Sunday, November 11, 2007


When you graduate from high school to junior college, life gives you a chance to make right all the wrongs you have done. You have now learnt from your mistakes and you are ready to face a whole new world. You can choose the people you want to stay in touch with and stay clear of all the people you don’t want to stay in touch with. Sometimes a whole new life with a whole lot of new people and a completely different atmosphere is just what you need.

When I came to Mithibai I had all the hopes of making lifelong friends. I dreamt of all the wonderful times I would have that my older cousins kept boasting of. I imagined myself in the famous canteen surrounded by people I would call my friends discussing unimportant things and laughing at just about anything and having a good time. It is strange how everything you dream of never happens. What you dream of is almost always the opposite of what actually happens. I have had this experience several times and yet its one of those mistakes that one shall never learn from. Well, my point, in short is that my first few days of college life were not exactly what I thought they would be.

The first day I entered my classroom (that was going to be the place I would see the least in college), there were only two girls in the room. They were in deep conversation and didn’t seem like they would appreciate company. So I sat down on a bench away from them. They threw me a glance but before they could see I was smiling, they had returned to their conversation. It seemed one of the girls had recently been through something traumatic and the other girl was trying to console her. I believe that judging people by their attire is highly prejudicial and I generally try to be least prejudicial at all times. By the ensemble of these two girls I could tell that they suffered from the Freedom From School-Uniform Syndrome and had planned on attracting as much attention to their brightly clad torso and scantily clad legs as possible. I waited for some more people to enter.

It seemed there had been some sort of procedure whereby people had chosen the person or persons they wanted to enter the class with; an arrangement they had forgotten to inform me of. I say this because within 10 minutes of my arrival into the classroom, it was full and all had entered in twos and threes deep in conversation with each other as if they had known each other all their lives. I looked around at the people surrounding me to find the group that would be least hostile by my intrusion and people who I would like to hang out with. But before I got too far a teacher entered and I decided to postpone my mission. In class I answered a couple of questions; this endeared the first-benchers towards me. During the break one of them came up to me and asked me my name and if I would like to join them in the canteen. To be frank, they did not seem like the kind of people who liked to have a lot of fun but I was getting desperate for company and so I went with them. What I did not realise at that time was that this little mistake of mine would cost me my popularity in class. When we went back to class after break, I excused myself and looked for place elsewhere but it seemed every seat was taken for people who hadn’t come as yet. So I found myself sitting next to the nerds. The next day, I promised myself I will find a place farthest away from them.And thus I sat at the last bench the next day.
Having taken up Arts, is sometimes like taking admission into a girls college. There are rarely any boys and the few that are present are treated with great care. But if the boy is even slightly good looking, he would be treated with utmost reverence. I honestly had not planned on sitting on the same bench as Rohit Gala. It was pure coincidence that the seat next to mine was the only one empty and that Rohit Gala came late that day (like all other days after that, when he did attend lectures). I will not waste time describing him because I would go on for pages describing his perfect face and unbelievably attractive physique. As you might have already guessed, Rohit Gala was the Greek god as far as FYJC girls were concerned. We did not have much of a conversation except when he asked for a pen. He did not come to class for a few days after that, during which time I became the girl who sat next to Rohit Gala, although it did not endear anymore people to me. I did manage to have a few random conversations with people here and there. One particular group of girls came to me on that very day and asked me if I was from their school. But when I said I was not, they quickly left. They seemed nice people to hang out with. They seemed to have quite a lot of fun as I had noticed the previous day, but they made it quite clear that I was unwelcome and so I did not impose myself on them.

As I came into college the next day, I saw a notice for a dance audition to be held that day after lecture hours. I was quite good at dancing and so decided to go. The auditions went quite well. Even Rohit Gala was present. I was selected (and so was Rohit Gala). We were to start practice next morning itself. I was more than happy as it meant bunking lectures. Dance rehearsals were fun. All the people around were quite cordial and fun to be with. Soon they became my closest friends in college. We did almost everything together, including getting yelled at by our teachers for not having attended lectures. Unlike some of our seniors I tried to attend some lectures but, let’s just say, when man is given a choice, he will almost never choose wisely.

