The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of school is backpacks. That also fully loaded with two-ton books, some cool gadgets to show off, compass box stuffed with equipments to shape our future, and most importantly those fancy multi-sectioned lunch boxes. Two full decades of school life just passes through my memories giving that nostalgic feeling and making me say “I wish those days were never over”. So here is my journey of those two decades:
Kinder Garden: My mom always jokes that during kinder garden I was being dressed up while I was asleep and was carefully dumped into school rickshaw.
Standard 1-5: I started getting ready while being wakeful (my first exposure to multitasking). I made friends, played antakshari in school rickshaw and started getting used to the ever growing monstrous homework.
Standard 5-8: Here comes the much awaited phase where I got promoted from half-pant to full pant in school uniform. Aaha… I also got to write with ballpoint pens graduating from the Natraj HB pencils. I got the opportunity to ditch my school bus and be a free bird by riding bicycle to school.
Standard 8-9: Here I got a bigger promotion. Trashed my bicycle and started take bajaj sunny
to school. Started going to tuition classes to get ahead in the education race. The routine was: go to tuition in morning, go to school in the afternoon, play cricket in evening, do homework, watch cricket or TV serials or play video game at night.
Standard 10-12: Here comes the so called crucial years of my career, the board exams. Separate tuition classes for each subject, cut-throat competition, daily tests in tuition classes and first bunks to school periods. Even today I believe those were the most hectic and demanding 3 years of my life. Peer pressure, family expectations and internal desire to do well in the board exams were the biggest drivers. The most common piece of advise from elders would be “This is the only year when you have to work hard, concentrate and you will be happy for your entire life.” That year never ended, not till today. I still remember the day before board exams when relatives and friends would come to wish me luck and bestow their blessings. It was a ritual which everyone followed during board exams to encourage the students.
Board results: Results of XII board exams are out and my parents have started speculating: “how much is the result this year, what was the cut-off for medical college last year, how much is the fees for Xyz College, what would be my ranking in the state boards and many more. As a tradition, on our way back from school where we were informed about my results, dad would stop the car at a local mithaiwala and get some sweets anticipating many friends and relatives would visit our place to congratulate us. And of course… I still remember that smile on my parents’ face each time they would announce my result to someone. Just because of that moment I always think all my efforts were completely justified.
Bachelors’ degree: This was the most fun part of schooling in India. Here I got to interact with many different students from different parts of the country. Enjoyed bunks, celebrated different day’s (govinda day, black&white day, V-day etc.), got ragged on the first day and continued that tradition when I became senior, proxy attendance, walked out from lectures using the back doors and enjoyed the delicious food in canteen. Then came the submission phase where people were found at all different places of campus, except classrooms, completing their journals. Next came the reading vacation where I spent 1 month at home. This month was filled by group studies, explaining concepts over the phone, running to the sincere students to get the IMP questions list which would have been shared by teachers during lectures. Then came the day of exams where I used to enter the campus with fully loaded brain and behaving like an MBA (Mane Baddhu Aavadeche) which translates to “I know everything”. On last day of semester exams we directly went for cricket, then movie and then used to dine out.
Aptitude tests: Now was the phase when I was about to graduate from college and was planning for further studies. I joined the coaching classes EEC
who claims to prepare students for GRE, GMAT, TOEFL, and IELTS. I used to attend verbal and quantitative classes and then practice more in its library for the rest of my day. When bored, we used to get down across the streets where you get the world famous samosa sandwich and pav-vada (name of that place was Vishal sandwich, right across BHS school). Six tiring months of this effort and then came the time for GRE and TOEFL exams. I selected Ahmedabad center for the test which was proclaimed by some co-students as not a recommended center to score high. Disproving the myths I got back home with some satisfactory scores in these exams. Applied for Grad schools and waited and waited and waited for their approval.
Departure from India: It was an experience of mixed feelings and emotional environment. I arrive at the Ahmedabad airport in a mini-bus (32-seater), filled with family and friends who had come to see me off. I entered the airport and all the passengers of that bus wait till 3:00 am and left the airport arena after seeing my plane take off.
Arrival to the US of A: Landed at DFW airport around 11:45 pm on 10th January 2006. A student from Indian Student Association of UTA came to pick me up. Those first glimpses of IHOP, Taco bell and Denny’s across the freeway were mouth watering. I was dropped at BT 110, an on campus apartment, where an undergrad college friend of mine, Vivek, was a tempac. It was 12:30 am and I entered BT 110 to find Dhiraj sleeping in the living room suddenly waking up. I inquired about Vivek and I was escorted to another apartment where Vivek was enjoying the blazing fast internet on his newly owned laptop with some other guys. I later discovered: that apartment belonged to another good friend of mine, Darshit, who had gone to India at that time. So people were enjoying the internet and empty apartment during his absence. I was introduced to everyone, Kaushal, Sandeep (another tempac), Dhiraj, Manoj, Ashish and ofcourse Vivek (whom I already knew). I was feed khichdi, given access to India calling to inform my eager family that I had reached safely and showed the bed where I can crash. I will never forget what Dhiraj, Ashish, Kaushal and Hemal (residents of BT 110 where I was tempac for a week) had done for us. Soon, we (Me, Vivek, Sandeep and a Delhi dude Anshul) moved to a new apartment in the same community, very close to BT 110, ours was BT 118 and the fun started.
Graduate school: Things started falling in place. I got my first job (thanks to Hemal) and hence got my SSN. I received the first paycheck of my life, $58, for 3 days. Classes started, I got involved in research activity and also started working multiple jobs. I learned the most important lessons of my life during the first 6 months at UTA where I managed everything from laundry, cooking and cleaning to my own finances. Soon those hard working days were over and I got assistantship, then life was at its best. Made lots of Gujju friends and enjoyed many memorable days at taj-chat house, masala wok, fun asia, Arlington highlands, coldstone and many other places. We used to cook for 11 people at our apartment. My mom was shocked to hear that something (cooking for 11 people) which makes her nervous even today was being done daily by us. There was also cooking turns, cleaning sessions during apartment inspection, arrival of cops at our birthday parties, getting drunk which was followed by sessions of shayari and garba…. Oh my god… those moments are still alive in front of me. I can still see myself crossing that cooper street which was the only distance between my apartment and my research lab. I remember playing badminton on a tennis courts during our first week of tennis with Vivek.
Then came the hard time to move on and get started with our careers. Within the span of 6 months all of us (7 roommates in CC 211 and many other friends) moved to different places. Now there are no more wild birthday parties, no late night movies, no starbucks at 2:00 am and no sitting on the stairs of our apartment for hours. Everyone is busy in their own life (including me) and with many I haven’t talked since 6 months. Life has moved on, and moved on very fast but those moments are and will be always cherished by us forever. I am very sure that those were THE golden days of my life.
Here I am today, sitting alone on a rainy Saturday afternoon in my apartment and trying to recall the journey of my true graduation….
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