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There was a sense of infinity about those days, like they will last forever

July 22, 2019
- Utkarsh Ruhela

You’ve left that room, that place, that safe haven. Do you feel anything? Do you feel different? Are you really oblivious to the fact that you will never be at that place where you spent 1500 days of your life? There was a sense of infinity about those days, like they will last forever.

You don’t miss your college perpetually like you miss your lover. No, it is sporadic. One moment you see a colonial structure resembling the James Thomason building and your mind drifts away; you sigh. Not of pain or missing, but the melancholy and a sweet ache that you might never get to run on that trail. Or go on those lavish South Indian meals on your bike.

That’s why it has taken me more than a couple of months to pen this retrospective piece down. It is anti-climatic really, I haven’t been missing college all that much, maybe it will dawn upon me slowly.

As I ponder upon my experiences, I wonder if I have performed upto the “mark”. I slowly realised that the “mark” changes with time, as you move and grow through this time-space curve, so does your sense of purpose.

Gradually those Solani canal trails started calling me for another 5k run, the mighty Himalayas calling me to trek them, my friends calling me to show up for another short quiz session. In my own room, there was oblivion of The Anathema and vigour of The Who and Nirvana. Reading Seth or Dostoevsky after a session of recreation. Or, in my more lucid moments I had Paul Kalanithi or Herman Hesse with the cheapest and best Americano I have had. I tried to understand life through the lens of these eccentric experiences. My sense of purpose for a while was to experience everything that Roorkee and college had to offer.

Throughout my college life, a major white noise was that of seeking of validation for myself. I tried seeking it everywhere, in some academic subjects, in my discipline, in my meditation. No accolade, no achievement, no grade, no lover could satisfy that hollowness in long-term.

Since graduation, there’s a sudden gong of mortality, of that finiteness of things. Those five years were magical. School to college transition was just a kink, to more fun times, to more independence. When you are in college, you have this infinite reservoir of energy and will. You’re full of explosive optimism, looking forward to a life full of possibilities.

I used this mantra, whenever I was anxious or concerned about an issue, I would question if it would matter after 5 years. Because the things which are not under your control have a poetic sense of justifying themselves in the hindsight.

Funny how we were going to conquer the world just a couple of years ago, now we merely seek to find a place in this absurd (?) world. Has the definition of conquer changed or have we? Are we settling for less? Or have we learnt that Ozymandias fell too?

Here comes the sermon now.

There’s no grandiosity in your existence. Many existentialists have offered a similar thought. There’s no grandiosity, there are no perfect moments, there’s just plain human existence. All your problems are just humane, which are not going to go away after achieving that star-studded internship, placement, or PhD offer. Your life will still stay the same. All those thoughts will be still there after a fleeting moment of distraction due to exhilaration from your achievements. It all sounds gloomy so far, but people who know me personally would know that things aren’t bad for me. I have tried taking this outlook and morph into something positive, acting in “good faith” as Sartre would point out. Existentialists describe bad faith as phenomenon in which human beings, under pressure from social forces, adopt false values and disown their innate freedom, hence acting inauthentically. In essence, one must find their own sense of purpose.

All the productivity you require out of yourself stems from a sense of purpose, be it the JEE exam you took, or the course you aced at in college. That sense of purpose, even of temporary nature, lets you gather that will and do something. I know a part of my sense of purpose lies in learning different sports, languages, understanding humanity and nature more minutely. But, these are peripherals, as my friend coined this term for these interests. I am still to get to the crux of it. Or, I might find out there is no crux, the peripherals are all there is. The point is, we must explore and search for this meaning for ourselves.

Eventually you must realise that whatever you did was the best you could manage to do in those circumstances. So fret not for you are always putting in your best.

On a lighter note. Ten things the author recommends to try while in Roorkee (disclaimer— author might or might not have done all of this):

  1. Trek the hell out of Uttarakhand, Himachal too if possible. Start with Chandrashila or Triund. Warning: Do not go to Gaumukh-Tapovan glacier in your trainer shoes, you might just fall off of a crevasse.
  2. Solani road stretches serenely till Bahadrabad, one should cycle along that stretch. It is a forty five kilometre cycle ride that will be etched in your memory forever.
  3. Try noting down every detail of your life in a journal for at least a week.
  4. There’s a bridge connecting old Roorkee to Civil Lines area, which goes to the Cemetery. Visit both the places. Maybe take your girlfriend there (refer to disclaimer above) .
  5. Find friends in your seniors and juniors. Friends being the operative word. Don’t create rigid hierarchies when dealing with human beings.
  6. Try going to the football field at night with your friends and run a 100meters dash in an inebriated state. Watch the sunrise too, it’s a hell of a view from there.
  7. Play as much sports as you can. Also, you will never find an avenue better than sports to make friends.
  8. Try living your life in frugality for a week or a month. Save all the money and spend it on one meal. Just for kicks, you know.
  9. Attend as many SPIC MACAY concerts and institute lecture series as you can.
  10. Learn swimming if you don’t know yet, and dive from the 10 meters diving platform. Also, go touch the bottom of the 20 feet(?) pool. The pressure down there is ethereal.
  11. Live.