I have had some of my best times going to various college festivals, going for dance rehearsals, organising various events of our own, simply hanging out in the coffee shop when we are exhausted after all the work done.

But i learnt an important lesson through the ordeal of making friends.
A lesson that I have learnt in the past five years of my college life is that, there is always a category of people that you fall into whether you like it or not. As for Rohit, he was one among the several Greek gods we came across.


The queue for the railway ticket at Andheri station was as long as the train on Platform No. 1... I was in no particular hurry to reach my destination and so my mind was left idle to wander. This was not the first time that I had been to the station. In fact, I am such a frequent visitor to the juice-wala at the corner of the booking office that he recognizes me by face and often awaits my arrival with one kokum juice ready for me. But I had never bothered to notice the whitewashed walls which had turned cream on top and a bright brown and maroon on the lower areas or the number of pamphlets stuck on the walls (hiding the creamness), calling for young talented actors and actresses of all age or the vacancy for a paying guest who ‘must be single male’. I had barely noticed the stench of dirt mixed with dried spit and betel juice that permeated the place and least of all the beggar children right under the counter. We usually turn our face in the opposite direction when we see one of these children coming our way begging for alms and completely ignore the existence of the ones that don’t obstruct our way. But this one child had my rapt attention for the 15 minutes that I waited in the queue.

The girl must have been barely 10 years old and had a little infant of probably 5 or 6 months in her hand. She wore a ragged frock with frills. Her dirty brown hair was tied in a bun at the back of her head and her complexion was the testimony to the fact that she had spent all her life on the street. But her face seemed to have a strange sort of serenity; A silent radiance of a child who has been trusted with responsibility and is ably doing it. She walked past the long queues silently making sure a torn little blanket covered the infant sufficiently. When she reached the counter she spread another little rag on the floor with one hand and carefully lowered herself over it. She placed the baby on her lap and made sure it was comfortable. She then looked at the numerous people around her. I sensed a feeling of longing in her eyes as she passed her eyes over the people. She then looked down at the baby and looked up again. But as she looked up this time, her face was contorted in to a frown and her mouth was wide open, as she droned on a rehearsed set of lines and looked up at the men and women passing by, with impassive eyes and outstretched hand.

Suddenly all the serenity and radiance was gone from her face. She became just another beggar girl who is intolerably loud and screechy. I could still not take my eyes off her. Barely anyone heeded her pleas for alms. But it did not matter. She went on with her pleas and I continued looking at her. She would stop every 2 minutes for breath and in those 2 minutes her face would return to the serenity that first attracted my attention. I was amazed at the change in her facial features as her face moved from serene calm to contortion and back. Begging for alms was a daily job that she did without passion, for the sake of survival. There was no fun in it or any skill or talent required, but it did not matter. This was what she has been conditioned to do since the time she was born. Fun and play were words that found no place in her dictionary. I did not realize it but there was a look of concern on my face. The child noticed me and glared at me as though she was offended by the attention. I quickly looked away but my eyes returned to her as she returned to her pleas for alms.

I was only 4 passengers away from the counter, when an older girl of about 16 stomped her way to the little girl, scolded in a language I did not understand and forcefully snatched the baby from her and walked away. The little girl just sat there and screamed and tried to call the other girl back. But to no avail. She curled up against the wall, hugged her knees and began to sob quietly. I looked around for the other girl and found her sitting at the opposite corner nursing the baby. I presumed the older girl was its mother. I looked back at the girl who was still sulking like her favorite toy was snatched away from her. It was not as if she will never see the baby again but the grief of having something so dear being snatched away from a person is deep. There could have been several explanations to what had just happened. But it did not matter.

About half a minute later, the child looked up and wiped her tears. I was now only one person away from the counter. The girl looked around her, the feeling of longing again in her eyes. Her eyes locked with mine and I was transfixed. The thread was broken when the man behind urged me to buy my ticket fast. I bought my ticket and began to walk back. Suddenly I remembered there was a bar of chocolate inside my bag. I looked back to find the child still looking at me. I took the chocolate out and gave it to her and smiled. There was nothing she could do but to take the chocolate. She then looked at it and the ends of her mouth curled upwards in to the most fascinating smile I have ever seen.