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Deform to Form a Star

September 10, 2021
- Sanat Bhargava

As I set about the task of writing this memoir, I find myself plagued by the melancholy realization that nothing I ever write will do justice to my time at Roorkee, which is not to say that it lay at the extremum of good or bad, just that life has turned out so differently from what I had ever expected. Yet, I hope that writing this will give me a chance to reflect on my time at Roorkee, and will maybe help me make sense of it all.

I remember the day I got to know that I would be coming to Roorkee very vividly. Unlike a lot of my peers, coming to Roorkee wasn’t a compromise for me. For me, this was meant to be a fresh start, a chance to truly express myself. You see, I hadn’t had the best school life and I desperately wanted to get away and make up for all the time I had lost. Most importantly, I would be majoring in Physics, a subject that was very close to my heart at school and an endless source of joy - a means to escape the monotony and drudgery of daily life. The day I actually reached Roorkee, the day of the registrations, I was just a kid with annoyingly high levels of excitement and Bollywood-esque hopes and dreams of ‘making it big’. You know the type.

It dawned upon me pretty early that as a naive 18 year old I had no idea what ‘making it big’ even meant, all that I knew was that I needed to try my hardest to do my absolute best and I sought perfection in whatever I did. The first few months were absolutely brilliant and I spent most of my time exploring everything that Roorkee had to offer. As a result, within the first few months I was a part of Watch Out! and the Quizzing Section, and later the Stand-Up Club. I guess for me, falling in love with Roorkee was not an if, but a when. The true beauty of life at Roorkee lies in the fact that it doesn’t take a lot for one to fall in love with the place, or at least it didn’t for me. The first time this hit me was when I was participating in one of the quizzes hosted by the Quizzing Section - this was a four hour long quiz that started off in the MAC Auditorium and ended in the open air amphitheatre because they wanted to shut the auditorium for the day. My campus life was scattered with these small moments that I didn’t really care about much at the time, but in hindsight these are the ones I will hold onto the hardest.

I cannot stress enough the role that campus groups play in shaping an individual, especially at that stage of our lives when we are extremely impressionable. Watch Out! ensured that I had a platform to express myself and ponder over even the most offbeat ideas about life, philosophy and ethics. These often led to the most memorable conversations, which eventually helped me look at the world from a different lens. The Stand-Up Club gave me the opportunity to laugh at the absolute absurdity of things around me and embrace my flaws in a way I had never done before. The Quizzing Section made me privy to the high of cracking a question with the use of sheer logic at 2 am and eventually helped me give direction to my curiosity.

So far so good, right?

It would be deceitful of me to lead you to believe that life at Roorkee is akin to a movie where stuff eventually works out. I have mentioned how I loved Physics and considered myself fortunate enough to major in a subject that was close to my heart. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for the illusion to shatter. By the end of my third semester, I had realized that Physics, or at least the way it was taught, was messy and arduous and not a career option for me. As you would imagine, this wasn’t a sudden process, but something that happened over a period of time. To be brutally honest, the disintegrating process of slowly falling out of love with Physics as a subject broke me. For large parts of my sophomore year, I would feel alienated and would envy my peers and I wished that I was in the same position that they were in, to be able to look at the subject through the same rose-tinted glasses.

Despite all the interpersonal relationships I had, for me the campus itself was an entity I had befriended and the keeper of my deepest secrets. Over the years, various haunts around campus were a passive presence to most of my ponderings and it was during a walk around campus that I was beginning to question what I was really doing: Whether I stuck with Physics and motored through the bits that made me miserable, and hope my love for physics comes through? Or do I take the risk of making a switch into the unknown and risk falling into a vicious cycle?

I found inspiration from an unlikely source: A conversation with a friend over fried Maggi at Ravindra Bhawan, where we hypothesized how Google Maps might predict the traffic in a certain region (This is a very interesting problem which I would encourage you to think about). This conversation eventually led me to Data Science, and once I went down that rabbit hole there was no coming back. My love for statistics coupled with my urge to ask questions ensured that my love for Data Science only grew. Honestly, I believe I was incredibly lucky to find something that truly engages me as much on my first try, but after dedicating the past two years to this, I now find myself in the same position I used to envy my peers for, and it is the happiest I’ve been in a while.

At this point Roorkee had taught me the most important lesson of them all, which especially hits home as I sit down to write this: Most good things come to an end and hoping otherwise is simply putting yourself through unbearable suffering. Akin to how stars deform to form something new at the end of their lives, so must we.

For me, Roorkee is synonymous with second chances. Be it giving an awkward schoolboy an opportunity to truly express himself and friends who not only supported him but drove him to constantly become a better person, or giving a lost sophomore enough space to make sense of the confusion he found himself in, there’s a lot that I am grateful to Roorkee for. I owe a lot of this newfound clarity to the people I interacted with, who not only believed in me but also stood by me through all the accolades, rejections and commiserations.

I have always romanticized the idea of permanence, especially in friendships. I’ve never had really old friends, people who’ve been a part of my life for so long that I can’t remember what life was without them. I’ve always wanted that, and I hoped Roorkee would somehow deliver that to me. Pretty much from day one, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by a group of like-minded individuals who make me feel grateful for making the choice to come here. Most of my days went by in the confines of Ravindra Bhawan, indulging in conversations about absurdism, existentialism and ethics with some obscure Steven Wilson song playing in the background, impromptu jamming sessions, writing stand-up sets to perform at some open mic in the future, or sometimes even pulling off all nighters to play FIFA.

Thanks to the pandemic, our batch has been deprived of a farewell, and while that is a hard reality to come to terms with, I find solace in the countless memories of Roorkee, the quaint surroundings and the many amazing people I had the fortune to meet.

I still try my best to do justice to all the opportunities that come my way, I just don’t chase the skewed idea of perfection anymore.

Maybe I am beginning to ‘make it big’?

Who knows.