College Survival Kit
“Agarwals ka Pav Bhaji?”
“Karthik Bhaiya ka Dosa?”
“Where do you want to go? Our bunk ends in 30 minutes!”
“Let’s get some mishti doi and chips, sit in the college playground, feel the grass and stare at the sky.”
And that was how we always found happiness in the tiniest things throughout our college bunks.
No matter how much we plan, life doesn’t always go as per our rules and thoughts. Often, these unplanned events pull the pieces of our lives together and weave a magical story that we can never imagine. Being a student of St Xavier’s College, Kolkata (or a Xaverian if you may) was a dream which was connected to so many plans I had. A cool friends squad just like we witness in our favourite sitcoms, happening college life and sorted adulthood. I guess I asked for a tad bit much here.
I entered the college gate hoping that I was going to take charge of my own life henceforth. Sadly, I couldn’t hear Xavier’s laughing at my innocence. Forget taking charge of my life, I did not even have the freedom of choosing my seat in my classroom. Xavier’s has a strict ‘sit according to your roll numbers’ rule to take us back to our playschool days. Funny that amidst that irritation of losing the cool college freedom we dreamt of, we failed to see how that same college was plotting to bring three people together for the rest of their college days and even further.
Steffy and I ended become bench mates due to this seating pattern since the inception of our first year. But there was something missing on that bench, metaphorically as well as technically. Ideally, we were supposed to have another bench mate with us, but all we got was an empty seat between us because that person never showed up. We spent an entire semester being bench mates with that empty seat, just when our college thought of adding some spice to our lives.
With the second semester gearing up, we finally got the bench mate we were longing for. Now that I think about it, our lives would have been so different if we wouldn’t end up being sitting partners with Akshaya Daga. Akshaya was the person who completed that tiny group of friends I had. I still kept wondering if I will find that ‘cool squad’ I always dreamt of until I realized college had other plans for me.
We didn’t just enter the second year of our academic life. We also found a new dimension to our bench mate setup. We were no longer classmates or sitting partners. We became the ‘cool squad’ I keep referring to, only with the tiniest tweak. We were, in reality, quite the opposite of cool. Akshaya came up with nicknames to describe our personalities back then, and it is scary how appropriate it was. Steffy was named ‘Sleepyhead’ for her obvious habits of sleeping throughout the lectures and zoning out mid conversations. I was known as ‘Bitch Ji’ because of how easy it was to tap the bitchiness in me. And Akshaya didn’t give her any one name. It was during that phase when Akshaya came with a new nickname for her every month. It started with her calling herself a ‘Xi’ because she liked how cute Xi Jining sounded, to ‘Smiley’ because let’s admit — she always smiles. And that was how our journey from sane to crazy began.
It was only a matter of time that they became my ‘College Survival Kit’. The next two years of college experienced our drama, our sane conversations to our fights and our patch-ups. Every day came with a new story for us. We discovered sides of each other that not everyone was privileged to see. Our class bunks included pestering Steffy to bunk with us and not care about her 90% attendance. Our pre-college rituals included meeting near the cyber room with a packet of chips to gorge on and a bagful of stories to vent out. Our tie out together involved sitting at the corner of Park Street under a pole and discussing every random shit happening in our life.
There is no count of nonsense we pulled together in those three years of college. We three were a closely knitted group with three personalities that made that group imperfectly perfect. Akshaya was the impulsive risk-taker of the group. She brought with her passion and excitement in our boring days. Steffy was the lost child who was confused on most days. And I played the role of a ‘mother’ to these kids as I was responsible to look out for them. Akshaya and Steffy were like two sisters who always ended up at the principal’s office for their mischiefs mid lectures.
Our college days were filled with cribbing about adulting and cursing Xaviers for its unnecessarily long assignments. The sole purpose of this group was to swipe left and right on my dating profiles and scrutinize every profile I liked. The missions of our lives were set as per our personal strengths. Steffy was determined to keep zoning out till her final breath and make lame jokes. Akshaya was focused on making us prettier for our dates and whispering old Bollywood songs in our ears during maths lectures. And I was doing the best I could in spoiling my two children by giving them the perfect erotic training.
From drawing wildflowers behind her notebook to inventing new slangs for people who irritate her, Akshaya was the fun aspect of my cool squad. From being the listener of the decade to being a partner in crime, Steffy was the mystery box we were taming. And from teaching my squad about the benefits of Google sheets to preventing them from being dragged to the Dean’s office, I was the angry young girl amidst the munchkins.
We created a couple of rituals in the past three years to celebrate our friendship. One of those was the Galentines. Every year we started celebrating Valentines Day together as ‘Galentines’. We used to hang out in our college lobby, eat from every street food outlet we had around college, crib about not having a happening romantic life and make fun of the couples around us. Our series of street meat was never-ending.
One of the best things which stayed with us throughout our college life was not parting away. We witnessed groups being divided over-specialization subjects and classes being scattered and mixed. We often discussed our fears of having to befriend new people if we part ways too. But our stars were always aligned and we never had to think of parting.
Although, life has new plans for us yet again when the pandemic struck us hard and we were stuck to the two by two screens of our phones. We were miles apart, but still close as always. Adulting did its dance and we graduated in this era of virtual classes & online exams. There we stood, starting the new chapter of our lives separately.
I got into Xaviers for my master’s degree, but for the first time, Xavier’s didn’t feel like home. The college where I spent the day in and out for three consecutive years suddenly seemed like a stranger’s land. The reason was obvious. The home was never a place but those two people who made me survive the 75% attendance criteria in Xaviers. Sure my college life was not how I thought and planned it before entering that gate. It was better than I could ever expect it to be.
I wasn’t sure a College Survival Kit existed until I found myself one. To all those days of careless laughter and cheerful memories, there are many more to come!