"Goibibo and ICICI bank Republic day discount of Rs. 800 on one domestic flight journey valid till 31st Jan only!!”
Usually, I used to ignore such promotional ads. Rather, I got interested this time.
I blocked six days of leave for dates which fell a month later, in the company's leave application portal.
After reaching the hostel room, I started downloading "En frienda pola yaaru machan" song from the movie named ‘Nanban’.
After hearing it three times, the song becomes my facebook and gchat status.
If you haven't got it yet, these were indications that I was getting ready for the graduation day to be held a month later. My thought train began to fill with the faces of cherished friends, revival of the 'Happy days' and such nostalgic feelings that I need not elaborate upon; because I'm sure you all might have gone through these.
But after all these, if you had reached home after six months, especially after shedding a few extra pounds, your mom starts seeing you like a malnourished Sub-Saharan kid. I don't blame that, coz the pampering that follows, is kind of warm; right from those extra dishes (invariably containing either coconut milk or coconut oil) to the voluntary application of a lukewarm Ayurvedic oil smelling raw camphor onto the scalp just before the hot water bath. I tried to reciprocate it by trying to make rasam, the only culinary expertise I gained during the 15 day stay from the recently moved-in apartment. Though my mom and sister appreciated it profusely, I was humbled by her week-long preparation of Ada-Pradaman (a better neighbor of Payasam or Kheer) and what-not foods of Kerala.
After spending three lazy days at home, I decided to trek to my alma mater on the fourth day of my arrival, to be greeted by the warm, ever friendly smiles of Deepa, Sambath, Nandhini and of course, some of my nicest juniors like Rajkishan, Kavitha, Dhivya, Padma, Subha, Sasi, Kowshik and Gomathi. Dhivya wasn't entirely nice, coz she played a lot of pranks on me. Luckily, Kabil joined us in between and the pranks turned on him. Oh, and my project 'nanban' Kabil was flaunting his latest acquisition of an high end Motorola Android phone, replete with graphic intensive games and some geeky apps - One app gave the local EMU train timings from any metro station. In the evening, he proposed to develop the same as a graphic application which would show the train positions also, based on the timings. Once again, I was happy to see the spark in the eyes of my future partner of the company, which we'd planned to start years ago. Later I suggested how to turn it into a fully fledged android mapping application. For those of you, who think I'm going overboard, please don't be surprised to read about one of the most innovative GIS solution providers in the whole of known universe a few years later (just kidding. It’s just that such conversation keeps our spirits alive, amidst a career which tends to rot such spirits).
On the first day of my visit, I was also able to see our dear ‘Dhyan Chand’ Sujan also. And I guessed it right – he was heading to the Sports Complex, probably to play our national game one more time. I came the second day just to get a letter from our Director and to help Deepa out in creating a tool to do some map automation task. But that was the last time I saw my dear friend Deepa during my recent visit – she told she’d not be able to attend the graduation day as she’s leaving for her home town due to an unavoidable reason.
There are two souls, who volunteered to be bonded to the bounds of the legendary red building and to the 27 acre it sits on. I met both of them - Revathy and Nambi. When I saw Nambi, he was paying rapt attention to Mr. Velappan's class. I still have no clue as to how he managed to remember a geodesic formula, two years ago, which had the length of five phone numbers, written back to back with occasional dots and exponents. Revathy was kind of happy that she and the persons, who care for her, are ensconced in the same city. I understood the significance of esri's tagline - "Geography matters". Geographic distances do matter, sometimes adversely, when it's as far as 1000 miles.
On the G-day, my German intern companion, Petchi and my second future partner, Bharath had arrived Chennai early in the morning along with their colleague-cum-classmates (that's a wonderful combo btw). By noon, most of the guys had reached the epicenter, a.k.a. IRS. I actually can't recollect what happened when I met them all. But it involved dozens of hugs, squeezes, blows and name-callings. The collective friendship wave is always overwhelming. The charming Delvin, the animated Ashok, my DON Saravana, the blasting Sambath, 'The 10 hour maestro' Bharath, the geeky Kabil, the pacifist-terminator Sathyesh and the pranky Gopi were all there. The Czars team was joined by the ‘dude’ Manoj. Within the wink of an eye, a gang of our girl classmates appeared before us. The Murphy fan Jayashree was accompanied by a serene Sathya and a cheerful Sharanya. The ever sparkling Shirly was also there, accompanied by her friend who had a name phonetically akin to that of hers.
