I was middle class before being middle class was cool

I lived a major part of my life thinking we’re a poor family. It started when I was really young, like 5 or 6, was confirmed by the time I was 7 or 8, and stayed until I was done with my 10th (15 years). By ‘poor’ I don’t mean unable to afford meals, but more like we have the bare minimum and nothing more. Of course we weren’t anywhere close to rich, but I was young and I didn’t know there existed such a thing called ‘middle class’.

Yes we were middle class before being middle class was cool.

(Although I thought we were just poor).

I mean we’d lived in staff quarters since I was born (Engineering quarters till I was 4 and then Medical college quarters), I never owned more than 5 presentable (to non- relatives) clothes at a time, 4 cousins shared one double bed during summer vacations. That might be enough for a regular child but me being the self-centred kid I was, it was the more personal stuff that convinced me we were poor.

My parents were of the opinion that Manichechi (my aunt) already spoiled me by buying everything I wanted so they were under no obligation to make matters worse.

For starters, I never got any dolls from my parents – Barbie or otherwise – the fact that I never wanted any doesn’t matter. All little girls need dolls, okay? Buy your own daughter some dolls, for my sake. And when they paint monsters on the faces and detach all the limbs like I did is when you stop, knowing that she doesn’t deserve any. I also innocently checked under the frock for underwear (there wasn’t one), probably would’ve highlighted them as well.

In the evenings, Maami our maid cooked us snacks. On Maggi days, she boiled a single packet of Maggi and apportioned the noodles onto three plates. One packet for three okay?

These were only subtle hints my parents were throwing at me. There were more cruel ones.

I don’t think anybody could relate to Swamy (from Malgudi Days of course) more than I could. (Well maybe Achu Annan could). When Swamy prepared the Shopping list for Swamy and had to think hard to make sure those few things he jotted down were the only ones he needed and reflected at how his needs were so little, I must tell you I already knew he was stretching it a bit too far. Of course only to have the list brutally dismissed by his father’s “Take whatever you want from my drawer, I don’t have money to spend on all this.” I was relieved to know there existed other households like mine, if only in books.

The first time I asked my father explicitly for pencils (I don’t know why I remember it this way but it was really explicit) he cheerfully replied “Oh why didn’t you tell me you wanted them” and bought me a whole packet of Apsara HB. The next time I decided to cheerfully ask since I had such a considerate father, he asked me what I’d done with the bunch he bought me the last time.

You needed to reason for everything. Buying groceries at the Margin Free Market, he’d stand in billing queue with the full basket and say “Now go grab whatever else you want quick”. Pleasantly surprised (it was my first time, how would I know?), I picked up no less than what my tiny arms couldn’t carry. My father cross-checked the items and only what I really needed went in, plus 3 kitkats.

Next time on I had to pick things up before he stood in the queue so he could filter out Paru’s excesses. Trips to Margin Free ended that way, me attempting a critical examination of my own choices (really I was only trying to decide what I could hope to coax him into buying).

We always bought new clothes for Onam and Christmas and Deepavali but it was usually my uncles and aunt who took us shopping so I assumed we probably didn’t have much money to spend on that, or whatever grownup reason they had. And we never owned anything fancy at home or to wear.

At British Library we could pick 5 books among the 3 of us from WonderLand kids’ section (alright 2 since Achu Annan hardly cared about it) and I was under so much pressure to finish reading as many books as possible while we were there so I could take home other books. And I would negotiate with Kannenan, how many do you want to take? 3? Why are you picking THAT it doesn’t even look nice – if you’re taking 3 today it’ll be my turn to take 3 the next time. (*scrunches up face* you HATE books, why’d you do that to me Mr.Kannan, why?)

British library taught me I should always space my kids properly.

Also our Medical college quarters was so stuffed with all the furniture. During powercut nights you could hear Lagaan songs playing from Achu Annan’s Walkman and I would be choreographing my way through all the clutter, dancing wondrously until my toe hit against a stupid tea-pow. I’ve learned over the years that no matter how big/small the living room or even the house, my father will find a way to fill it with furniture.

So the time that I was very young I don’t know if I thought we were poor as in poor poor (‘tight’), but I knew that our lives had a lot of constraints. Also read : you can’t always get what you want, you may almost never get what you want unless your parents are in a good mood, ESPECIALLY if it involves spending money. And I took it upon me to correct them if any friends had the notion that ‘college professors and doctors earn reaally well’. (I don’t anymore since they revised the Pay scales).

I only realized when I was 15 that I’d vaguely thought of us to be people without money. (Some things you don’t realize, they’re solemnly understood, or something like that.) What happened when I was 15? My second brother went to college somewhere poor families probably don’t send their kids – no it wasn’t somewhere superposh but you don’t know how unresourceful I thought we were. You should’ve seen my face when I asked Amma if we could afford it and she replied with a suddenly formal ‘both your parents have been working since before you were born, we should be able to afford education’.

I was furious with her for almost a month after for letting me believe we were poor (it’s still true we didn’t have a lot of money) but of course I was happy we weren’t anymore. Not that we lived any different post-realization.

From time to time I complain to Amma about how I had to compress all my Shopping Lists for Paru just like Swamy did, and how having 3 kids was a bad idea and they should’ve had just me. Well you turned out fine (define fine? :D), she says, now get a good job and you can have kids and raise them the way you want.

She only says that cos I already told her if I ever have kids I’ll leave it upto her to raise them.

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Also, 2 kids maybe fun but 3 is the best 😀

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School :D

(The kid(s) in the pic isn’t me – it’s Noyna, Jeriya or Miriam, I had bobbed hair until at least 5th standard)

“First line – ‘My-name-is-Parvathy Sarat (Roll No. 28),’” I read out from my English Composition note’s ‘Myself’ page laid out open under my desk. “You’ll have to write your name,” I added in a hushed tone.
“Be soft, Sunitha teacher is making her rounds,” Noyna (Roll No. 26) hissed, almost giggling.

