Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Winter Nights

After an early winter sunset, our cab screamed past Gurgaon's towers and South Delhi's wide boulevards, hurtling through the capital's northern part's patchwork roads before emerging onto the smooth National Highway - 1. Kilometres of shimmering dew-covered fields and highway motels were covered in a few hundred seconds. I couldn't wait for a warm bed and the promise of a night's sleep far, far away from Kolkata.

The body wasn't prepared for winter in the northern plains, though, after more than half a year near the east coast. My feet froze even before I could locate my room on the windy tenth floor. The blanket felt colder than the floor, and as I wrapped myself like a mummy within it, I wondered what a long night it was going to be…


I hate this place. A scandalously overcharging rickshaw driver and a swindling cartel of a marketplace might have played their role in forming that opinion, but the few conversations I had had with what were to be people I'd have to see for the next 4-5 years firmed up that opinion. My parents reassured me that what I'd seen was definitely an unrepresentative sample - and like Visakhapatnam so warmly did, maybe Roorkee would grow on me, too.

A week of uninspiring lectures save one, mounting examples of administrative nincompoopery and a hostel full of late teenagers making the ugliest most of their new-found independence meant my daily calls home became ever more frantic. I can still make it to DCE's counselling! I'll write the JEE again, or just apply to DU like I first wanted to!

The rains came and went in a flash, and after a disastrous first set of exams and a brief trip home, winter was coming. The ceiling I stared at every night was no longer painted by a creaky fan whose rotations I counted to sleep - just three dusty blades Pa implored me to sweep clean every day. The trusty bedsheet I invariably knocked down to the floor each night was replaced by a fleece quilt I didn't trust to help me survive the sub-Himalayan plains.

But the cold was a common enemy. We bonded in the wing, our motley crew - crouching around that one hot-air blower, fighting for the last hot rotis, braving the icy winds for paranthas and Maggi and playing cricket in the corridor. Winter mornings got by faster, as I moved from the stationary fan to figure out ways to get the lizards off my ceiling.
In an extremely weird instance of camaraderie, many of us chose to forsake baths for as long as a week during the semester-ending NCC Camp, whose 6 a.m. aerobics sessions were a source of much comic relief. In the subsequent holidays back in Vizag, I was fed like a temple elephant to regain the 17-odd kilograms I'd shed. Waiting eagerly for the delicacies to come, I also thought of the serious writing I needed to get done to impress an Arbit Prat, and to maybe finally winning a quiz, that one connect from school. And, of course, rip that perfect off-break in the corridor…


Trucks with Bollywood tunes for horns honked away on the highway below, and a fancy, shiny, golden-coloured fan gleamed motionlessly above. I'd be getting up for some corporate mumbo-jumbo in a factory, instead of uninspiring lectures, 6 a.m. aerobics or corridor cricket. But I knew there were tougher winters I'd gotten through, and it was with warm thoughts about Roorkee winters that I fell dreamlessly asleep.

The next morning had paranthas for breakfast. Oh, it's good to be back!