By that time, it was around two in the afternoon. A boy, as an individual can withstand hours without food on any normal day; but when a sense of plurality arises, they can never withstand the call from the gastric organs. So the Czars unit proceeded to the ‘Hot Chips’, where the same girls-gang, we met before, were waiting for their turn to get a table. As their five minute’s wait didn’t yield a response from the Hot Chips staff, the girls left for the neighboring ‘Sea Rocks’. But our patience was rewarded with a ten-seated-table, twenty minutes later. As usual, when the bill pad arrived, we played volley ball with it until when it landed onto the hands of some poor soul, who had to organize the collection and consolidation of monetary units for the devoured food.
Back at college, we entered through the Kottur gate, as someone hinted that those who wore casuals weren’t allowed inside. Our passage through the library and RCC evoked nostalgic feelings among Bharath and Kabil respectively. The graduand crowd began to fill the arterial road of the campus, many of them already flocking with those yellow robes. It took us more than an hour to traverse from RCC to the point where the yellow robes where being rented, as we bumped into scores of our old hostel mates, NSS/NCC/YRC comrades and other casual and close acquaintances, we earned during the four years.
A girl with decorated rose dress and flattened hair flashed a smile at me near the ATM. At the first instance, I couldn’t say she was the Nacchammai from our class. She had to confirm her identity herself by answering, “Yes, I am”, to my bewildered look which seemed to ask, “Isn’t it you, Nacchammai?” Very soon, we guys realized a stark fact at the ATM– We need to pay Rs. 250 advance for buying the loose, used yellow robe on rent. Each one of us began to come up with thought provoking questions like “Why can’t they construct more than 2 ATMS in our college?” to “Should we attend the convocation?” But the real question was, “Who is going to give their ATM card to pay for everyone else’s robe?”
We finally got our robes. Most of the robes were a misfit and we actually didn’t know what the other medal-like-ribbon thing was for. Sathyesh posed like an arm-fractured patient using the ribbon as the arm-support. Not being able to come to a conclusion about the orientation of the ribbon, I folded the ribbon into 8 and kept it in the back pocket of my jean. I forgot this so soon that I began to search for the same ribbon minutes later as I mightn’t get the Rs.200 refund if I lost it. Soon I found a ribbon lying on the ground near a gang of girls. I wasn’t sure it was mine, but when you lose a hundred rupee note and then find a hundred rupee note lying at your foot a little later, the kind of assumption you make is condonable. I went near the girls’ gang and sought an excuse from them. When I pointed to the ribbon and picked it up, I heard two or three thanking remarks from them. I wondered why they are thanking me for picking up ‘my ribbon’. When I was about to move away, the thankful expression turned into a stern “Hello”. When I turned back, they claimed that it belonged to a girl in their gang. A ribbon less girl was standing there indeed. There was a greater probability that it belonged to her than to me. So I handed it over to her and scanned the ground in quick succession and got away from them.
Later I got a call from the Queen of Singapore, who informed me that she has descended over here from the ‘Lion City’ (from the Sanskrit word Singapura) to attend the G-day. It was not difficult to find her amidst the crowd with her dazzling attire and wonderful smile. She briefly narrated her experiences about her doctoral studies and about her new classmates. We also found our GIS analyst friend Sangeetha there. We were longing to hear a word or two mixed with her unique slang. She did fulfill our expectations very soon. The nice thing about Vijaya is that no one except Askok who could be as cheery as Vijaya, which might be due to that ever sparkling eyes or the cheerful expression she makes with her cheeks. Whatever it is, it was a cheer booster to see her anytime.
Whoa! Who’s that arriving late? Of course, the hero arrives only on time. Bala is now a bit leaner but his eyes were sparkling due to the grasping of the entire Civil Service syllabus all these days. His old typical expressions were substituted by formal expressions like, “Dude” and “How’s it going da?” Meanwhile Jayashree introduced us to her dad, who was a very cool man and a CEGian himself. When I was introduced to him, he remarked that my earlier literary work, a.k.a ‘The Classroom Chemistry’ was good. I wanted to ask, “Did you really read that book?”, but I wasn’t surprised as an old CEGian like him could easily relate the story too.
I also met Archana, my colleague working in our Bengaluru office. We began to discuss about work related stuff. But soon there were a few growls and warnings from her friends indicating that we had to stop discussing about that. I had promised to visit her new home the next day, but I only had an apology to give as I was leaving for Dindigul the same night to attend to an important family affair. Reeta was also standing there, busy chatting with her friends. I managed to greet her with a traditional ‘Vanakkam’. Fortunately, she responded back and enquired about me.
