This post was written for the inaugural set of posts in SDSLabs' new webapp, Experiences@IITR. Thanks to +Shashank Mehta for the request.
I still remember that hot, sunny day in the July of 2009, in Saharanpur. New students, still basking in the limelight of JEE, look forward to entering the hallowed portals of IIT Roorkee, to click that must-have profile picture in front of the Main Building, as it was called till recently. Then there are the small group of people who make due with the football/hockey/cricket/anything else ground in the Saharanpur Campus. But I was happy - this was going to be my new home for the next five years, ending with an Integrated M.Tech degree in Polymer Science and Technology, and I could either love it or crib about it. I chose to love it and never regretted it.
Of course, destiny had something else in store. Actually, I don't believe in destiny. I had other plans for myself. Four years later, as I sat on the back of a rickshaw, laden with bags, pulling out of the Main Gate, satisfied with the knowledge that my name would be on the roll of honor of the nation's best school for Civil Engineering, I was convinced that the world had come to an end. After all, what else did life have to offer? It was just going to be about work, money and family now. What can life offer after the golden years at Roorkee?
One year after the world ended for me, I can now see how wrong I was. For, it was not that the world had come to an end, but rather, my world had come to an end - a world of my creating, a world that I defined. Looking back to those years in Roorkee, it seemed so funny, comical even, how seriously I took myself. Having to call seniors 'sir' and 'ma'am'? Outrageous! Being treated like a first year in second year? Unjust! Juniors in Kshitij not writing stories on time? Atrocious! Nobody showing up for a debate? Blasphemous! Every little event - from the gujju next door's goodies-from-home to the politics of SAC and its subservient bodies to the egregious BTP and finally to Jawahar Bhawan's canteen discontinuing momos, everything was big, everything mattered. Not because it did, but because I wanted it to. That was Roorkee - whatever I wanted it to be.
And then came real life, where you cannot simply turn away from difficult truths, where you do have to take responsibility for your actions and where you cannot crib about the bad food that someone else happened to make for you (and did the dishes too). But alas, no matter how far away you go from Roorkee, the ghost of Sir James Thomason follows you in your dreams. Hindu pholosophy would have it that I was but a drop of water in the infinite Ganga (canal) that flows through Roorkee - there were many before me and there will be many after. But a good Civil Engineer knows that the river too takes something from the land. In my four years in Saharanpur and Roorkee, I took away much more than a degree and some medals.
Sometimes, I want to go back and pretend it never ended. How hard could it be? Just a rather long flight from halfway across the world, a train from NDLS and a mad rush to get off the train at Roorkee station before it left in two minutes. A journey halfway across the world. Destination - a world of my own.