I was back in school this past week to make sure I was on the graduation list: clearing the school fees and confirming that my name was ordered properly. As I sat on the bench outside the main offices for the School of Engineering, waiting for the exam coordinator (I was already done with the accounts’ office), I looked at the students milling about, chatting in groups, calling out to each other from across the spaces between the labs and the classes, walking to and from various venues and offices, going and coming, just like we did when were there. They looked so young and small. I drifted away from my book and wondered whether that is how we looked to someone who was more of an outsider, or rather one who was once a part of that world: wide-eyed and hopeful and vivacious, not as jaded and cynical as people who had been outside the bubble of the university. And I started looking for myself, trying to draw parallels between the strangers before me, from what I assumed about them, and what person I think I was then. Who there looked like I did? An impossible question to answer, seeing as I did not know how I seemed to an outside observer then. Even now I would not know where to start with that query. What vibe did I give off? I could have been any one of them: in a tee shirt, jeans and muddy canvas shoes (it was rainy), carrying a slightly dog-eared exercise book or a folder of loose leaves, one of the many huddled about the printer to get notes or an assignment printed, the one whispering quietly and laughing with a girl in a private corner (this was definitely not me), one of the ones in a lab coat rushing to one of the laboratories in a flurry of white cloth (why they asked us to get lab coats instead of overalls is beyond me). I could have been one of them, and in realizing this I grew melancholy: I loved myself more then. In some ways, I was one of the best versions of myself: hopeful and conscientious, optimistic and open. When did my heart turn to dry leather? Where did all the dreams of goodness go? I was more naive, yes, and inexperienced, but there were parts of me that I did not nurture that I should have. I was proud of myself then and unafraid of the world: I had not spat at it as I have now, with wanton disregard for other people’s feelings. I am not sure if I can still make something good out of it all, the rampages and coiled poisonous emotions. Maybe, I have always been self-destructive and hurtful. I am just aware of it now, now that there is almost no noise, now that I have been steeped in an ominous silence, as if waiting for a karmic punishment.

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