She left for college the next day. Within a few weeks, I got back into studies as well. As I’ve said before, I was to study two different courses that year, and it kept me more or less busy. In the early mornings and evenings, I had various coaching classes as part of my preparation for the entrance exams. Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. There was a lot of pressure right from day one, but I didn’t really mind. By then a simple fact had somehow miraculously penetrated my thick skull: that there won’t be any more second chances for me to get back into the race for a decent career. Also, yes, my desire to do well was somehow related to her. But I honestly cannot explain that to you. I mean, it’s not like I could impress her just by becoming a doctor or an engineer. And neither did I want to try anything like that in the first place. Like I said, I cannot really explain it. But it was there.
Despite the pressure, the coaching classes were fun. There were four of us who had the same schedule for those classes, and we used to spend the days tuition hopping on our bi-cycles. Of course, we bunked a class every now and then, and spent that spare time either munching a variety of street-food, or simply on never-ending adda sessions, or doing both simultaneously. Sharing all the classes with that group had one other advantage. We could frequently tell parents that we were going for a “group study” session, and I’m sure you know very well how much actual studying is done in those sessions. The other guy in our group had his room in an isolated corner of his terrace, and I and the two girls of our small gang turned up there almost every day, sometimes actually for studying, sometimes not. At that time, all of us had become reasonably serious about our studies, and I would say we struck a good balance between work and fun.
The daytime I used to spend in my first-ever college. Zoology, if you remember. Except for the classes, it was a lot of fun. There were seven guys and no less than eleven girls in our department, and that really made things sweet. Just like any other student, the transition from school to college meant a huge social leap for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There were no such things as rules and regulations. Nobody cared about morbid things like attendance or periodic tests. The lectures for major papers were conducted with some semblance of order. The atmosphere in the combined classes for general papers, on the other hand, resembled small rock concerts. There was something else that made college even more memorable for me. It was the fact that this was the first time in my life that I had several female classmates and friends, all of them in that beautiful age when girls just begin to turn into women. Yes, it was a whole new world, and yes, oh yes, it was fun. There was only one thing wrong with this happy picture. I hated Zoology.
The syllabus, it seemed, consisted nothing but things that would give you the creeps. Intestines, glands, flesh, scrotum, kidneys, bones, eyeballs, tongue, entire reproductive systems..you get the drift. It’s not that I found it difficult. It’s just that I could almost never see the point of any of it.
One day, when we reached the lab, the Head of the department was waiting for us. On the table in front of him there was a gleaming steel tray, and on that tray he had a snail. Once we had gathered around, he produced a shiny steel contraption from his pocket, and swiftly and brutally cut away the hard outer shell. Once that was done, he took a scalpel and forceps and kept picking at the small pathetic mound of flesh that lay motionless on the cold hard steel. After a few minutes, he triumphantly declared, “There!”
Apparently, there was a nerve bundle that was crucial and important to the snail in some way (no shit), and he spent the next hour and a half telling us all about it. When it was over, I sat alone in the empty room for what seemed like a long time. It wasn’t just the absurdity of killing a living thing to explain how a certain part of its body was vitally important to its well-being. It wasn’t even the nonchalance with which he had ripped apart that fragile shell. It was the question that kept echoing in my mind.
I mean, sure, a snail had a nerve bundle somewhere in its body. So what? Of what use would that knowledge ever be to me?
I never attended another Zoology class.
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