Last night I dreamt I went to Pilani again.
It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to into the campus for a long time, as the way was barred to me. And all of a sudden, with ethereal capabilities possessed in truest of dreams, I floated inside. The road appeared the same, lined with trees on either side, creamy yellow buildings housing students on one side, a huge ground with jogging track on the other. And the famous Gandhi statue on the four road cross section up ahead. The scene magically changed to another - it was a clear night, buzzing with students unlike any other night. There I was seated at the foot of the statue with my friends waiting for the bus - to take us out of this place into the real world. My last day in Pilani.
I was almost losing hope on the Pilani trip, when overnight all my travel arrangements were made. I wasn't sure what my exact role in the whole recruitment process was, but i dare not ask lest they decided i was not needed. We left Delhi around 10 o clock 5 of us in a loaded Tavera. Everyone was already dreading the 6 hour journey. I was looking forward to 6 hours of reminiscing.
I seemed to disapparate from that scene to another place and time. I was in the SUB or the students union block. The place had a charm of its own, the old rooms with slanted asbestos roof arranged along the three sides of a rectangle, facing the grounds. A tree here and there and a couple of broken benches to complete the scene.
It was a warm afternoon with strains of Bryan Adams filling the place. Sounds of excited laughter floated past. I was sitting in a corner indulged in our famous 'paper tearing'. My heart was beating just a little faster... I seemed to be just a little breathless as I lifted my head and my eyes met his. It seemed like we were playing a subliminal game, unnoticed by others. I was surrounded by people with whom i seemed to have established a bond from beyond the ages. Everyone was laughing. Some were recounting the adventures of the passed year. It was a beautiful afternoon when everything was magic.
We landed by 4.30 in the evening. We decided to go around the campus head of our presentation - so we caught 3 cycle rickshaws for the grand tour. At every corner, every bend I kept expecting a friend, an infamous couple, a rival group, a cheeky junior or just another face u noticed in the mess. It was weird.
I left them to the afternoon warmth and flitted along the roads to C'not and the park behind. In that few minutes it took me to walk, the sun seemed to have set replaced by a starry clear night. And then another image slipped in to place. We were sitting on the walls of the C'not park. It had become a routine for me and my friend, to head towards the quieter roads on evenings when time was at our disposal and when we had no things to do. We would walk around discussing the things of passionate importance - the latest department fight, the outcome of certain peoples love lives, why we disliked some one and in general the state of our lives- and then of things of lesser importance, but nevertheless as much passion like why we liked F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Today she was recounting why she liked Chandler the most for the zillionth time. And we were wondering why couples liked to claim that they were'just good friends'. Then we settled into an enigmatic silence absorbing the quiet night and starry sky that enveloped us.
I don't know if it was an attempt to connect to the past or to the present, I had tried to reach some students carrying the torch of our department still. It was there farewell night, and I became the 'special guest' for the night. It was endearing, but not the same all because the people were different. I longed for the old lot to mysteriously appear out of nowhere.
We seemed to have the knack for getting cranky at night especially after a dose of maggi. This night was no different. The three of us were coming up with reasons for why women should be allowed into the mime team. Or we were trying. Everything we said seemed extremely hilarious and all we managed was, was to keep laughing. My eys kept meeting my friend's to dissolve into pools of laughter. By now, there was of course tears streaming down. I stared at the scene of the three of us, struggling to get some words out, but lapsing back into giggles. It was one of our best brain storming sessions ever.
As I headed back to the guest house, where we were staying for the night, my colleagues came out stating that they wanted to explore the campus by night. So we walked by to sky, the huge lawns outside the museum which became a favorite hangout in our final semester, ANC or the all night canteen where we had innumerable samchats, C'not or the happening hangout street on campus. I had always enjoyed the late nights even while on college - there was something very adventurous and liberating about it.
The scene repainted itself once again. I emerged out of my room to see what was the commotion. My fiends were back from the Tamil play organized by PTM which had mocked "girls" to an extent beyond humorous. The mercury was rising in the room as every one let of their steam. I was thinking, so we are angry, and boys will be boys - what can we do. In the end, my friends sat up all night, coming up with charts voicing our protest. Before the break of dawn, they were up on all the hostel messes. And by mid day, every one we knew had see the charts and were all surprised at our reactions. The protest was famous, but no one knew who had put it up. It became one of our best kept secrets.
The next day was busy. Our initial plan had been to spend the second night in Pilani. But everyone else seemed to be in a dying hurry to return and i didn't have much of a choice. I had hoped to take some photos in the evening, but there was no time for that now. I consoled myself saying that what mattered the most was the i got a chance to return. We left for Delhi that afternoon.
We were all assembled in the guest house lawns for the farewell, discussing how 'it is still not sinking in that we are all leaving'. After we were all seated, there was a round of farewell speeches. Farewells were always nice, it gave you those exclsive minutes to run back in time and nestle in moments one most relished. Except this time, it was a farewell for my batch.
I was just starting my speech - there was so much i wanted to say. This department had in a way been the beginning and the end as this was where I had made most of my closest friends. It had been a tumultuous 4 years, nevertheless every minute enjoyable. I had just finished saying so much, and I was choking up. My eyes were blurring as tears welled up in my eyes. I tried to, but couldn't hold back. I started crying in front of a whole group for the first time in four years.
The images kept coming one after the other. Sometimes it was just the feeling of the warm sun, the welcoming cold of the corridor walls, the lightness in the heart at te begining of the summer, the laziness of the evening at night, the fluttering of my heart at the begining of a new love, the feeling of being looked out for with special friends.
Sometimes, I was reliving the scene, and sometime I was an observer looking at an evening or night unfolding itself. I could feel a timelessness as I went through the four years at Pilani. It had been a world unto itself, untouched and un-intruded. And then just as suddenly, with all the cognizance possible in a dream, it struck me that, that was where I was - in a dream. I knew that I was standing on the outside looking into a time that was over. A time that was in the past....
And I knew then I could never go back.
PS: This post was in part inspired by 'Rebecca' with its famous lines 'Last night I dreamt I went to Manderlay again'.