Those were the days

6 Apr

I was tasked last week with writing a letter to my 17 year old niece who is graduating high school and leaving for college this Fall. I thought long and hard about what to say and finally wrote a few heartfelt lines for her. She has a good head on her shoulders and will undoubtedly be fine and do really well academically and socially, and my advice was mainly about taking care of herself and enjoying the journey.

Anyway, that said, this task took me back to thinking about some of my own college experiences. Here’s a glimpse!

  • I can now admit unabashedly that I followed a boy to college! And a terrible one at that. Yes, I actually based my entire life’s choice on where I would go to college and what I would study based on the fact that this silly high school boyfriend (HB) was going here. Thankfully, we broke up within a month of starting college and were in different branches of engineering. It still made for irritating canteen bump-ins and uncomfortable “hellos” through the four years. I cannot advise other people not to do this, as I again did this for my masters (this time though choosing to follow the husbadoo , then boyfriend to the US),and I don’t regret it. In retrospect, if I hadn’t followed HB to this college, I would never have met the husbadoo and so maybe all is well.
  • I was in a branch of engineering that had very few girls. The boys and girls in our class did not talk for the first few months . After that, interactions started in pockets – mainly for copying assignments! I was a part of a group of four girls, all pretty similarly raised and similar in outlook, (very important to note as we basically did not relate to about 70% of our class in anyway) and we spent the better part of the first two years looking at other more “hep” branches where the boys and girls ate lunch together wondering if we would ever be friends with a small sub set of boys in the class.  Oh and no love interests in the class at all, this was purely from a platonic stand point. At the end of maybe 3 years, this eventually did happen and we have had maybe one or two group lunches. I know such a “non – big deal” in other colleges and courses maybe but biggish here.
  • Assignments! We were in a field that had a lot of engineering drawing – almost three years of it. So these massive sheets required a lot of time and effort. Usually one person in the class came up with the design, mostly picked up from seniors work from years past and the entire class would make copies of the sheet at the copy shop conveniently located across campus. As this massive sheet ended up as maybe 16 A4 sized sheets, you then took the copies home and drew out your own sheet. I have personally not done a glass trace as the apparatus of a glass top table and light below the table were not easy to set up at my place, but I must have been in the minority.
  • The food! The canteen was after all a government college canteen, so prices were quite low on almost all things there. The Rs. 15 grilled sandwich was maybe the most expensive thing or the Rs. 17 Schezwan fried rice in a scary bright orange which usually two people or four shared. So your pocket money usually went a long way. A Rs 2.50 vada pav and cutting chai for I think Rs. 1.50 were a staple. There were more expensive places we went to around campus though to break this monotony. Oh and all of us brought our dabbas to college, we would usually end up eating those at 11 am and then hit the canteen later in the day. Basically a lot of food through the day.
  • The yearly college fest ! Where do I start? Firstly there was a rope separating the boys and girls, so that no funny business happened. Of course, it did outside the college and other parts of the college that were not roped off. Each department had a fashion show and ours was usually the most awful. We girls showed up to see hot guys and slutty girls from other departments and in four years never once participated in our own department’s show. During the first two years our aim was to escape being roped into this and making fools of  ourselves on stage.This involved stressful situations and frustrating our seniors who worked hard to recruit people for this show. The latter two years, we blissfully were not even prodded to participate and didn’t bother to organize anything at all.
  • Sports days and mandatory girl sporting events – box cricket , basket ball were all terribly humiliating again. None of the girls in our department played a single sport decently. But we had to play these to uphold the department’s honor so to speak and I have vivid memories of awful basketball games were maybe one girl on our side knew how to even dribble the ball. (And no, that wasn’t me. I really suck at most sports.) So we used to have a huge audience , mostly irritating boys roaring in laughter during our games. Maybe I give ourselves too much credit, that they were there to see our miserable on field performance. They were probably there to see the hot little IT girls we sometimes had to play againstJ
  • Exams and results results! College seemed so hard when I was in it. I kept thinking I was a misfit for the course and I think I am still the worst engineer in existence but the one thing I did know to do was work hard. Looking back, I read the prescribed books, notes, learnt how to design stuff that I had no interest in  (You can look up  mould design or jig design , to get an idea) and did quite well in all the courses.

