My last year at SASTRA

It started in July 2012. It ended in June 2016. 4 years of my life cooped up in Tirumalaisamudram (quite literally). I really could just lash out at all those things I hate about the place - every instance that made me feel like a Jew in a Nazi gassing chamber, every idiot who made it miserable for me there. But I'd rather not. Not only because I don't want to sound like a grumpy old man, but also because all 4 years of my life there was not, as I've lamented on many an occasion, life in a hellhole. Case in point - nostalgia started kicking in back in July 2015.

So in keeping with tradition (the one I just created for myself), I decided to write such a post. Now when people generally ask a student here at SASTRA, "How's college?" they might start off into a monotone of how hostel is a pain, a certain bald person makes their lives miserable, the food is horrible, they don't let you go home, they don't let you go out, they this, they that. (Phew now that I have abided by the unsaid custom of complaining about the place...) But I generally say, "It's good here". 4 years on, you learn so much from an institution like SASTRA. I learnt people management, I learnt anger management, I learnt to value friendships. Oh and, footnote, I learnt biotechnology sumaar ah.

So my last year here started a little later than it did for the others. I was at IIT doing God only knows what, hence, joined college only in July. When you're a final year at college, it certainly has its perks. It's much like when, at school, you were in 12th grade. You own the place! Hostel rules suddenly vanish into thin air, watchmen don't harangue you when they see the red tag on your ID card, professors are suddenly friendlier (probably also because they've seen the same faces for 3 years now). My 7th semester was by far the best of the 8. I did ABSOLUTELY no work! I mean it. Classes were poker sessions or nap time; lab sessions were used for catching up with friends, heated debates about pointless topics (I remember we were once discussing whether pen caps will stay put in straight hair or curly hair and conducted an experiment to find out which as true), sleeping (They say cats sleep anywhere? You should see students!) and of course, selfies. As the semester progressed, however, everyone was getting busier. People had placements to attend, job interviews to prepare for, exams to study for and write, applications to send. By the end of the semester anyone you met on the corridor had "GRE", "SAP", or "placements" on their lips.

My first wave of nostalgia hit when the juniors from our department hosted a farewell for us. It was all going fine. Random laughter. Random selfies. Random music and dance. Until a friend went up on stage and addressed us. "We were classes of 50. Now you guys will graduate and I'll be left with 9 classmates", she said. That's when I got that sinking feeling. Back in second year when I wrote the "Letter to the freshman" I included the phrase, "home away from home" (I still get royally mocked at when that comes up in conversation) but only when she said that did I realise that leaving this place ain't going to be as easy as walking out the gate. There's a part of you that you leave behind when you move on. I truly understand the depth of that sentence only now.

Just as the semester was coming to a close, the results for the SAP interviews started coming out. All of my friends, save for 3, were leaving. Our classes had ended. No more fighting for the seat under the fan. No more standing outside class and trying to peek in to see whether the person inside was the professor in charge of the previous hour or the current hour. No more running out the left door because you knew the professor entered the class from the right. No more texting with your phone inside the bag. No more walks to CC and then deciding to bunk the next hour at 10.59am. No more poker games in class. And for me, no more JVC classrooms. It might sound like every single status I've seen on Facebook from my batchmates but I really am going to miss this goddamn place. Not because I like everything about it. But because I will miss the memories and the good times associated with the place. We broke for the semester in November.

Only when I came back to college in December did I realise the true gravity of my situation. I was so alone. Bored. An eventful day was when I took the route via the mess to ASK instead of taking the route through the ground. I had nobody to waste time with. Most of my friends were either out of station or too busy. And the ones that were out of station couldn't be reached whenever the hell you felt like it, courtesy time zone difference. You'd be awake and kicking, yet bored to death. Meanwhile they'd be going back home from a tired day at work and getting ready to hit the sack. Minutes wore on into hours and days. I spent more than just the odd evening locked up in my room staring at the ceiling, wondering what to do. Music gave me some solace but there's only so much music you can listen to before the junior next door knocks on yours and says, "Anna, could you please turn the volume down?"

My 8th semester in college was boring, with a capital B. The period between December 2015 and May 2016 let me see more petri plates, autoclave preparation and media preparation than I had seen in my entire life till then. And for a restless person like me, not meeting my friends was really not that easy. Add to the melancholy was the fact that for the better half of my 8th semester I got emails that started, "Dear Mr. Kannan, We get a large number of applications every year and the intake is highly competitive. We are sorry to inform you that we are unable to offer you a place at our institute. We wish you luck in your future endeavours. Thank you."

Things started looking up only towards the end of the semester when everyone was almost done with their work and all of us could sit together at KC and chat about how hectic our schedules were. Project submissions, thesis, presentations, wrap up experiments and the likes - I had no time for musing about my college life then. But here I am now, exactly 2 months after I finished my last exam at college, wondering how I am going to step into the world that's waiting for me. I'm not used to adult responsibilities. I prefer waking up in a messy room and realising I have just 4 minutes to get to class or I'm losing attendance. I like jay walking back to the room and postponing all my assignments to that place called Neverland. I like sitting in a friend's room and counting our money, to find out whether we can afford 2 egg rolls outside college.

But as I sit and type this out, my friends are at work or busy with some other occupation. My schedule has nothing but "German class" written on it. When I joined college I heard a lot of people talking about how the friends I would make at college would remain for life. I now get what they mean and the feeling is bittersweet. Bitter because I won't be able to meet them at the same frequency as it was in college. Sweet because, well, they'll be my friends forever :)

So let me take a moment out to thank each and every single person who has been a part of the SASTRA experience for me - good, bad, whatever. You are a portion of the reason I am who I am today, 4 years on. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you!

Auf Wiedersehen!


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