The world was free of pandemic. We straddled our way fearlessly where no force or the unknown could hold us back armed with aspirations to make every moment worth living on the campus. A friend would always ask as we bumped on each other on the way to the washroom, “Wassup?” He replied, “Everybody says I am Fine.” It became our little joke as the conversation veered to this Rahul Bose’s movie.
I loathed going to the toilet inside the campus where everybody in college would cross the busy road opposite our majestic Fergusson College gate to Savera, our hang out became the place to relieve ourselves. It’s only when I couldn’t hold my piss that the not-so-clean FC toilet came to the rescue. Not a college memoirs but an attempt to weave the past and the present times living in a pandemic.
In those days between 2003-06, perhaps one thing or the other that would scare everyone would be an earthquake, stomach ailment coz of heavy rains we call Monsoon in India or Tsunami and political agitations with M in caps for May Be! I can’t remember any virus sending the shit down our heads and if there was any, we would probably brush it out that it cannot harm us. And to think in those days, there were no e-books or debit card where the latter was used plainly to withdraw limited monthly pocket money sent by parents to manage stuff and all, rent, groceries, expenses and once in a blue moon party. Online buying was beyond us.
Let’s fast forward to 2020 when something called Coronavirus seeped into our lives and just imagine if I was still in college where bunking classes would give no thrill but hit a strange cool quotient by attending classes online. Excitement of no roll numbers and worried about minimum attendance to give exams or for that matter, the one thing we would rue about not being on campus is hanging out with friends, the cool chicks and whining time over chai, coffee and endless sutta. Thrown in the sea of the unknown and bedraggled with the pandemic, we would form groups in collecting funds to help people in distress to make a positive difference to lives, bringing smiles on faces and supporting friends performing skits for our dreams can wait. New excitement for students like us turning into citizen journalists, meeting people and taking pictures of helping hands, masked up till late in making our cities better where of course frantic heartbeats would get the better of us.
Twitter would enter our lives as a savior and coordinating with people, checking on hospital beds and oxygen availability to share on social media. Think in those days, there was no Facebook or Twitter but High Five and Facebook just entered our lives. A moment of pride whether visiting the hospitals in groups to check on whether patients can be admitted, doing the running around from one place to another and distributing dabbas to the needy like many are doing right now in helping people whose lives have been taken over by the deadly pandemic. There would be something called alternating between fun and joy, about bringing smiles on faces and having been a volunteer for college extracurricular, we would be taking it an altogether different level.
Our lives would perhaps not remain the same and thrust into adulthood by a pandemic bearing a toll on us, perhaps getting a better understanding of what mental health awareness is all about. Every single day would be counted on the fingers and grateful to the sky for allowing us to see the day. Joy on campus or relationships would not be taken for granted for we would be aware that every single moment, laughs and occasional happiness matters at a time where the scene was getting darker.
Wearing a mask to college would be the new fashion statement seeped in normalcy so much that our teachers wouldn’t mind at all and for once, we wouldn’t be thrown out of class. Except that we wouldn’t kiss with mask on and some ingenious minds would make a trace of lips, expertly cutting through the lines with lipstick and hunting for funky masks is definitely something that I would be risking life for.
I miss falling in love, exploring relationships, nursing heartbreaks and making new friends by staying at home. How my life, dreams or excitement have crashed down during the past year! The girl I wanted to ask out for coffee, watching movies together, holding hands, kissing and making out in the dark theatre now feels futuristic, sitting at home and thinking how am losing out on things. Living the past and futuristic feel like a character flowing straight out of sci-fi and how art is imitating real life. What if I die with the virus? Change would come. I was pretty sure but not so soon, grappling with the new and uncertain life, counting minutes, days, week and years. Such a long wait!
How does one nurse heartbreak and love deeply enmeshed in imagination? Everything feels so unreal yet reality bites. It hurts each and every one of us, missing the thrill of skipping lectures and jokes of our teachers on campus, college festival tickling the creative bulb, an excuse to flirt with girls in the same team. After all, we needed an excuse volunteering for our college festival to ask a girl out. I checked Tinder. Nah! The heart isn’t in for we cannot plan a date of hanging out in the open or partying like an animal. Dancing alone has its own thrill but shouting out and concatenating into peals of laughter, hanging out with friends, getting sloshed and passing out…the thrill I am missing right now.
Everything gets imaginative. I am thinking of multiple scenarios of being in college as an 18-year-old two decades later with the same friends, teachers and our campus, the thrill of bunking lectures, multiple crushes or chasing the one. This sheer joy of falling in love and secretly vouching for her, the frantic heartbeats at the sight, striking a conversation, the simpering smile and waltzing my way when she said Hi to me.
Who stole my life? Reality can be hard fuck to face! I am longing for sex and after it’s natural for a young man to! It feels like some invisible enemy has put us under siege and controlling our thoughts, desires and vices. Our lives feel borrowed. This classmate who passed away and can’t even go to see him for the last time! It’s painful. They tell us to see a Psychologist, something ignored during the time in college for the first time many moons away. I am still in college right now in this pandemic age. We are aging adults physically, trapped in an old decade yet embedded in the present reality. Multiple dates canceled whether meeting friends, chicks, exams and the therapist for our mental well-being. How much I hate seeing a therapist online for the human touch is missing?
Am I coming to terms with everything? It becomes impossible at the sight of deaths and fear looming with complicated and frantic heart beat on the tomorrow. Not about me but the loved ones. How are they doing? Will college life be stripped of the joy! Many years down the line, we shall be pained looking back at the memory, faces haunting us and shudder at the ones who are longer with us. The final goodbye we couldn’t say and for one last time seeing the smiling face who was once a part of the joyful journey.
P.S: I tried connecting my past college memoirs in the present times with lots of imagination on the what if of the pandemic if I was still in college during the fast forward times.