To round up 2017’s set of “Through The Goggles Of A Graduate”, we have Vishal Katariya – quizzer extraordinaire, curator of all things well-written on the internet at “The Kat’s Kable” and discerning connoisseur of tea. In this poignant piece, he looks back on his time in insti while pursuing his graduate studies a few continents away.
To be completely honest, this is the sixth time I am trying to write this piece, and it’s difficult. I’ve come across as preachy and pedantic, or bitter and morose. I’m going to give it another shot and try to collect all the things I’ve written and make this a heartfelt and free essay about on what I’ve felt about insti.
I have this thing where I ask people how highly they would rate their insti lives on a scale of 4.5. It usually makes people stop and think, at the very least to do the arithmetic calculation. Are you thinking about this now too? I’ve also seen that people’s ratings of their own insti lives change rather drastically from year to year, and that’s only natural.
I took two vacations to Ooty with my closest friends on campus. We went to the same city, lived in neighbouring houses, but the emotions and feelings we carried could have been polar opposites, the very opposite of neighbours. The first time was in December 2015 after our fifth semester, as we conveniently escaped the flooding of Chennai. We had grown up enough to need a vacation from the lots of stresses and loss of tresses that fifth semester entails. Having completed more than half of our insti lives already, we were beginning to ‘do’ things and to ‘become’ people.
Fifth semester is a weird and important time – it’s when people apply for internships, and make Choices that decide (more or less) what you will end up doing for a while once you are done with insti. I was very frustrated with that; your insti ‘trajectory’ has been mapped out for you – there’s so much to do in third year and so little to do in fourth that you have no option but to plod on doing whatever you’ve been doing. Seemingly whimsical decisions to take one course over another, or perhaps one internship over another (if you are so lucky) make it hard to switch tracks.
At this point in our insti lives, we too had little choice in changing our trajectories. Some of us wanted to do research internships, which automatically put us at a disadvantage when it came to finding a nice corporate job, and the ones who took up industrial internships were told that placements was the tried and tested route to take. I guess that this is expected, but it would’ve been nice if someone had told us about this earlier.
Insti is a large and small place – both small and large enough that you would be able to find a new bunch of friends to watch Baahubali with every day of the week. I was very lucky to find the people and friends who were great to be with, and who enriched my life. We had a lot of fun, and learnt to learn from and support each other. Between quizzing, mornings at Bessie playing frisbee, and obsessively cataloguing each other’s insanities and inaniness, we had possibly the best and most happening times of our lives.
Time sped by as a blur. Bowie said it best – “Time may change me // But I can’t trace time”. Before I knew it, I had miraculously completed whatever passed as my BTP and was rather rudely made to part with my ID card. Final semester is all-in-all a wonderful vacation, and the only catch was that you knew that one day in May it would all end. May as well delay the inevitable, so we went to Ooty again. We were no longer going to be just on opposite corners of Sangam, and the trip truly marked a fitting end to our lives as we knew it. I’m not one for being dramatic, but four years spent doing all the insti things leaves you thinking that the world outside cannot be as colourful. And it isn’t, to be honest.
After eight semesters of studying, and living, in campus, you invariably love some things, and love some others a little less. Insti gave me a place to be me, to sit in my room for a long time and enjoy a book in my nook, or to host tea for two. Or, to keep people around for required comfort, but also be able to shut the world outside when I needed or wanted to. It also taught me to accept the vagaries of life – rejoice when you win a staring contest with a monkey, and ruminate when you have the wind knocked out of you by a charging deer (both true stories).
I have this theory of being busy and doing things. There are two kinds of busy people – the ‘happening’ busy and the ‘happens’ busy. The ‘happening’ busy are generally the more popular and ‘happening’ people – they know how to make things happen, and they know who to know, which makes them the people to know. Insti has a nice precharted path for people like these – Cores, secretaries and so forth.
I identify more with the more romantic ‘happens’ sort of busy – people who will sit down and work, seemingly in the background, and will make great things happen too. Insti was a great place for me to be busy and to do things that I loved. Sometimes (or more times than that) you will get irritated by the people of insti bucketing you as drams you, or choreo you, or spons you – this is something insti does. I learnt to not let it contain or affect me much. You should do too! Try new things out, be more than the one thing you are best at. Cast away your regular skin, and moult and mould yourself into what you want to be. As Steve Jobs puts best, the dots don’t connect looking forward. However, you can do your best to try out as many patterns as you possibly can.
Some of my fondest memories involve my hostel room, tea, conversation and a pinch of nostalgia. I’ve graduated now, and I think I steeped in the green boughs of insti just about long enough, like a well-made cup of tea.