Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Moving On

I guess all my non-XL readers must be sick of my XL-related posts by now, but this was something that I wrote for the batch yearbook. I don't know if it will get chosen or not, but I think it's one of my best pieces of writing ever. Just had to post it here.

I walk out of my room, and the corridor is dark and empty. The rooms are all padlocked. I call out, and there is no response - no reassuring sounds from the mess, no music from the corridor across the hall, no call of voices from upstairs. Just a tremendous oppressive silence. There's something wrong, surely.

I walk out on to the veranda of GH3. The morning sunshine is warm and yellow. The birds are calling, the greenery is fresh and bright, the wind is rushing through the trees. But there's something wrong. I suddenly realize what has happened - everybody is gone. All my friends, they've left - never to return again.

I look back at my hostel, and it seems an empty shell. There is no life. The windows are closed and shuttered - the curtains don't twitch in the wind. No music blares out from the rooms. My beloved hostel, and yet not. I leave it behind and walk on. The learning center lies deserted on my left, but I ignore it and move towards JLT.

The sight of the empty JLT and the dark windows of GH1 makes my heart ache. But my spirits lift as I walk between the twin lines of trees. Their towering heads raise my eyes upwards in awe.  The wind whistles through the long leaves and soothes my pain. I sit under BodhiTree, and I feel as if I am in the lap of history. So many people must have sat under this very tree and dreamt of their futures. So many must have talked and laughed and sung songs and been happy here.

GH1 is cool and dark after the sunshine outside. I walk up to the first floor, the IR corridor. I remember how the entire corridor used to empty out five minutes before class, people pouring out of the rooms in a stream of rushing legs and flailing arms. I walk the entire length of the corridor, and run my hand over each of the doors, remembering who had lived where. I smile thinking of each of them, their idiosyncracies, the little stories about them.

The common room is warm and yellow in the sunlight. Dust motes float here and there. I think of all the avatars I have seen this place in - the drunkenness of pulsating lights, the emptiness of the grey dawn, the excitement of MAXI Bazaar, the seriousness of project meetings, the fun of TT matches. It makes my heart ache so much with loss that I just turn back and leave.

Outside, the sunlight seems dimmer, somehow. Dry leaves scrunch underfoot. The bougainvillea in front of the library mocks me with its brightness. Beyond it, the faculty quarters seem dark and promising, inviting me to take a walk under those trees, as I have done countless times before. But what's the point, when all my walking partners have left me?

I go to the sports field. The empty basketball court waits poignantly for the rhythmic thwack of an orange ball. The football field seems resigned to being an overgrown grassland. The tennis court lights are dusty from lack of use. I listen closely, and I can almost hear excited voices from the past, the generations that have played and cheered and been happy here.

How can one be so in love with a place? If it was because of the people and the memories - that would be understandable. But no - I am in love with XL independent of everything that I have experienced here. I am in love with the very air here, the green of the trees, the quality of the sunlight, the orange of the sky, the music of the birds in the trees.

I walk out of the gates of XL, and look back one last time. XLRI 1949, it says. I remember the first time I saw that sign, the excitement and the possibilities those simple letters evoked within me. And now my two years are done. I am now just another of those lucky who have lived and laughed and cried within these walls in the past. Time to move on, time to let another generation come in and experience the magic.

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