It has been just a little over a month that I have been in Madison, and yet, India feels a lifelong ago.
I had wanted to write about the last couple of days before I left Bombay and my first couple of days here in Madison, for a long time, but my sleep and laziness got the better of me.
August 2007 has been a completely mixed month, bitter-sweet, magical, dreamy and the least bit boring.
End of July was really hectic, with all the thesis writing, and more thesis writing. But the defense (what a phrase, I am defending my thesis tomorrow!) was a breeze. I had already written before about packing and leaving the hostel, the emotions that packing brews, and that after-taste. This time around, the memories were different, but the sadness of leaving was the same.
However, the lasting memory of IIT that lingers on inside me is that one afternoon, walking in a slight drizzle, just after selling my cycle, first to H-4 and then to H-12, listening to ‘It-aint me babe’ by Dylan on the loop. This just before, I took the taxi home. IIT is a beautiful campus to walk around, and more so when there is a slight drizzle. And, the 1 hour or so that I walked that day, I was reliving the days in IIT, the dreadful sleepless first semester, the excitement with which I attacked research at the beginning of the second semester, movie watching, linux learning, PAFs, MoodI, Placements, the long lonely walks, the wait for Friday evening and taking the 524 home. Weekends for most part of the two years was spent at home, but somehow, home seemed, then to be a part of the campus.
Commuting between home and the lab was a long 1 hour and 30 minutes by the bus. And, it was a perfect time to paint my dreams. Once the admit came, dreaming of America in the bus became like a ritual (Oh! all the great things I will do with my PhD, my own company, teach etc etc etc), but the real import, the feeling that, I will be on a flight to USA, stuck me, not when I got my tickets, not when I got the visa, but really surprisingly, when I went shopping for clothes and suitcases, and learned how to differentiate between sambhar dal and ven-pongal dal.
Convocation day was one of the perfect day’s that I have ever had. Graduation day ceremony, the way everyone knows it is going to happen, always sounds dull and boring. First you listen to someone ramble on about stepping out of the university to the outside world, and then you wait and watch 500 people go to the stage to get their degrees. But, when you are one in that 500, the whole ceremony is really special, and you feel awfully proud when you get on to the stage and collect your degree, a feeling that you will never get when you see your degree lying in your mailbox. The fact that 1000+ IIT’ans sat quietly for over 2.5 hours, watching friends get their degrees, is proof enough that the Convocation day is going to remain fresh in our memories for a long long time. And the noise that we made, once the last student received his degree and we finished the graduates oath.
I was really lucky that my parents were with me, and they could come and watch the convocation. The joy and pride reflecting from their faces, is something that I will not dare try to find words for. I am just happy that I could, in some way, make them proud of me.
The day before I left, I wanted to live a huge many days into a single day, wanted time to go as slow as possible and wanted everyone I knew to be at my home. None of it happened, but still, it was a day that lingers on and on. 24 years in India, and memories that jump out at the thought of home, are the moments from the 19th of August. I never received so many calls on the same day.
The lasting memory of 19th is the two trips that I made to Nerul station, once with appa, and then in the evening with amma. Both the jaunts, were surreal to say the least. All three of us (and of couse vids in chennai) were sad, yet happy and instead of talking about missing eachother and all, we planned for future reunions. But the sadness was pent up, and it slowly seeped out later in the evening, as we sat waiting for the cab, and discussing so many things, from my research interests, to the dosage of advice, to life ahead, to discussing about relatives, to remembering the fun time in calcutta/chennai, to remembering tatha and patti. Our eyes were moist, and I am sure, all three fought really hard against the tears.
The final trip (atleast for quite some time) on the streets of Bombay, was with a heavy heart, and all the excitement of America was forgotten. The crying faces in CST airport hardly helped. But somehow, as I dragged my luggage into the security check area, a switch in the states happened. I was fearing that I would completely break down, but a sudden calm took over me, I felt ready. And I felt the same feeling, change of state in my parents thoughts too ( yes! i sensed it). Those final minutes before I went to security check, was spent talking about all the nothings, totally arbit and useless stuff, finding something to laugh in almost anything, the real good times.
The flight was nothing eventful, largely because I slept through it.
Adjusting to America was another surprise for me. I did not think that it would be so easy. But for that I will be indebted to Asim, my apartment-mate here, for doing all the basic initial work, so that I could ease into America.
Life, except of-course for the cursed coursework, has been really wonderful here for the last month and a half, with nice friends and interesting conversations and movies and food and all the adventure and novelty of living alone, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning etc…
Just hope that it remains so for the rest of the 4 or 5 years that I have to stay in Madison.