When the graduation ceremony started, Prof. Murugasan directed us to some fixed positions. So Jayashree and Delvin were by my side by virtue of our roll numbers. Soon the degree certificates were handed over to us by our professor. (I have never attended a class under him, except for an assessment test, so I could hardly call him my professor). Many were expecting it to be handed over on stage. But I wasn’t surprised as I had attended my sister’s graduation day last year. Only gold medalists and rank holders had the privilege of trotting the dais and being honored by the chief guest of the ceremony. I knew 38 of my classmates, including me would be lost as a collective noun – a Bachelor of engineering graduate in Geoinformatics. Not a bad title after all. Only that it would have been better if they’d have read out the names of all graduates in quick succession. That would have been an additional 1 hour 40 minutes though, just to read the names of 3000 graduates, but surely, a better option than conducting a rehearsal of the ceremony. Among my classmates, Shruthi (who’s busy getting perfect 4.0/4.0 in TAMU) and Monica had that privilege. My sister had the privilege the last year. For this, I even forbade my parents to attend the ceremony. Luckily, neither my parents nor my sister was the compare-you-with-everything type; they were happy about me and so am I. By the way, my hearty congratulations to Shruthi and Monica for their phenomenal accomplishments, which I hope, they will continue to display throughout.
There were much more fun happening on at the stage. There was a rehearsal for the ceremony which all the graduands were forced to witness and there was usage of words like “Solomon” instead of ‘solemn’ and many other malapropisms. At around 8 P.M, my mom called to know about my whereabouts as I had a train to catch at 9.30 at Tambaram railway station. I bid adieu to my friends and prepared to leave. Like a good graduate true to his oath, I approached Prof. Murugasan to let me go. His only reply to all my pleadings was a cool constant, “I am instructed not to allow anyone until the end of the ceremony”. If there is one thing that I lose my temper to, it’s irrationality. He seemed like a programmed Robot to me, doing only what he was ‘instructed’. His next programmed, but somewhat contextual response was, “The function will be over in 10 minutes. You’ve to wait till then”. The 10 minutes translated to 20 minutes, or 1200 long ticking seconds, when my mind went blank. So did my mobile phone, which ran out of charge, true to Jayashree’s accusation of me being a perfect proof for Murphy’s laws. The Czars unit set into motion to help me out. Kabil used his app to find the EMU train timings to reach Tambaram by at least 9.20. “The train at 8.42 is your last chance to catch the train”, Kabil concluded. He also got me the distance from the parking lot to the Guindy railway station, which was 3.9 km. That would need a ride at 30 kmph in peak traffic if we manage to start the bike at 8.34. Shravanesh lent his bike keys and Sathyesh offered to ride it. The ceremony was declared over at 8.26. Delvin ran out along with me from the ground to the mini gallery as I had no mobile to be contacted with. Sathyesh met us at the mini gallery at 8.30. From there it was flat half-kilometre run by both of us to the parking lot. We started the bike a little before 8.34. During the trip, I peeked at the digital speedometer; Sathyesh, known to be a non-rash driver was speeding at 50kmph. Suffice it to say that, I reached perfectly on time, went home, even had a small dinner and caught the Pandian Express in one piece.
From second-hand sources I came to know that, just after the ceremony, there was a group photo session. Obviously I missed it like some of our other classmates like Prabhu, Maddy, Damu, Aishwarya, Viji, gold medallist Shruthi, Roshni, Sandhya and Deepa, understandably due to unavoidable reasons. Thing is, each one of them were remembered, talked about and missed by all of us – that’s more important. A special "REALLY MISSED YOU" to Prabhu, Damu and Madhav from the CZARS. Monica had also invited most of the classmates (except expendables like me) for a treat the very next day for getting the rank. I think this is the first time, an absolute majority of the class gathered together outside the bounds of the college, thanks to Monica. This was among my cherished dream years ago; only that I wasn’t there to witness it when it finally happened. I leave it to those who were present there to share those wonderful moments, rather than I giving a second-hand narration.
I reached Chennai on Sunday night. I should be leaving Chennai on Monday evening. Kabil and Sathyesh came to my house on Monday afternoon. Bharath had gone to his hometown on Sunday after the graduation day. He too came to my house directly on Monday afternoon. We had the lunch at our house and spent a wonderful afternoon together. Bharath’s train to Hyderabad was at six and my flight at half past seven. We parted ways soon. Only that, Bharath still had the company of a classmate during his train journey and even after that. I had none, from the point where my cabin-baggage check-in began. The lady who issued me boarding pass offered me a window seat near the emergency escape exit, where I could also stretch my legs better. The view of Chennai at night during the take-off was breath-taking with the lightings appearing like sparkling gemstones in the background of the night. But that too didn’t last long. Precious moments like the reunion of friends don’t last long too. It’s ephemeral, yet those moments are preserved eternally; thanks to Facebook, Picassa web albums and a bloody blog writer like me.