Seated between the two of us, the ever-compliant and innocent Parvathy (Roll No. 27) was hunched on our request, almost lying on top of her answer sheet now, scribbling Myself away with formidable acumen. Noyna and I exchanged messages (literally) behind her back.

“How does she know Myself?”

“She studied for the Unit Test like we were supposed to,” we nervously giggled some more. “Ayyo Paru teacher!”

“Okay next line ‘I – am- 6 -years –old.’”
“Edo shhhhhh she’s looking.”

Being equally weak at English or being new to Class I-C at Holy Angels’ ISC, or more probably because we came by the same blue Ananthapuri travels, Noyna and I were best friends.
Hers was the first stop in the morning, mine the second. We took turns to sit by the window. Unless we’d had a fight – then the person in the mood to ‘Edo sorry’ first would sacrifice their seat as a token of reignited bestfriendship.

We ate Noyna’s jamcakes in the evenings that her Ammachi bought her, blush pink and white with a coating of snowy coconut sprinkles. We’d watch sunlight sifting through gaps in clouds and declare ‘God’ was peeking down at us (I was a staunch believer of God when I was with her). For no particular reason, another bestfriend duo like ourselves was our enemy– we decided we were smarter and cooler, and made fun of everything they did (and not very unloudly) between ourselves.

We were innocent and cruel, like kids are.

Life Crisis No. 1 (English Composition No. 2) :

“Copy down My Family from the blackboard.”

Teacher reads it out for us:

I – have – a – small – family. There – are – dash – members – in – my – family. Fill in the dash with number of members in your family – How many of you have a brother or a sister? Goooood, you write 4 okay?? How many of you are an only child? Goooood, you write 3.

I waited for the Goooood for the 5-member family specimen I represented – it never came. Was it still a small family if there were 5 members? Could I write 5? Mine had never struck me as particularly small anyway.

As the other kids proceeded to copy down the lines, I looked from left to right and front and behind to see if there was anyone clueless as me, making a mental note to confront my parents and my brothers. Jeriya had only one sister. So did Roshni, Parvathy, Meera pretty much everyone I knew.
Then I found Amina with two sisters 😀 We skipped to the teacher, she laughed and said Yes as we waited with abated breaths.
Phew.

Class  II : My Family haunted me again. This time I knew I had a small family.

Class III : Gowri’s adventures with the 10m long python on the road.“Really?” “Yes, you can ask my sister, she was there too!” Of course we believed her, that’s what we did – share our own stories and believe each others’. Kids don’t lie, kids are just creative.

She brought to class the whole kitchen machinery (toy set) – gas stove, cylinder, vessel, and the tiny Sachin/Sehwag figure you got with Horlicks. Under our desk, the whole story played out – as Noyna, Jeriya and I filled the steel vessel with water, Gowri delivered the narration – she was the best. (“It’s getting late for Sehwag’s bath. Let’s put water on the stove” – see, like I said it doesn’t sound as good when I say it :P). Laughter riot and a shouting riot from Deepa teacher ensued.

Class IV :

Group Song for School Day. A flock of frilled frocks. You girls look like angels! (I looked like shit). But surely Angels, with ungrimed and polished black Bata buckle shoes and new white socks pulled up right upto where the fat calves wouldn’t let them climb up.

Class V:

Caroline teacher taught us Little Women – in her crisply pressed sarees with stiff pleats. I knew her finger rings and earrings and what sarees she wore them with. On days she didn’t, I wondered if she’d misplaced them the last time and couldn’t find them in the morning rush as her own father called behind her Paalu kudichitt pooo, like mine did in the mornings.

You just had to sit and look into your books, while she read in her great reading voice. It was a story with Christmas presents and bedtime prayers and pudding and drawing pensuls. My life was He-Man on Doordarshan and cricket with neighbours and monsoon mangoes so the new world charm was way too much.

In the afternoon English-II class, we sat in our blue checked pinafores and ties and shirts as the sun threw light onto the open red corridor outside, bent over our tiny texts – some shared, others on their own. And Little Women by Louisa May Alcott would play out. It was about 4 girls whose father was away at some war and her mother kept reminding them over dinner and over prayer how they had to be good girls and how they were looking forward to playing out The Pilgrims’ Progress when their father returned. I thought of myself as Amy because of my stupid nose, though I knew I’d be Jo when I grew up – everyone adored Jo. Though I knew Jo was actually Caroline teacher, especially when Jo cut her beautiful long hair towards the end to save money for her family (I’m sorry for the spoiler) – Caroline teacher was brimming with pride, giving away her little secret. But Jo was the best, so I wasn’t going to out her.

At the year end, Roshni, Akhila and I were class toppers, and we were asked to pick ‘any book’ we liked from the school library. We returned to class, they had Class VI texts with them (headstart or whatever makes sense to 10 year olds). My logic was parents would buy us those anyway, so I picked what looked like a puzzle/games book for kids. As our class teacher skimmed through it and closed it with a grin, I noticed it said Class Zero.

Yes, I think that confirms I had a disturbing childhood.

Sorry for the abrupt ending though, this should’ve been posted long ago. And a Happy New Year!

Of course the stage is sacred, it’s where we get high

[For anybody who hasn’t got the ‘we’ of the title, this post is about my college dance team. And for Amma who’s frowning suspiciously at it, it’s just an expression enne kollanda I don’t actually smoke :D]

I must start by mentioning this is an awfully personal version and a limited one at that, as bail for any future complaints.

And I swear it’s completely harmless. Because if I told you about the time when VC and the rest of us were walking to Gp’s place, and she naively went up to a guy and said, “Cheta, aa mund onn mattuvo, athinte adeenn rocket onneduthotte”, it would be blasphemy. So I shall not do it. (Did I mention she was playing with a paper rocket, but sshh.)

