Notes from an (almost) Failed Summer


To say that the summer wasn’t what I expected it to be would be an understatement. Don’t ask how I deluded myself into thinking that a college summer was, by default, a big happy picnic. When I started at college, I wished for a lot of things. I expected a learning experience finally rid of the endless, soul-crushing grind for marks. I wanted the friends, the right guy, the song that’ll be my college experience, the book that’ll revolutionize my perspective and the movie that’ll change my thinking, the photo that’ll show me happy and with my teeth not too big. When you move out of the house and to a place 330 kilometers away (parent-free), when you turn 18 and stop wearing the Uniform, that’s what you expect. I know, I know. I was naive and idealistic.

After the grand freshie college dream comes the grand freshie summer. Toward the lag end of the semester, when exams are upon you and mess food seems more of an agony than usual, I set my sights on the long summer before me – three months, nearly as long as the semester itself. Why, I wondered? Seems an awful lot of time, mustn’t get bored. So, I applied for an internship. The people at the institute I wanted to work with were surprised at what seemed a suspicious enthusiasm for occupying myself, but they agreed to take me on.

Back at home, I spent an inordinate amount of time appreciating the luxury of good food, fantastic weather and not having to wash my clothes, among other things. But slowly, it began to wear on me. “I can’t wait to go home!” – if I had a rupee for every single time I said that last semester, I could afford a pair of heels at Clarke’s. Well, I’m home. Now what?

Friends. Call them, catch up with them, swap awesome (?) stories. So I did. But a year and a city put a lot of distance between people you were inseparable with in school. “No, Liza. I have internals. Externals. Theory. Practicals”. They poured out their hearts to me. Over the phone. If you have friends, who for some obscure reason decided to bury themselves in med school, you’ll know the difficulties of convincing them that watching a movie won’t hurt their chances of acing exams which are a month away.

Trawling internet aimlessly. Facebook, that bane, that insane mindless website we’re reduced to checking every hour or so, hoping it’ll entertain us, fearing others are having more fun than us (turns out that’s an actual syndrome, with a name and everything- Fear Of Missing Out). FB. FOMO. FML. I scrolled through my news feed taking an unhealthy amount of interest in other people’s lives. I mailed people I hadn’t spoken to in ages. I wandered through the World Wide Web without purpose for hours.

Exercise. Ah, yes. A new body for the new semester. A vision loomed before my eyes, me with a svelte body finally able to fit into the proverbial tiny pair of jeans … I’ll go walking everyday. Not the crack of dawn, well past that, but still. Walking shoes? Check. Music? Check. Clothes? Sort of-check. (Only old men and chatty loud housewives frequent our park in the mornings. I wasn’t going to dress up.) A month down the road, the fat clings to my cells with a disappointing tenacity. But why?

The summer can be disappointing, but there must be a lot you can do in three whole months, right? When I asked Google, it gave me a list of “101 fun things to do in summer.” My God. Among other inane ideas, some stand out – “Grow a sunflower plant?” No, thanks. “Sleep in your backyard under the stars.” Okay, but you missed the part about getting ravished by mosquitoes that have appetites to rival vampires.

So I made my own list. One thing I really enjoyed was acquiring rudimentary culinary skills. I got absurdly inventive with food, aided by my mother who was ecstatic that I had finally deigned to make an appearance in the kitchen with purposes other than raiding the stores. Cooking isn’t necessarily effortless, but it’s fun and gives you a wonderful sense of accomplishment at the end of it all.

Although most of us have lived all our lives in one city, not many can claim to be acquainted well with it. To get your holiday looking up, get out and explore your city. Go to places you haven’t been to before, explore their shops and food. Look up blogs and web pages and even the newspaper to find out about activities, like pottery workshops, book fairs or plays. Or circuses, if you are seriously lucky. The next time someone new to the city asks you what to do when there, you mustn’t be stumped!

All of us love having to do nothing when there is stuff to be done. So find something that requires work, like driving lessons, learning to solve the cryptic crossword, or swimming classes, or even an internship. It’ll ensure that the remaining time is spent doing (and appreciating) genuinely entertaining and relatively easy things, like movies or books.

A more radical plan, but one that promises amusement, is travel. Now, planning is absolutely essential for this one. Warn your parents beforehand of your intentions (so you give them time to exhaust all the arguments they have against it) and save money for expenses over the year. Get friends to go along with you, or sign up for a student tour package. Nothing beats the fun of novelty, and of travelling with friends. And who knows, you might even get that photo you’ve always wanted.

Your summer and mine need not be the vague mess it usually turns out to be. I hope we all have good stories when we’re back next semester.

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