Almost three years ago
I feel uncertain as I enter the gate cautiously, trying to subdue the new-to-the-place-and-I-don't-know-a-single-soul feeling, doing best to look confident, stealing glances to find a single face I can recognize. None. I stand for a while with the nervous crowd near the gate, trying to see where to go. I see parents accompanying laughing kids, so sure of themselves, knowing where to go and what to do. I feel so lost, so vulnerable. The crowd moves and so do I. I settle along with others, finding a seat at one of the corners and trying to make myself invisible, not even bothering to settle somewhere near the pedestal fans. The heat is searing and the tent doesn't do anything to stop it. I find myself once again trying to locate a single face that seems familiar, but then I give up too soon. What with my inability to process and retain faces and places, it's a very big deal that I've made it to the right place. I hear the speeches, watch the performances and study each teacher as they move around, guessing who could be those I'll be seeing regularly in the next three years of college.
The official orientation is over and we're supposed to move to our respective department rooms, for a different kind of orientation. Why don't they just leave us already?, I think agitated. I didn't even hear properly what room I am supposed to go, just some computer lab. As I'm mindlessly moving with the crowd again, not even knowing where my crowd is, I feel a surge of anger for my parents. Why did they have to be so busy, not even accompanying me on the first day of what I called (or thought) was my independence! Wait, independence. That's why. I'm supposed to be free and not depend on my parents any more. Before I could think of any more accusations, I see a pretty face and I know she'll be in my course! I've definitely seen her somewhere! I go up to her and ask some specifics and I'm glad to know she'll be with me, in the same course. I walk with her and her mother to the lab, feeling as if I already knew where it was. It's then that I start to look around.
It isn't really bad. Fascinating, rather. Trees, plants, lawns and in the middle of it all, two dilapidated classrooms. That's where the teachers said we'll have classes. Cool, I think, considering how I love peace and quiet. That's how it all started. Looking forward to every new day, stuffing down canteen food standing outside the classroom because the teacher had the class started, doing activities in large groups, having coffee when the class was going on, laughing over things generally not 'laughable', taking care to dress up nicely and complimenting each other, finding out new places to hang out, joining societies that have made remarkably memorable memories, group studying and then deciding it's not really a good idea since no one actually studies anything, cursing the system when we spent hours just to submit our fees, cramming answers two minutes before the exams and also seeing a few friends gradually drift away, to see the class forming unique groups, seeing the all pervasive change taking over our lovely huge group and disintegrating it into so many pieces, each a different hue.
I'm moving around the place as if I own it! I'm aware of every piece of land and just about many many familiar faces. I catch a few eyes and return the smile. I'm moving with a purpose and know where to go, know who to look at and who to avoid. :P I've got my friends and I'm no more a loner. That sweet face I first saw is still there, walking beside me as my best friend, just like every day of the three college years. I sometimes don't like the stairs and the new building, that made us leave our quiet spot after a year of enjoyment. I don't like the way this is so crowded and that I've to bump into unknown faces sometimes (can't help my clumsiness!). Still, I appreciate it. It just shows my college is on the path to development (not my cheesy line, I think I heard it somewhere :P). I sometimes miss those faces who we used to talk so much to, from whom we took advice on matters I now consider worthless. Even then, there are new faces and new personalities, but definitely there isn't that spark I knew in the seniors.
Now, when I move around college, I take special care in taking in each place and the memories associated with it. It's amazing how we haven't left a single tree unattended! There's almost something I can think of with each place, each step. I walk slowly, as if my days are numbered here (um..which is true, by the way) and try to take in as much as possible. I smile more, love more, laugh more and whine less. After all, it's going to be just a few more days I'll be there, before the three years of college come to an end, before I move up to some other place, some other aspect of my life where I'll probably feel slightly more confident (and yes, independent), but where I'll have to once again, begin the search for faces I would want to know more about.
As we're decking up ourselves for the Farewell party, I remind myself once again that it isn't going to be like the previous two years. We'll get on beautiful clothes and make ourselves crazy over it, but we wouldn't be enjoying the proceedings watching the final year students walk up to the stage to gather their titles, it would be us who'll be the ones anticipating the proceedings, going up to the stage, saying farewell and bidding adieu to what could be some of the best years of our lives, with many memories that can make us live a lifetime... Just like someone ancient like me could say, I'll miss every being, every plant, every place I walked with wonderful people, knowing I couldn't ever get or experience something like this ever again.