And if I told you about Buhari’s newly founded self-declaredly super-efficient onstage technique by which he focuses *cough* biogas *cough* into instant energy, I’d be revealing too much. Also he might kill me, hence I won’t be doing that either (I’m not sure how much effort he put into it, but I know we were all thankfully shielded from some pretty major shit, again sssh).

This isn’t a goodbye post though, because farewells make sense everywhere except in our dance team where it’s pretty much a farce. Not because if-there’s-such-a-thing-in-the-team-as The Official farewell gets postponed until it never happens like last year, but because you’d think you’re bidding seniors goodbye and that’ll be the end of them, but they never really leave :P.

Sure you won’t see them in college anymore, but they’ll always be around with their “Choreo enthayi?” or “How’s practice going?” And just as you thought you were beginning to miss Sreekanth etan’s upbeat chalis, he’ll show up in college one day with his “Njan oru chali adikkate” reminding you there was never anything upbeat about them, and you’re still stuck with his annoying jokes even after he got shipped off to Bosch 😀 And just as you think you’re missing the pillar Arjunetan, he’ll appear unannounced at a fest with his flippant quips and make you laugh until your stomach hurts.

A little more than two years ago though, I wasn’t acquainted with room no. A322 (if you aren’t either, it’s our dance room), I didn’t know any of those I just mentioned, I didn’t know what lay ahead and I was an entirely different person.

LH was where I’d eat as guest for 20Rs from the mess sans the fish because it’s reserved for inmates. Today, it’s where I’d go with the rest of the team for lunch after 2 (it’s free because mess duty would’ve left by then), or for tea in the evening before fests and to #64 during practice breaks to soak Sreelekshmi’s bed in my sweat. She never complained.

College was a place to be left no later than 6.30pm and DEFINITELY not where you broke into spells of crazy dancing to London Thumakda or Mangalyam at A322 at 8 in the night. Triples were wild and fun and once-in-a-while, today it’s squeezing three of our asses onto the tiny two-wheeler seat every second day to go home or to sir’s place. Hari’s Enfield and Akshay’s Duke from the end of the season don’t count, traitors getting rich just as we are getting despatched. Arjun etan’s the best – Dio then, Dio now, Dio forever 😀

A full split was a rift between groups in class, now it’s what Aswin’s trying to accomplish in the left corner of the picture below in the mirror. IMG-20151112-WA0009.jpgAt sir’s studio, standing in our infamous Battlecry photo pose that we never got a photo of. Kj and Akshay missing.
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They were busy with, er, each other. Jk, it doesn’t happen during practice.

Talks being held at CETAA hall don’t mean IEEE or ISTE or EDC or any other club anymore, they mean chaya/vada before practice from outside as long as we pretend we belong to the fraternity inside, though it’s past me how we ever pull it off in our chic practice attire :D.

And college from two years back was where you went to study though none of it happened, not where you sat through and waited for 4 in the evening so you can go to the dance room and meet a bunch of crazy people. Who’ll teach you the 14 districts of Kerala in order, and that your phone gets on Roaming when you leave the state and not Tvm. Or maybe it’s just me who needed the lesson. (My parents believe I should do IAS, geography’s my only weak spot  you know). Who, when you weep and complain that a friend didn’t let you cheat off their test (it was series okay), will first console you and then ruthlessly laugh at you for not having legitly failed a test. Of course I’m bragging.

The reason why this place is crazy though, is cos you spend the first few months in the team wondering if you really belong here, and the rest of your college life feeling like this the one place you really do.


 

I remember when S6 began, I couldn’t wait to go to A322 every day. Days of practice from 9am to 9pm  when post-6.30 evenings turned into major dancing stints outside the choreo-prospectus of contemporary and hiphop. Of days when Ginu almost killed Muth on the eve of Cultaway ’15, of days when the team was deluged with new Asus phones, of mind-boggling quantum of selfies uploaded in the group every evening, of celebrating birthdays and Dhwani and pulling Nami’s leg and Jithu’s Ladio, of days when college practically shrunk to that room atop main block. It wasn’t unadulterated fun, it was euphoria through an entire season of 13 stages. When the most fun moments were after losing Sarang and before performing at Ragam. With undertones of Pazhagikalam and Ethu Kari Ravilum and Vinnod Nee Irundhaaaaaaaal *wink*.

sree.png A322 from last season.

We missed those evenings this year as Dr. David courteously asked us to practise off-campus and we dutifully obeyed. Can’t blame him, University Youth Festivalil event allathathu kondu Cup onnum adichittillalo. I’m sorry he got kicked out of college later though. Could have been sooner.

But if it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t have had all those hilarious days when 9 of us girls cramped ourselves into Nany’s car to go to Sir’s place for practice while he on the driver’s seat tried to hide his face with someone’s shawl as a Mechanical Professor passed us by at the junction. And an odd semester where we jumped from the studio to temple hall to emmau’s church meeting hall to indoor stadium and finally back to A322. Where the guys miserably struggle to keep up with the girls while we do push-ups, counting away and Muth stands on her head. I’m not winking or coughing.

Where discussions loom over MJ5 to Maroon 5 to Mini Militia.

Where stories are weaved and costumes designed from scratch, pieces choreographed and portions intertwined.

Where you miss a step on stage and get off in despair, you’ll laugh about it with the rest of them for the rest of the season, and the next.

The team is probably also what your parents advise you to think twice and twice again before joining, you’ll listen to them consistently complain about the hectic days -no, not theirs- but they’ll proudly watch you on stage and exclaim, “So that’s what the six months’ practice was about”. Or they’ll say they don’t approve of it, come watch you at NUALS and when asked how it went, like Anaswara’s mom they’ll critique, “You didn’t point your toe during the lift”. Parents 😀

The stage itself is a culmination of sorts of timeless full-stretches, punctuated by the smell of hair-spray and face-paint and smoke, and the clamour of an audience in anticipation. You’d think that the rush of adrenalin before a performance would grow fainter as the stages go by, but it doesn’t. And the jubilant cheer that bears the team name as you get on or off the floor only grows on you, the initial boos that invariably turn into indiscriminate cheers as the dance proceeds only get you addicted.