In our engineering courses, if you attempted a paper for 100 marks, you would definitely pass with maybe scoring somewhere in the 60s. God help you if you ended up not preparing and had to attempt any lesser.  If you only attempted 80% of the paper, you probably might be border line pass or fail at 40%. In short, there was a huge disparity between what you wrote and what you scored. And results would come a good month after the next semester started. So someone would find out the results were coming out that afternoon. The rest of the day would be spent in fervent prayer. And finally the administrative laddie would come out with a huge roll of results and put them on the notice board for all to see . And you would scramble to find your name and heave a sigh of relief at passing. In the first two years, invariably, someone you knew wouldn’t pass and would get a “KT”. You would then spend the next few hours trying to commiserate with that friend. By the third year, everyone seemed to have got their act together on how to study and these situations were very few.

  • The gossip, the professors, the fear! Ours was a smallish department where everyone knew about everyone’s business. When the husbadoo and I started dating each other in our final year, I had major freak outs about the profs finding out about us. The repercussions could range from them calling your parents to being failed in your vivas. So I lived in fear for the most part. But I guess they probably did know  but nothing was really done about it, thankfully. We invited these profs to our wedding too a few years down the line!

Writing this and reminiscing makes me miss college. I am barely in touch with a handful of people from the so called “group” I was in. Most of my classmates are on my Facebook and it’s amusing to see pictures of weddings first and now children starting to pop up.

I remember when I was in college; I was always more stressed than I should have been. I made a huge deal of every single assignment, social event, exam, result declaration, boy trouble – all of it.  But somewhere in between all this, I guess I was having a good time!


17 Responses to “Those were the days”

  1. princessbutter April 6, 2015 at 11:28 pm #

    Your college life sounds so much like mine! I did the glass tracing though! I had realized that the whole making sheets business was pretty much sh*t and had zero use in the real world. And thankfully we had a glass coffee table at home and a bulb and adapter wire that my dad connected. lol. What a cheater family. The sheet carrier was super useful in the local trains though to find space and nudge people away.
    Since ours was residential, everybody know everybody’s business. Sigh. I have been caught sitting here and there with so many guys. Just sitting, mind you. And then here and there with boyfriends. Hehe
    Your sport situation and fashion show situation sounds exactly like ours. We were 5-6 girls and so, we lost in most team sports. I sucked superbly. I was forced to learn and play Table Tennis. I was also roped in to play doubles badminton where I did not know till the end of we won or lost. Lost. The fashion show people was the hi-fi group of college who ‘partied and chilled’ a lot, A bunch of rich people. They tried to recruit me only Cuz I looked presentable. But I had zero guts to do it. What I did was mad-ads with my best friend Shibin and made a total fool of myself by overacting ‘yenna rascala!’ But that was wayyy more fun.

    • popgoesthebiscuit April 7, 2015 at 12:22 am #

      Haha..funny how our experiences were so similar. Laughing atyour sporting experiences:)

  2. srividhya April 7, 2015 at 1:10 am #

    ha college life.. The results section reminded me something. When my first sem results came, my bff who is a days scholar called me to my hostel main number around 7am. In my hostel they announce in terrible mike system so and so got call and they transfer it to the corresponding floor. My parents never call me in the morning and I was stressed and tensed while picking. And this girl is telling me “Its me vidhya and our results came blah blah”. She couldnt even wait till 8am. And the whole news spread and she did the same for 2nd n 3rd sem also. It became like if I receive morning calls it will regarding result. 😉 Coming to food this same girl brings 2 dabbas one for me and one for her. I am so glad she is also in bay and we have the same fun.

    • popgoesthebiscuit April 7, 2015 at 2:08 am #

      Haha.that’s funny. Those morning calls must have been worrisome. The dabba bit is really sweet. You must have enjoyed those after hostel food. And how cool about her being near you now!

