unpredictable extent of course.

Being single in its literal sense, is so confusing. I had friends who constantly paid my bills on time and ¬†kept in mind that we should never run out of milk or toilet paper. The saga of watching weird shows like Rakhi ka Swayamvar, cooking authentic Indian food to celebrate no occasion, eating homemade cake (with nuts) on plastic plates, sharing limited yet delicious machoorian, putting off cooking to watch Kitni Mohabbat Hain, long (really long) and meaningless conversations and petty¬†arguments on staircases, silly sticky notes to show that you are pissed at somebody, sharing episodes and downloading illegal torrent files, the tiring act of cooking and cleaning on the same day, watching a series of Manirathnam’s movies in a row, starting to watch a series and making your friends addicted to it too, playing¬†inappropriate and loud music, the pride in bringing home the 1st bottle of delicious scotch, borrowing an onion, a cup of milk or a few jalapenos from your neighbor,¬†making fun of unreasonable customer demands,¬†laughing at stupid jokes, crying, consoling, grumbling, giggling, gossiping, common enemies, breaking mirrors, the innate curiosity about who is dating whom, having a favorite girlfriend with whom you chit-chat into the night, fighting with her and still being in love with her 3 months later, taking¬†impulsive¬†decisions at 3.30 AM,¬†the¬†practiced photo session¬†for graduation, unnecessary and necessary shopping in the mall, the memorable birthday parties and gifts (with¬†balloons on the¬†ceiling¬†and intentionally purchased eggs, milk and tomatoes), AC that relentlessly refused to work, girls¬†night outs, dressing up and putting on make up to just take pictures, mixing lots of rice, ghee and pickle and eating from a common plate, being¬†possessive about ring tones,¬†dozing away to land on your friends shoulder in the middle of a boring film, a trip to a sober city that turns out to be unlimited fun owing to the company, one particular melody that you sing in chorus all day long, handling the GPS, wanting to be a part of the conversation happening in the back seat and trying hard not to piss off the person who is driving, anger, jealousy, hatred, not talking to each other, the drama during that period, the people who put up with our¬†meaningless theories, midnight walks/hangouts, late night maggie treats, debating on which restaurant to eat in when the available options are but 5, ¬†the ease in being able to talk to your friends by directly barging into their rooms rather than employing a chat window or webcam,¬†the pain as you watch each person move out of your apartment, recalling this kind of stuff and smiling at it and I could go on and on if you let me. Although I have moved ahead and away from there, my heart still aches when I see a junior put up a picture of OUR staircase on¬†Facebook. Yes, it does, very much. And if all these memories flood back to you when you hear 219/119, you would agree with me too.

OLEV : ______??

I was about 6 years old, when I took my entrance exam at Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School. I¬†vividly¬†remember being coached for an entire year for it. I excelled in Math then, yes I really did. Basically I was good at anything and everything. I believe that was due to the enthusiastic childish spirit that refused to take “NO” for an answer. My mom often narrates one particular episode to most of my friends. This happened when I was in my 1 st grade. I had secured the 2 nd rank in my class. I couldn’t bear defeat, God knows why, the “it’s all a part of life” was absent in my dictionary. I forced my mom to take me to the HM and ask her why I had stood second instead of first. After a little bit of illegal and unauthorized digging into the exam papers, my HM told me that I had lost the first place to another girl, by one mark. ONE single mark. Oh yes, and I remember my mistake too. I had gotten my “umbrella” spelling wrong. Mine had a ‘single L’. Perhaps this incident played a major role in impregnating into me, the fact, that the value of a small, minute element often has a large,¬†inversely¬†proportional consequence.

Coming back to the entrance exam, it was a beautiful day in May 1991, and we were seated in the AB dormitory. I was given a set of Math and English questions to solve. I set to work immediately, with a¬†practiced Om symbol on the top of my exam sheet. There I was ready to give my best, to make a dream my mom and me shared for one whole year, come true.¬†I went through, solving and answering, almost everything with genuine ease. Finally, there it stood in front of me, a question I haven’t been able to answer till date. It was in the category of ¬†‘set the jumbled words right’. OLEV. I stared at it for a moment, blinked at it for two, sent memory soldiers on a tour in my head, nothing worked. Of course, I wouldn’t give up. I had already tasted the bitter fruits of a single mark. Time flew, refreshments came and went, interviews were done with, and almost when the time was up, my vain¬†despair¬†turned into hot tears. I couldn’t let go. And, so much like god sent, Vasanthi aunty came by, saw me crying and looked into my paper, wiped my tears and whispered into my ears, “It’s LOVE”. My joy knew no bounds, I quickly scribbled it on the paper, and marched out with a proud smile on my face. Also, completely clueless about the magnanimity of this word, I wondered in my head, why would a spiritual institution been so interested in asking a question about some crap they show in the films between a hero and a¬†heroine. Yes, at the age of six, love¬†perceptually¬†meant that to me. And I did a shhhhh!! to my head and went to meet my mom outside the silver sarvadharma gate. The sshhhh came because my mom had¬†strictly told me that talking or thinking about movies there was a huge crime.

I’ve grown to understand that love is something more than the feeling between two people running behind trees in a song sequence. I’ve come across different levels, and types of it. I’ve been with people who do insanely crazy things with the excuse of being madly in love and also with people who think love is a mere enormous¬†commercial “word” which in its true sense doesn’t exist or have a meaning. I have experienced love in practically all its forms, right from its Divine aspect to being in¬†immense¬†love with a baby boy who isn’t my own. I have blushed about it, laughed in it, mourned over it and mocked at it. ¬†After everything said, felt, and done, why does LOVE still appear to me, jumbled?? Why?