There are unending on-stage tales that’ll crack you up.  Like that of Ginu’s knee drop that was done an entire half-minute early, she spent the rest of the minute doing a whole 360 degree rotation to see what steps the rest of us on stage were upto, and then calmly waited for us to catch up with her.

The real tales of ours, though, lie offstage. Not just those of the hiphop choreo days when boys had practice all through the night until morning after which they brushed their teeth and proceeded to classrooms, only to be asked to leave after being caught sleeping.

Every person here has their own stories to speak of, some of them more personal than others, and some more painful perhaps. Of how they lost count of stitches done or of how they stayed put at the expense of sacrifices made. Chances are you’ll have one to say for yourself if you belong to a performing clan.

Like a KDP who’s in bed with fits of a 104 fever at 12 and goes on stage at 2.

Or a Kevin chetan who’s resting with a plastered leg that’s practically warped and is yet the first one to jump up with “let’s go” when he hears there’s a stage to perform.

Or an Anu who’s exhausted her physique to the point of collapse and yet turns up at A322 every evening.

Or a Nipun who, when the rest of us are down on the SAC floor in tears after Nany’s accident wondering if we’d ever have the courage to don dancing shoes again let alone perform minutes later, when the rest of us are too shaken to even think clear and when he has every reason himself to break down, delivers a goddamn soliloquy and steers way for the team, for Nany who’d wanted it the most.

Or even a Nany injured in his costume after getting ready for the stage and hospitalised with  a skull fracture and two clots to his brain, the first thing he utters on gaining consciousness and hearing his team went on to win Saarang is, “You could’ve waited for me, I would’ve performed, I just had to get a CT”.

These are the stories that make up our team, these and a hundred more.

Of days of going home/to the hostel exhausted after practice, falling on the bed and not getting up until next day. Of waking up feeling like you never slept and then proceeding to drag your ass to class for attendance. Of  stretching your arm to pick up that book to prepare for a test, then deciding against it because it hurts too much. Of missing calls and weddings and reunions and parties and hangouts and deadlines you didn’t even know existed because college doesn’t revolve around class/department or anywhere close to it anymore. Of a day when it hurts because of a splintered arm or a wounded inside, or of a day when your mind’s a mess. Yet you pull yourself together and hug them all, go on stage and surprise yourself and you wonder how you did it.

Ours aren’t tales of wonder or awe but tales that reek of ache and compromise and are drenched in tears and sweat.

And if you remember those once-sore joints and overworked muscles that became a part of you, you’d know it isn’t surprising if miscomings do not deter the squad. And if you remember those relentless cramps and used up cans of Volini and almost-empty bottles of Murivenna and the Thirumals, you’d know how the show goes on no matter what.

Because nobody said it’d be easy. They just said it’d be worth it.


The best part about the team : Seniors. [And juniors and batchmates, just in case everyone’s reading this :P]

sree.pngAt the IIT IRCTC canteen. Clicking this was followed by tons of food and 6 hours of craziness.

Including a Shebin chetan and Gp who’ll make you laugh when you tearfully lose your first Sarang, then go on to play Anthakshari at the IRCTC canteen from 12 to 6 in the morning. And a Sreekanth, Arjun and Aswathy chechi without whom we wouldn’t have won the next time. Kickass seniors we have, yes 😀

I still remember our last SNIT fest from last year. Until then, I didn’t know there were engineering colleges with swimming pools atop beautiful hills, going where feels like a bloody awesome excursion trip. We were accompanied by Sreekanthetan’s Thor tee that came with us for every fest in its never-been-washed self with the excuse of being lucky. I remember how we loitered by the poolside and watched the familiar teams arrive, ran through the rain and took a million selfies in –finally – MY AWESOME NEW Lenovo phone.  And that’s the day Arjun got locked out of his house because he returned with his friend’s car past 12 midnight when he’d promised to return by 4 in the evening. He’s passed on the baton to Sangeeth now.

I remember returning home in Arjun’s car, the cool after-showers night air swept in as Devika chechi said, “Can’t believe this is the end for us final years” from the window seat. I can recall every little nuance from that trip. And I could recount every single detail from that day like it happened yesterday, perhaps cos it’s one of the best days of my life. No I do not throw superlatives around like shit.

That’s why it’s sad to know that it’s our turn now, that there’ll be no more routinely arranging and rearranging those desks and benches of A322. No more of sitting on the courtyard steps of LH with the rest of the girls, sipping tea while a familiar face asks, “Innu fest ondo?” No more standing on the surreal side of the stage while listening to the chorus of ‘CET’ or ‘Watch the Freakz’. That’s why it’s heart-breaking, because this was what we loved the most about college, and for some of us the only thing we loved.

Anu’s “erangiyooo” that transcends corridors and LH walls. Nami regularly ‘not sleeping’ on trains. KDP’s push-cart and his forever-cool. All the times when Anjaly got – undopingly – stoned 😀 Burping after eating too much of Nipun’s biriyani – oh wait, there’s always another Ragam. Pratheeksha’s slapstick remarks and AAAAAYYYY. Akshay’s adventures with meen. I’ll try my best to not miss Nany or Nikita though, they can do the missing themselves, as long as no curtains are destroyed.

Whenever I chance upon If I Lose Myself, I’ll remember the rainy days at the studio dancing with Jithu and the others and the unfinished story of our group duet.

I’ll miss waking up half-dazed in the morning, trying hard to remember if we sweated too much during previous day’s practice because otherwise – never mind – I’ll miss stuffing freshly washed practice dress into my college bag every morning 😛

I’ll miss ringing up Arjun before practice on weekends and nagging juniors to drop me home and listening to Hari and Sangeeth and Arjun’s stories (Hari’s the nicest kid around btw did I mention).

