I have sat up half the night - listening to the incessant rain, watching the lonesome dog - and trying to sum up five years in a few pretty sentences. I don't know why TODAY, when I have two more days left. I don't know why AT ALL, because now there is facebook and gmail and a hundred different ways to fool myself into believing that I haven't really left. That this isn't really true. That I still belong.
I guess it's because when I was sitting on the comp.lit. stairs today, being the usual passive smoker and contemptuous git, I tried to remember one thing from each month that I spent in JUDE. And I couldn't. It was then that I realized that I fear the forgetting even more than I fear the leaving. And maybe that's when my subconscious (or as Arunava would point out, unconscious) decided to write everything down - so that when I am eighty, I can read these lines and dance a little arthritic jig, laughing at other lesser mortals - poor sods who hadn't ever experienced JUDE. Forgive the snootiness, but I DO think I had the best.
I remember the day I walked in for the entrance test. I remember what I wore that day. I remember meeting Arnab on the stairs , and I remember him giving me a superior smile and wishing me luck. He was a coordinator with me before, and I remembered him telling us how they had Beatles in their syllabus. i was awestruck. I was nervous. And as I walked into my allotted classroom (the current UG 2 room), I was taken aback by the intensity with which I wanted to be part of this - THIS place for the next five years. I remember amrita and zainab and NG being the invigilators. I remember someone asking if by 'black' she was meant to write a short note on the colour or the movie. I remember Amrita smirking and saying, 'well, you know. tall guy. deewar. amitabh? write on that.'
This post will have the word 'remember' at least a hundred times. Because, memory will be my best friend these coming days. And well, pretty sentences have never been my forte.
First year was spent trying to get my bearing.I remember speaking to Uttaran on the day of my admission and I remember Swapan da smiling nicely at me and trying to convince me to give up English and study Geography for some strange reason. On the first day of class the UG2's came charging in and demanded that we introduce ourselves. Then Surjo stood up on a bench and announced the ending of the latest Harry Potter book. It was worse than any ragging we could ever have faced. Then I went home with Doyeeta and we spent some time in a random cyber cafe in Gol Park, trying to set up a blog. Rafat Ali took our first class, I think. And said many big words. And recommended we read 'The Mirror and the Lamp'. And I wrote everything down in my copy and thought he was a nice guy. I think so still.
First semester was spent hanging out on the bridge. With some known and some strange engineering people. First year was the year of slippery journeys from the bridge to Moni da's. First year was the time Suchismita insisted on wearing sneakers to college everyday. Even in unbearable heat. First year was the time Arunava poked everyone with his umbrella and insisted that he didn't ever smile. First year was the time I went to watch 'Salaam Namaste' with a huge bunch of random people, most of whom don't even talk to each other nowadays. First year was when we became friends with Ragini. And Guppy. And sometimes we would all go to CCD and play weird games of 'truth and dare'. First year was also, admittedly, the time I hung out with the weirdest of people I don't have any contact with now. I guess I needed to try out several things before finding my niche. First year was when we wondered whether Tess was raped or seduced. First year was when we studied Sandman. First year was the time when PG2 seemed indecently far away.
I would go to Presidency often enough those days. Not as often as Doyeeta, but at least once a week. But JUDE has a way of claiming you. It needn't be a quick love at first sight. But once you've grown into it, you are gone. Fallen. Hook, line and sinker.
Second year was when I finally got into the groove of things, I think. Because during the admission madness, Tintin da assigned me to be in the same room as a certain prof., smiled and said "that should make her day". And that pretty much broke all the ice there was to be broken. I remember Pradipta's strange bonnet on the day of admission, and T'da's green hat. I remember borrowing a denim hat type thingy (was it a bandana?) from Srin on that day, running around like a mad man and stealing frooti from the departmental fridge. Second year was also the time I acted in the only JUDE production I have ever been a part of. At the cast party, I remember drinking the punch and grinning at people and making small talk with rohini. And then I remember tasting the garlic bread and dying and going to heaven.
Second year was the year we started on Renaissance. Second year was the year I got a 4 in an Old English internal. Second year was when I did 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' and fell in love with good ol' Will. Second year was the year when I finally grew up.
Things got into a steady routine after this. And the years that followed were pretty much the same. We just shifted from the English ledge to the back stairs, and finally to that place infront of Anita Banerjee hall. Third year was the time we played incessant 29 and made friends with Nandita and the lot. PB would try to force us to go to class and we would beg for one last game of cards. Third year was the time of the epic Tempest classes. It was also the year I graduated.
Masters was not the same as undergraduate years. There were many new faces.
It was a time of brilliant classes. It was a time of some serious bonding. It was the time I finally realized that I would have to go out into the world that day. JUDE would probably never be an end in itself again.
I was watching 'An Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' today, and I realized that if somehow all memories of JUDE were to be erased from my brain, and I could get to keep only one, it would probably be Amlan da teaching Milton in PG1. In this long, rambling barrage of words, I have consciously not spoken about the faculty, because, well...what would I say that has not been said a thousand times before? It just surprises me everyday that these incredible INCREDIBLE scholars chose to stay back and teach US, when they could really have gone and taught anywhere they wanted. Seventy years down the line, if I can remember the goosebumps when Supriya di talked about Rabindranath and Tempest, when PC blew us away with the Shakespeare and the Plath, when Swapan da smirked and proceeded to take a Renaissance drama class full of sexual innuendos, when Sukanta da told us about humanism in the renaissance - then I would really have nothing to complain about. Hell, I was taught Bakhtin on my first tutorial class with Amlan da. I didn't understand a thing, but grasped that I was probably in the presence of some serious greatness. Forgive the gushing, but on his day, that man can actually take my breath away the way no one can.
These people have given us a freedom unheard of anywhere else. Not only a freedom of action, but a freedom of imagination. And as I go out into the real world, I realize that is the greatest lesson I could ever have had.
As I write this, I realize one strange thing. That a couple of years later, if I want to walk in to attend a class in the department, there is no one who could legitimately tell me that I shouldn't be there. That I don't belong. Because I will never NOT belong.
Because once you have been a part of JUDE, you can never fully leave. These past five years have changed me the way nothing else ever has. And even if I am thousands of miles away, there will always be a part of me bumming around the corridors, gushing about ADG classes, having the spicy thai fried rice at Moni da's, having rooti-torka from Milon da's, drinking endless cups of coffee, singing the 'shibani' song, volunteering for the admissions, shouting 'whose Kubla it is?'... because THAT jheel, and THOSE stairs, and THESE classrooms and THAT corridor and THESE professors and THESE seniors and THIS batch and THOSE juniors and THAT bench and THIS place is MINE. And will be. Always.
Thank you Jadavpur University Department of English. It's been an honour.