  3. Dil On The Rocks April 7, 2015 at 5:33 am #

    Now, I miss my college days too. We were a group of four gals, no interactions with boys, and I always thought other branches were hep too. Luckily I am in touch with my group, and that feels good. 🙂

    Nice post. Thanks for reminding me of old good memories. 🙂

    • popgoesthebiscuit April 7, 2015 at 11:24 am #

      Nice that you are in touch, Dil. We have a whatsapp group for the four of us, but its usually all weirdly silent. I don’t share pics of Bandar even, feel uncomfy about it somehow. Its more like – Wow 6 years since we met, should meet again, when you in Europe, when are you in India , how’s nyc weather blah blah etc. Nothing personal , v odd.

  4. Pepper April 7, 2015 at 9:51 am #

    Whoa! I just had a chat with a college friend yesterday and woke up deciding to post about my college life, and what do I see here? The exact same post! It was SO MUCH fun to read..

    You were worried the profs would either call your parents or fail you in the viva for dating a classmate.. wow. Reminds me again of how crazy things are in India. And then the rope to separate the two genders, that sounds worse..

    Even in our college library, girls and guys weren’t allowed to sit together. Always thought it was ridiculous.. sigh.. I wish I could go back to college to see if things have changed.

    • popgoesthebiscuit April 7, 2015 at 11:18 am #

      Haha..that’s such a coincidence! Do your post still though, I want to read!! Oh ya, calling the girl’s parents was one of those stories your seniors told you about and everyone knew someone else’s friend who it happened to in the department, but of course, we never quite figured out who it was. Maybe rumor, maybe real…who knows!! Like you, I wonder if things have changed like , especially wonder about the rope – was very much there during my four years though!

  5. Bhakti April 7, 2015 at 6:10 pm #

    So many similarities between your college life and mine …
    Even though,there are too many girls in my class,the interaction is still less. The only time we talk is when we are deciding whether to go ahead with a mass bunk or not,or whether to submit a particular assignment or not 😛
    Oh the rope incident happened in my college too on DJ night. Everyone was pissed off ( or so I have heard)
    The annual events are usually boring,so except for the first one,I haven’t ( or won’t) attend any 😛
    I wish our canteen was also as inexpensive as yours 😦
    Oh the gossip in the departments !! 😀 I love it 😀

    • popgoesthebiscuit April 9, 2015 at 10:14 am #

      Funny that you can relate despite the years that have passed since I was in college:) Glad though, makes me feel less ancient:)

  6. My Era April 8, 2015 at 6:04 pm #

    This is such a beautiful post capturing almost all aspects of college life in detail 🙂
    However, I had quite a different college life, because I lived in a hostel over 1000 miles from my native city.
    The rope thing shocked me, because in my college the boys and girls were allowed to mingle without any raised eyebrows.
    I have to admit on the shocking marks as compared to our expectations. In subjects I hoped to barely pass I always bagged a distinction, making my friends call me a liar more than once. From then on, I learnt to keep shut whether the exam went well or not 😉

    • popgoesthebiscuit April 9, 2015 at 10:13 am #

      Oh ya hear you on the cribbing after exams bit. Have had a few of those as well…bad paper but decent marks. My college friends accepted me for what I was – over exaggerator. But the same habit got me into trouble in grad school. New desi friends thought I was lying when I said I had a bad paper. Well, bad for me was maybe one or two questions wrong versus their bad which was a C grade. So I made enemies fast because of this.

      • My Era April 9, 2015 at 10:34 am #

        Ditto 😀

  7. Kavs April 8, 2015 at 9:08 pm #

    Such a fun nostalgic post 🙂 I went back to my engineering and b school days…I was a worry wart myself, stressing over each exam, quiz, assignment – oh god! I was a part of big groups in both places, never got into any romantic relationships, no crushes even. In fact I wondered sometimes if it was normal! Lol! When I look back I don’t recall any test or assignment specifically but only those wonderful friends I made and the lovely time we had. Wow, I am getting all sentimental here 🙂

    • popgoesthebiscuit April 9, 2015 at 10:10 am #

      From one worry wart to another – Totally get you:) Do you tend to worry about your present too? Or are you over this phase? I worry a lot on a daily basis – mostly Bandar stuff, work, and other things.

  8. Ranjini April 9, 2015 at 2:25 am #

    Way to many coincidences and I don’t even know you! What a sweet post. It’s safe to say I had a very similar engineering experience as well. I would only add ragging to this, final year especially. It was so much fun to make those first year puppies sing and narrate stories!

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