I’ll miss the workout chit-chats and the Ladies’ Hostel – my version of it, anyway. I’ll miss #64 during practice breaks and Sreelekshmi and Lekshmi. I’ll miss Aswathy and her tales of her brother. I’ll miss seeing Nanditha around the dept, I’ll miss her ransacking my bag for shit in the evenings, I’ll miss sharing upper berths in general compartments and talking until the apoopan below politely asks if we’d like to shut up and sleep.

I’ll miss Ginu – from class, from #48,  from A322,  from her home and her beautiful family in Aluva, wrapping ourselves up in early morning buses to offset shivering to death, but mostly the one who plays with paper rockets and engages in mindless monologues.

All the triples while being squashed in between or holding on for dear life at the edge, of jingling coins in pockets and asking around for loose change to add up to 10 for one lime at chechikada for a team of 21, of surprisingly never missing a 4am alarm to beat and cook 20 eggs before morning trains, of journeys dotted with umpteen stories told and retold, of seniors’ unexpected visits and juniors pestering for treats.

And somewhere in between laughing our asses off at each other’s hilarious military poses and our old age acting-‘workshops’, between tying Nany/Arjun etan’s hair to create pretty girls and ‘Practise at 10’ every Saturday, between Hari dubiously handling someone’s schoolbag at his tuition and an 8th standard KDP crushing on his teacher’s daughter, between sitting down with Vivek etan or Sreejith sir listening to their stories and Anjaly’s updates about Goldfather,  between those train rides to Madras and cycling through forest-lined campus roads at 4 am, I guess we all fell in love with this team a bit more than we knew.

That’s why I love this place, because it gave me people who could turn my days around. It gave me a bunch of faces who made mine light up with a beaming smile every time I saw them, because they’re a piece of that part of my life where I found happiness of a sort I didn’t yet know existed.


 

There are certain things that’ll come across your way in life, you’d just know it’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime gambles that’ll change the shades of your day. Maybe it’ll repaint your black and white hues with a tinted rainbow, or maybe it’ll turn the sepia pages into an orchestra of brilliant strokes. You won’t know if it’ll be for the better or for worse, you won’t know what exactly would come out of it – a lot like when you fall in love. It’d look unfamiliar, maybe even a little daunting, yet intangibly amazing at the same time. And once you’ve tasted it there’s no going back to the way you were before, because nothing less real will do.

Years down the lane, I’ll perhaps bump into an old costume or a random picture of the team, or a can of brown hair-spray or an unlikely orange stocking hung out, or a wedding playing Bella’s lullaby that’ll send forth a deluge of memories. And I’d pause and ponder for a minute or two, about how we spent days and nights of college days within a class room coloured in our sweat atop the main block, how we fought for that last bite of LH sandwich or the last sip from bottles of water, how we watched the rain from the shady corridors and dozed off on our dance room’s cool floor after practice, how we travelled from college to college ticketless in trains and wrapped together in buses, how we shed tears together and laughed a hell of a lot more.

And how within the boundless walls of our team, seniors and juniors dissolved into family.

I don’t know if I’ll tear up then. I don’t know if Pratheeksha and Nipun would have kids by then.

But I know I’ll smile as I remember, this was the best thing that happened to me. To us.

 13048163_1050189105054123_8229974287425393695_o.jpgTeam Watch the Freakz in 3.2.1. GO!

 

 

4 years. College.

Note: Specific references may not get across unless you are acquainted with some of the people mentioned.

I’m listening to “Thiruvaavani Raav” and for some reason the only thing that comes to mind is the pretty bespectacled sister from the movie, and Rohit going, “Enthu nalla kuttya alle” as we leave the theatre (of course that’s not really how he put it :P), the others nodding and sheriya’ing in approval. Next on my playlist is probably some other track with some other strings attached. It’s all fine when you’re still in college and have that sudden rush of memories – the subjects in question are always in sight, even when you might want them to momentarily disappear once in a while.

In a few weeks though, the scene would disperse and all that’s left would be cords and contacts.

sree

Apparently Facebook thinks it’s time for deep questions now since college is almost done.  Pretty sure I didn’t learn concentration at CET. Badjoke level  – Bharath. Don’t judge me.

And now to answer this audacious query.

I remember the first day of college like it was yesterday. It was raining in the morning, I wore my navy blue kurta and black jeans, sceptical if I was shabbily dressed for college. I remember how I walked up the steps of Golden Walkway under the umbrella Amma had handed me in the morning with her customary “Kondu kalayalle paru”. I remember smiling at the drenched and dripping trees on either sides of the Walkway that swayed happily in the breeze as if ushering me in. I had one used 200page notebook from school in my bag, there still were many blank pages left. They won’t actually teach on the first day, no? (yes they will, note that Facebook). I wondered if there’d be seniors waiting in class to rag us. I wondered what the subjects would be like, what the teachers would be like, but mostly what the students would be like. And I wondered what Sandhra and Bharath would be like – they were the only ones I had become friends with on FB after orientation day.

I got answers to all the speculation from my first day in class, never mind if they were right or wrong. I rushed home that evening to tell Amma I wouldn’t survive four years in this place. “4 years potte, I won’t survive a month there OK? Nithya AND Gopika are in the other class AMMA”

“Are the kids in your class not nice?”

“The ones I talked to seemed fine. But they’re not KIDS! Not like the ones from school anyway.”

“Well you’re not in school anymore.”

“Onnu kekkuo!? There was this girl Athira from Kozhikode – she’s the first person Haneena and I talked to – Haneena is nice she’s from Palakkad – and she was just talking to us but we thought she was ragging us okay? So rude! AND she’s in my class! ”

“See you already made friends from two other districts” Amma laughed.

“Onnu povuo, then there’s Physics, Chemistry and Maths. Those things were supposed to be over with entrance no? Rest are all basic this, basic that, BME BCE BSC and ABCD”sree(This was a status I put up during first year university. Even design is better than this shit lol.)

