In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.
I’m back in my college hostel. I study in a monastery. On weekdays, I wake up in the morning, pull out a Scotch Brite from a musty drawer in a wooden desk, wash my steel glass, and walk down three floors to get milk tea and biscuits. Then I go back to my room and drink my tea. I shower, dress up in my white uniform, and leave for college. I walk for about seven minutes, usually taking the small road past the garden of medicinal plants, to the college building. It’s renovated often enough, and all things considered, it’s a fine building – very decorous and rigid, in keeping with the aesthetics of the order; the garden and the bougainvillea add colour. If we have the first period, we have to be present for the college prayer (distinct from the two sessions of prayer at the hostel for first years, and the brief prayers said before and after major meals). After that, one attends classes, making sure to be marked for attendance – less than 70% makes you discollegiate, while anything between 70% and 80% makes you non-collegiate. In between classes, one lazes about, wastes time talking, or runs errands like photocopying notes. When classes are over, one walks back to one’s humble rooms. I fill my bottle with water before I take the stairs. Then I go back to my room, change into a T-shirt and pyjamas, and lie down with my phone in front of my face and earphones in my ears, trying not to think of anything till I’m too tired to stay awake.
The tedium of life is broken by holidays in particular, besides the many events at college. If I remember correctly, the Department of English hosted a students’ seminar on the 18th and 19th of January. After a long day listening to people’s papers, we were glad to be heading out of the auditorium, wondering what we’d be given to eat at the hostels. It was then that we were stopped by our Head of Department, Professor SP. Two students from the History department had something to say.
We waited, looking around, while SP looked up from his papers (he was very busy) and called for them. After a while, they were found talking to someone, and SP called them over.
One of them explained that there was going to be a Model United Nations in Pune, and he was looking for a team.
‘Pune?’ everyone asked, before generally shieing away. Pune is a long way from Kolkata, about 2000 kilometres. I remember one of our class joking that his father couldn’t afford it (for the record, I’m sure he was joking). I was standing there with the others, about to walk away.
Then a lot of things occurred to me: the image of the 104th Training Corps giving their all; the vague notions I had always had of making the right choice when the time came – a time when a Gandalf figure would ask me to play Bilbo; the recurrent feeling that it was time I thought of myself as an adult; the necessity, often repeated to myself at odd hours, of doing what is necessary in time. I kept myself from turning around and walking to my rooms. I had never been to a MUN before. I volunteered.