After Miss Rona entered our lives and made the whole world a zoo, with everyone trapped inside their home like cages, like a wild beast inside a circus. The 21-day “Janata Curfew” and subsequent lockdowns across the nation combined with waves that you dare wouldn’t surf, meant that all educational institutions including my university were shut for more than 20 months. Teaching-Learning continued online, though we all know how effective it really was, the real brunt I faced was the whole campus experience. I wouldn’t say I missed college, I missed the experience associated with the term “College”.
Thankfully after exactly 23 months, well almost a year, it was finally here, the campus was reopening for lectures. The first thought which accompanied this news was, “Offline Exams”, a scary daunting monster that we had managed to lock up in a closet for the last two years was finally going to be outed. The monster still looms over my shoulders, but momentarily it is being ignored.
A train station in Mumbai is the only place in the universe with maximum entropy and equal cohesion at the same time. Everyone has their own agenda, their own thoughts, the train indicator dictating which ramp someone will climb or alight from. Yet everyone senses a common goal, whatever happens, we are going to make sure that this system however flawed will work. In essence that is what Mumbai and its locals mean for me. Getting you from Point A to point B is secondary, it has a weird charge, undying energy around it which is contagious. Boarding a train, settling in, listening to your favourite music, peeping into other’s phone conversations is a small world revolving around itself.
I boarded a train on a pleasant February morning heading towards college, and lo and behold it was one of the most happening days of my entire 4 years of getting a degree. Almost got suspended for the most non-sensical reason and got involved in a fight, from afar. Stepping onto campus after that long definitely brought out a side in me that I usually suppress and keep away to display my maturity, but on this day, I had zero fucks to give.
Part 1: The Fight
Imagine the topper of your class who is always composed and is always doing his own thing without really bothering about what people outside his circle are doing. Yeah picture that person and then imagine them being extremely angry and fuming at one of the most confrontational characters of the university. This was the situation. Extremely volatile and intense, made for great laughs as an observer.
As I said, I was really not caring about consequences and all at this point. The reason for this fight was extremely trivial and what children fight over ‘removal from WhatsApp group’, and the way it was handled was extremely fickle too, but I wasn’t the firefighter in this scenario but rather the extreme opposite. I was fanning the fire and wanted to turn it into a full-blown inferno.
The saddest part was this fight took place over chat conversations and not in person, it was kind of a bummer. I can’t really share chat screenshots or the details and maybe this would seem not that big of a deal for an outsider but best believe, it was a sight to behold with both participants almost agreeing to have a hand-to-hand fight at the university ground. It eventually fizzled out in an hour or so, but for that hour, the whole class was active and probably for the first time, the group was this active, which, of course, I take credit for.
Part 2: (Almost) Getting Suspended.
Like any other university, ours also has accommodation for students who wish to stay on campus. This accommodation is divided into a separate hostel for girls and one for boys. Naturally, after having visited the campus after a long time, my friends and I were having a stroll around, observing new developments made (from our full fees, which we never benefited from) and in general taking in the atmosphere of the campus and soaking it in.
We came across the boy’s accommodation which incidentally our friend was soon going to come into the next week. Now for some reason, this building is extremely well guarded that one might wonder what jewels or treasures are being hidden here. Is it a front for some Mob or Mafia, what is the deal with this security detail around it? We walked in through the main entrance where the guard was absent-mindedly doing something else and didn’t notice us walk right in front of him.
We sneaked in, past the cafeteria and onto the 3rd floor and called up our friend who was going to move in soon. Showed him around his hostel building which at the time we thought was great but already knew the building inside out. We showed a Pro Tennis player how to return a flail serve by their opponent basically. After that and trying to locate his friends by knocking on random room doors only to be greeted by a guy who was visibly pissed off at us for ruining his afternoon siesta, we decided it was time to bounce and saw a flight of stairs.
These stairs would eventually lead us to an exit we thought and so it did, but that exit gave entry to 10 minutes of frantic nervousness because while we were leaving the security guard at this gate noticed some abnormality and stopped us just as we were about to step out of the building.
Ek minute ruko, kidhar gaye the
(Trying to play smart, I came up with a story)
Woh upar friend se milne gaye the, Room 304
(Guard looked at us suspiciously, noted down the room number)
Accha, kidhar se gaye the?
(We tried to quickly refute all his questions so we could leave)
Uncle woh main entrance se hi gaye
The guard stood up and replied to some cryptic message he was getting on his wireless. Some other guy was shouting some code which stood for something we had no clue about, that 5 seconds of uncertainty was killing me inside. He firmly said to us
Aap jaiye, udhar main gate ke guard se milye, wo aap ko bularahe hai
At this point, this was getting more serious with every passing second. We agreed to meet the main guard, Guptaji and started walking towards the main gate. The security guard was looking on at us as we walked. We as a collective kept walking on past the main gate trying to evade all this nonsense but a timely whistle from behind screeched at us commanding us to backpedal and go to the main gate.
After the same story was narrated to Guptaji he started searching the registry for an entry who had entered room 403. He couldn’t find one and how could he, the friend hadn’t come yet. He confirmed with us again whether the name and room number we gave was the right one and kept checking. After profusely trying, he sensed our restlessness and dropped the bomb.
Bulao usko niche, abhi ke abhi, phone karo.
After lame attempts of excuses like, ‘We have a lecture right now’, ‘Please let us go’. We spit out the actual story and thought it’d be the end of it since it was such a small matter. We were wrong, this fortified building didn’t take security lapses lightly.
Aap chalo principal ke paas, 25,000 ka fine lagega ya fir suspend kardenge.
This threat sounded real and now it was getting really real. We argued as to how there was no one at the gate when we entered. Guptaji was relentlessly affirmative about how great of a sin we had committed and it was a very grave crime. Guptaji was just doing his job, can’t really blame him but it was the lamest reason for getting convicted at all. That too in the final year, first day back on campus. These thoughts kept running around in my head when another gentleman walked in, dressed in his security uniform.
It was time for the new shift and this cool-headed, composed gentleman said one sentence which vindicated all of us
Chhod do Guptaji, kyu bada matter banana hai
He then turned to us and said
Abhi pata chal gaya na ki allowed nai hai outsiders ko hostel mai, ab aage se aisa mat karo
If it wasn’t for this man, my pocket would’ve been 25,000 Rs lighter, from the already 0 Rs it has.