“Okay let’s join All Saint’s next year appo Paru can study Arts, mathiyo?”

“BLAH. I wish I were in some other department. ANY other dept”

I went on to complain about my class, that there were way too few people from Trivandrum, and all the nice (by which I really meant FAMILIAR) people seemed to be from here.

Four years past, that conversation turns bogus, and the nicest of all people you meet in the 4years here HAVE to be from Kozhikode.  And the nicest-people-I-met-here list would go something like Athira (from the first day, yes), Divya, Anapi, Roshni, Niranjana, Nidhin, Renjini, Navas, Sreelekshmi,  Lekshmi, Thasni, Ginu, Arjun only because it’s my list 😀 I should probably mention it’s an incomplete one, just in case anybody from my batch is accusingly glaring at my post.

And I can never thank God enough that I didn’t end up in ANY other department, anything to do with circuits would have killed me. Where else would I be expected to dig pits on the ground and have 12th std Chemitry labs and mix concrete using shovels with picture-perfect lab groups that comprise another Parvathy as thin as me for moral support in times of nervous breakdowns, an Oormila for the timely completed rough record, and a Pramod to discuss episodes of Chandanamazha with? 😀

 


 

The first one and a half years of college Nithya and I were busy deriving *cough* inspiration from seniors *cough* (SHE might actually do Civil services, given the quantum of all the inspiration :D), and tagging poor Gopika along everywhere we went. So if anybody had a crush on anybody and it was public knowledge, I never came to know of it until third year. If two from my class became a couple in that time, I never heard of it until third year either. There was Drishti and Dhwani and ICI and lots of running around, everyone was eager to get to know everyone. All occasions from birthdays to buying new chappals were celebrated together in class by all- well obviously not all-, until stuff settled down. By the end of it Nithya/Gopika and I were arguing as to whose class was better lol. Come to think of it, we still do.

Confession: The first time I cried in my entire life for somebody from class being rude to me was in second year. Yes that happened, and Shemeena the pacifier wanted to know if I planned to weep every time somebody decided to shout at me, “It’s up to you to ignore the shit people throw at you, especially when you know it’s shit”. No she never used those many ‘shits’ but it’s pretty much the gist of what she said. The day I truly realized college wasn’t – isn’t – school.

Everyone is different here. Somebody’s idea of awesome is somebody else’s lame. Somebody’s fun is somebody’s boring/outrageous. Somebody’s rude is somebody’s normal, and everybody’s going to unapologetically be themselves, as they should. And if somebody throws shit your way, you could ignore them altogether, or you could just ignore the shit and be cool even if you don’t think they deserve it. It’s not called being fake, it’s called growing up cos you realize everyone’s wired a little differently. But idk what it’s called if you’re smiling at them and solemnly hoping they’d get hit by a truck, I’m not that evil so I wouldn’t know 😛

That was the first and probably the best piece of advice I received in college.

4 years past, a lot has changed. No more shallow small talk and pointless socializing and definitely no more celebrating the new pair of chappals. But I’ve reached the point where the captions from first year #newplace #newfriends #newlife have turned to #amazingpeople #lastfewdays and memories made that will remain.

So Holi will always be a reminder of THIS day 😀sree.png

And Tum Saath Ho will forever be the vocal team comprising Vinaya, Oormila, Niranjana, Roshni, Divya, Revathy and Malu seated on the last bench of S8C1 and almost resolutely singing the song in chorus. I don’t think Malu sincerely put in her efforts though cos it actually sounded good. 😀

Uptown Funk will be Rintu chanting along with Karthik’s stereo, just as passionately as she dances. I would post the Iski Uski clip here, but she’d kill me.

Right Round will be an entire year of putting up with Nithya’s bass voice in S3/S4 and later realizing in S7 that she’s faaaaar better than Athira 😀

I’ve also learnt that the ‘Trivandrum is rude’ isn’t ALL garbage. But for every seemingly rude “Athinippa njan yentho venam” Trivandrumite you meet here, there’ll also be an innocent ever-helpful ever-clueless Malu asking in her unintentionally rough tone, “Enthu patti paaru, thaan inn despa? Njanoru paattu paadi tharanoo?” You see, for every Sankaran with a heavenly voice, you’ll also meet a lot of terrible singers, and Malu would serve their cumulative effect that can cheer up anyone’s bad day. 😀

For every Adarsh who is in love with CET, there’ll be a Raj Govind who wants to burn the place down. I might have contributed at one point of time.

For every Divya who won’t copy during series tests, there’ll be a Puru who cross-references more than two individuals’ answer sheets before settling for the better one.

For every befuddled-looking Allan, there’ll be an Anapi who never stops smiling.

For every quiet Navajoth, there’ll be a Ginu who never shuts up.

And for every Smitha mam, there’ll be a Jiji sir.

For every all-cool Aishu on the project presentation day (she was practically stoned with the Avomine she’d gulped the previous night :D), there’ll be the rest of the super-tensed project team that goes “Engottelum erangi odiyalo?”

For every Structural project group that finishes their work weeks ahead of the presentation, there’ll be Gopika’s team whose project equipment arrives on the evening of the eve.

And for every Ajay/Jasin/Oormila who spent four years at CET learning Engineering and Quantity Surveying and Structural Analysis, there are those of us that studied that tables should be titled at the top and figures at the bottom 😀

The best stories I heard in 4 years were almost always a part of the reserved ones, the ones who wouldn’t get on the dance floor until the lights are off. And the best speech was delivered by the guy who occupied the corner seat in class quietly, and calmly tolerated (and laughed at) the hilarious shit we did in environmental lab.

So I guess there’ll be no more cursing the UG Professor and putting up #submissionsandshit updates on FB customizing the privacy setting to “Hide from Smitha mam”. No more begging teachers to postpone assignments and queuing in front of Latha mam/HOD/Vijayan sir’s room.

