I got down from the noisy, diesel-powered auto-rickshaw and asked what the fare was. “350”. I don’t know why I paid him that much, normally the fare would not be greater than 220. Maybe it was to do with the fact that I remembered this same guy driving me to the doctor once – you see, too much partying can have an effect opposite to that of the proverbial apple’s, then driving me to the medical store parking precisely in front so that my teetering self wouldn’t have to walk too much and then drove me back to my hostel. Or maybe, he had just taken advantage of the short bursts of nostalgia that I was experiencing all along the way to the railway station. You see, the train that night would take me away from two of the best years of my life, spent at a campus on any idyllic hill overlooking vast swathes of coconut trees, at one of the best management institutes in the country.
A good time, I believe, to pen down some of my best memories from campus life. Here they are:
The Traveling. Before landing up at the campus gates (for some reason, I am not a huge fan of the ‘God’s own campus’ tag), I had been to 3-4 places in my entire life: Mumbai, Kozhikode – that is where my parents hail from, Goa and Pune. For 24 years of my life, the furthest I had ever been to the north of this planet was Virar, a tiny suburb town outside Mumbai.
It was at campus that I travelled so much more than I could ever have. There was that first golden sunset at Kappad beach, an all night stay at a drive-in beach in Thalassery and Mahe, a hastily put together holiday that took me to the idyllic beaches of Gokarna in northern Karnataka, a Wayanad field trip for a project that resulted in a minor accident, the internship that took me to Noida, a rain-drenched ride to Wayanad’s Soochipara falls and Pookote lake. Then there was the near disastrous but memorable trip to the backwaters of Alleppey and Varkala, a business competition that took me to Ahmedabad and a solo trip to the beautiful Tibetan settlement at Bylakuppe in Coorg. And to conclude it all, the great north Indian trip that covered the most stunning vistas across Simla, Kullu-Manali, Dharamsala, Amritsar, Haridwar, Hrishikesh and Nainital across 2 weeks that I have ever seen.
The Food. Mallu food is not something that I am particularly fond of, but the variety that I experienced at Kozhikode is far better than what you get at most places across the country. Let’s begin with that tiny place right outside the campus gates called Broast. Instantly brings to mind images of a stomach filling meal consisting of generous proportions of chicken, chicken and some more chicken, all of it washed down with copious amounts of Pepsi. Or a cheap but delicious meal consisting mostly of piping hot appams with tomato fry at Sangamam when we were feeling particularly stingy. The pure vegetarian home cooked variety at Lovely dhaba, or the Sharjah milk shake inside the NIT campus would not rank far behind either. Kadavu resort, Mezbaan, Malabar Palace, Delhi Darbar, Al bathook and the biriyani at Zain’s; all were places that dished out sumptuous fare. But undoubtedly, the honours would go to Domino’s at Mavoor where we would have cheese-burst pizza eating competitions and the utterly delectable fare at Paragon’s (their pandanis chicken is out of this world, ditto for their spiced orange juice), and the mouth watering ice-creams chock-a-block with dry fruits and nuts at Chick Bake on beach road. Then there is that tiny gem called Sreeratnam’s lunch house, situated just outside the main gate where for the princely sum of 22 rupees (used to be 20 earlier), one could wolf down unlimited rice and sambar served on a banana leaf.
The Academics. The late nights debating and dissecting a particularly tough case assignment, then giving it all up for a jaunt to the night canteen. Dealing with the insane levels of class participation in the first few months of classes. Waking up late one particular morning only to realize there are only 5 minutes to go for your exam. Mixing cinema with studies, an integral part of a particular course, who would have thought cinema could be such a beautiful way to open your minds to hitherto taboo topics.
The Rain. Mumbai is one city that is most beautiful when it rains. A lot of people just complain about the water-logged drains and the delayed trains, but the monsoon gives it an entirely new character that no other city can lay claim to. The state of Kerala however, is an entirely different story. When I first landed on campus, it rained so much, I could not resist sleeping for extended stretches of time, studies be damned. The constant buzz of rainwater pelting down outside just seems to trigger a hidden sleep mode inside my body. On campus however, it is only when you stood on one of the balconies overlooking the valley and took in the sight of the rain washing everything as far as the eye could see, that an intense feeling of refreshment and rejuvenation would sweep over you, almost drenching you to your very soul.
The Parties. Crazy would be a nice word to describe these parties. I guess dorm wars is one of the most raucous events on campus, unmatched in revelry and subsequent bonhomie between warring hostels, what with people mouthing the choicest obscenities laid out carefully into a rhyming sequence one moment and shaking hands the next. With one batch party and one or more hostel parties (and umpteen number of balcony parties) happening every term, it would be wise to let the ‘what happens in campus, stays in campus’ rule hold for now.
The People and the Stories. Like staying back for the term break when the entire campus had disappeared, then hiring an auto, secretly selling case notes of the departed batch, some 250 kilos of it, to the scrap dealer to buy your first ever bottle of scotch. Or playing songs like ‘Do dil mil rahe hai’, ‘Kitabein bahut si padhi hongi tumne’, ‘bahaaro phool barsao mera mehboob aya hai’ on full blast, when a pretty young thing came over to help a fellow hostel mate with his studies. Or sneaking over bare torso-ed in the middle of the night after a particular party into the academic area. Or being half submerged in the sea while the sun is going down and having a formal group discussion replete with all formalities, the topic of discussion being girls. Or just talking over nothing while sipping some scotch along with your hostel mates, legs dangling over the balcony while watching the rain pelt down relentlessly and wondering what life is all about.
Although these are but a few of the things that come to my mind when I think of those winding roads leading up the hill, but the things that do matter, cannot really be put down in words. Can they ?