No more large groups huddled around the first bench eating Renjini and Shilpa’s lunch and no more deciding between Thalassery/LH food. No more going to #48 in the evening and listening to Sreelekshmi’s stories before practice. And when everything’s done and everyone has packed their bags and vacated their rooms and hugged and said the final goodbyes to catch trains from Trivandrum one last time, I’ll have the songs in my playlist to remind me of 4 years spent together in a place that offered fun as much as freedom, and made everyone laugh and cry and hate and love and sing and dance.

 


 

I remember the first day of college like it was yesterday. I remember wondering if, after 4 years when I step down the Golden Walkway one last time as a student there, I’d be a different person than the kid climbing those treads. If I’d be taller than the stunted figure I was then. If I’d make enough memories and meet the lovely people I’m supposed to meet in these four years. I wondered if the trees would dance in the rain to bid me goodbye, as they did when I met them the first time. But mostly, I wondered if I’d be sad to leave, if 4 years would be enough in this place.

I have the answers now, all of it, I know that the time we get here isn’t enough to take enough selfies for a lifetime. 4 years of sitting next to Athira/Rintu in the third bench of C1 listening to their stories, or stealing minutes between classes to eat vadas at Civil Canteen, or hearing Divya’s “Oru announcement und ellarum keep quiet” – none of it is enough in the end.

And as we’re asked to collect our no-dues, I wish we could ask, “When do next sem classes begin?” just one more time.

 


 

IMG_2342-001.JPG

CET CIVIL 2012-2016 BATCH.

Back when we were kids

Before college and high school, before crushes and heartbreaks, before Science got split into three different subjects and Social Studies into two, even before we were taught integers and fractions.  Back when we wanted to grow up. Back when we were kids.

If you ever followed the road opposite to the Ganapathi temple in Medical College back then, you’d reach the Medical College quarters. It’s where more than half my childhood lies, it’s also where I decided I didn’t want to marry Kunjacko Boban after all.

I was the annoying little sister who cried on cue and made sure my elder brothers were scolded and punished by my parents for mischief that I’d worked up – that’s what my brothers would tell you anyway. Served them right too, they called me fat all the time. But either way I was still the little sister, with a tiny potbelly I’ll admit, and could always be seen seated on Achu Annans shoulders or carried by Kannenan on his back 😀

Biju chetan and Aju chetan were the neighbours Kannan and I spent most of our time with. (yes they’re brothers). We were undeclared best buddies, with a share of harmless details of our exploits to be kept secret from both our parents. We were always present at each other’s birthdays. In those days it meant Birthday cake with icing from Jayaram bakery, the quintessential puffs and cutlets and samosas, homemade chicken curry/parotta, juice and icecream etc.

We usually waited for our parents to leave before kicking off with cricket in their compound. We bowled with the 8rs pink/white rubber balls or the more expensive optic yellow tennis ball for 30 rupees that was handled with more care. I was always the underdog, Kannan never took me on his team. Achu annan occasionally joined us, he was nicer and always picked me. I’m sure the rejection scarred me for life. Though it made more sense when we played football, cos I always ran away with the ball, err, in my hands, that is. Football was too boring for me anyway.

I owned like one doll or two whose faces I had disfigured in an attempt to beautify, you don’t sit inside playing with those when everyone else is outdoors. At times when I got bored I’d sell fish on the back steps of our house. Different shaped and sized leaves painstakingly stacked and arranged neatly, I’d diligently make sure no flies sat on them and that my customers got the best and the freshest picks. No none of the boys ever visited, even my parents never visited though I always invited them very nicely. I don’t think they were all that impressed.

When corporation people unloaded sand in front of Biju chetan’s garage, the others would jump from the low sunshade onto it while I would nonchalantly prepare mudcakes using cherattas (coconut shells) and coax anybody who’d care to taste them. Yeah nobody ever did.

When it got too hot to play outside, we played Video games (cartridges and joysticks, people?) at their place. The four of us would huddle in front of the tv. Countless runs of Mario and duck hunt and I don’t even remember the names of the rest of the games we played. Afternoons meant more cricket/video games followed by cycling/badminton at our place in the evening. We usually went back home only for lunch and in the evening when it got too dark and the games were over. Sometimes we’d fall asleep on their beds, nobody was ever home in the day, even otherwise it was okay I think. Anita aunty was always so sweet (still is), she gave us the best birthday gifts and even had me cutting her son’s birthday cake once.

During vacations when everyone else left for holidays, we’d be in empty quarters abandoned by their residents, plundering the guava and mango trees there, checking intermittently and listening intently for any sign of intruders, other than us, of course. At times we’d bring back home the fruits of our labour the parents never noticed. We made tons of envelopes using newspapers and cooked rice –it was our mini project-, wondered what to do with it and eventually sold it to the lady fishmonger who routinely visited our homes (she gave us 2rupee coins each)  😀 Any spare change we ever got was spent in buying and stocking pink rubber balls, once we started playing they got lost so often, and eating the round pedas at the Milma shop in the main road.

When we weren’t playing or searching for the umpteen lost cricket balls on the other side of the road, Kannan and I were busy fighting, physical mental material psychological every kind of possible damage included. Following which I obligingly cried to let my parents know. They knew, I think.

All our plots had mango trees and during summer seasons we’d eat fat and ripe orange and yellow mangoes raw and pulpy in the morning, noon, evening and at night.

We were forever sweaty and covered in dirt, always running around and shouting to each other loudly, sometimes across goalposts (always a distinguishable rock), or from opposite sides of the wicket (3 aluminium rods each) or the court net (that we had a proper one though), or even across compounds. We always got home after dusk, exhausted and happy. We’d shower, eat, watch Doordarshan and fall asleep somewhere in between. Unless we decided to fight, which was twice a day, followed by my drama.

Those were the days when happiness meant wearing your favorite dress on your birthday, and the prettiest and nicest strangers were the ones that smiled at you. When soiling your clothes was the way to be and nobody minded except the elders. When summer didn’t mean heat as much as it meant cricket and cousins and mangoes. And spending all the time under the sun were 4 (and at times 5) tiny people forever playing and fighting and laughing.

And I’m mighty glad we were loud enough for a lifetime 🙂

Convocation and other things

Late post. Wrote this on convocation day of batch of 2015.

Convocations are fun. Not only cos there are hats and cloaks (and of course graduation) involved. They bring back seniors you’ve waited months to see again, they probably bring together classmates who passed out, planned a reunion whose date was extended over and over again until finally they just settled to meet for their convocation. (I can imagine that happening with our batch once we pass out of college). They might even be when some dearest couples meet after okwhoamitojudge. I’m sure convocations have other functional facets too, more on that coming up next year cos next in line is yours truly.

Convocation at CET last year was not a very emotional affair for me, save for meeting a handful of passouts. Back then, we were still third years (read: careless juniors), following the paths of seniors (I’m not even going to elaborate on that, and no I’m not winking), we were yet to be acquainted with project work and hectic final year schedules (no mini project for civil, baby). Life was good.

You had to rush to civil canteen at 4 if you wanted to sit by its verandah cos usually seniors would already have seated themselves there. Most evenings there’d be student groups comprising all batches in the civil grounds discussing some intra-department event or program. And in my class, everyone was either co-ordinating something or partaking in some other thing or they were swamped with other stuff to be doing any of those things. CEA and ICI would juggle with dates and time slots to make sure their activities didn’t clash, and even so there would still be overlaps, cos there was always so much going on, big or small, whether it be Hanging Gardens, or some techie engagements.

Then we got to S7, and before the place had livened up, rather fateful things happened. In stead of the tons of heads that filled college front after 4 and the after-college hours punctuated by crowds and buzz at chechi kadas, sanika, core’s front, bus stops and pretty much everywhere, there permeated empty and quiet. All through S7 we waited for things to go back to normal and for college to go back to what it used to be.

It never did.

Today, convocation happened. And frankly, today’s the first day of this year that college felt like CET again. People were shouting and laughing and their uproars rang noisily in the classrooms and the corridors and all around the place. College hasn’t been this loud since last year. So many familiar faces, there were seniors whose names I didn’t know and still don’t, but the mere freshness of familiarity brought happiness. Even that scary chechi who always glares at you, or that creepy chetan who makes awkward eye contact.

The favorite seniors were hugged and kissed, the not-so-favorite ones smiled as if in solemn awareness. In the beginning of final year, it was as though we’d get used to the numbness felt around college but today we realized we really need a batch of loving doting annoying infuriating seniors to make it the CET we knew. They were back and I guess that’s when we realized we’d actually missed these people. Sure, some in particular, but generally just all of them being present here. Probably because they were a part of the carefree years when college was (relatively) lively. When we didn’t have career discussions looming over our heads 24×7, because that wasn’t our burden to bear :P. Because basically they were in charge, and they were everywhere.

Today was like a day from ‘those days’. So when you hear that the dragonfly you once had a crush on has flown back, it thrills for a while, then dies out. When you exchange with seniors pleasantries and what’s going on in your lives, it’s only casual talk. It’s like they were here only yesterday, they’re here today, and they’ll be back tomorrow.

Well guess what? They won’t, and tomorrow will be like the past 7 months have been (because I’m so bloody optimistic). But today was good, tomorrow we’ll be back to being final years, the day after we shall part ways and be gone. And the next year, it’ll be our turn to get dewy-eyed about all that we’d missed (or maybe that’ll be just me), heartily complain about our too loose/too tight cloaks, drown in hugs, pose for pictures, cheer in jubilation, throw our hats up in the sky, and finally wonder why we never realized life here was quite brilliant*.

*I hope.

 

 

Amma and Me

So I was initially writing about Math and Me, but was rather cruelly reminded that I’m still unemployed (read : un-placed). And “I hate math” written all over my blog or all over an article isn’t going to look good to potential employers coming to campus. Yeah okay they’re not going to painstakingly search for Parvathy Sarat’s blog with keywords to see if she’s a good candidate BUT WHAT IF THEY DO, OKAY?

[If any such personality’s reading this, no I don’t hate math, that’s the story of the protagonist of my story. I know, my readers are easily misled, heehee].

The decision to not write anything that tarnishes my imaginary goodemployeecandidateimage came after a conversation with my mother. My eldest brother’s been staying in Delhi for the past 6 years and the two of them have talked over the phone almost every single day during this time, that’s 365×6 times (kindly do the calculation yourself cos I hate um never mind). The second brother left home 4 years back and the way he talks to my parents, more talking takes place among them over their phones on a single day than I do at home over a week.

So today, there’s meen curry on the stove, I’m sitting on a plastic stool next to it, doing shit on my phone (no puns please) and amma’s on the phone with my brother.

“Amma, njan porath povumbo ingane daily onnum vilikulla OK, paranjilaannu venda”, I tell her.

Amma: (on the phone) “Dey kanna, paru parayua paru veetilnnu maari nikumbo kannane pole daily vilikkathillannu”

(turns to me) –dramatic mode : ON – “Atleast yearly vilikuo paru?”

Me: “Ah monthly vilikum” (realize that’s too long) “or maybe weekly. Daily vilikkulla anyway”. (puccham on my face)

Amma: “Athentha?”

Me: “Ha athu pinne, porath avumbo eniku vere pani kanum rather than talking to you guys all day long, joli cheyanam, etc etc etc”

Amma: “Kanna, parunu joli cheyanamnu” (turns to me) “Alla paru ethu jolide karyama parayunne? Joli onnum ayillalo” –laughter-

And I’m guessing the person at the other end also joined in -_-

PS: I SHOULD have written something warm and nice for Christmas but no Santa turned up at my place this year folks.