2019: One Hundred and Twelve

It’s very heartwarming to see the place I live in give hardworking people opportunities. Actually, scratch that. It’s very heartwarming to see people take opportunities which come their way. I do believe the place I live in and the privilege I live with gives us opportunities, but I don’t think that should take away from the merit of people who make their own opportunities and see them through to fruition. One example of this is my roommate, so today’s marvelous essay goes out to him.

I’d like to acknowledge that this is no way, shape or form, an endorsement of any political ideologies or political parties. I’d also like to acknowledge fully that this comes after my roommate and some friends treated me out to a dinner I will not forget for a very long time.

When I arrived in my first year, I remember being introduced to my roommate by the warden at the time, and shown my room. It was pretty clear that my roommate was happy to have someone to stay and share the space with – his old roommate had moved out (to go to a different University), and I was just glad to have a place at this place, so any room was honestly fine. Over our first interaction, I learnt minimal facts about him: he was from Assam, he was elder than me, and he was in the BSW stream, having switched over from the BA. This was the person I would spend five years in the company of, and at first glance, I couldn’t help but think how different our upbringing must’ve been.

I told my mom that night that I was grateful to have a roommate who wasn’t Bangalorean, because one of the big reasons I stayed back in India was to learn more about it. My roommate was the first person I had spoken to from North-East India, and I was excited to learn more about the place.

Soon I learnt he was very caring, and went out of his way for people he liked. My first night, I needed a mattress and it was pouring. Yet, he ran with me to the multipurpose store and helped me carry my mattress and set up my bed in the room. Shortly after, as we “decorated” our home-to-be, I learnt that he was inclined toward Communism and was incredibly well-read and well-informed about the theory behind the ideology. And so, several Communist posters adorned my walls, and I stared at them daily. I had only used the phrase at MUNs before, and never actually gone on to read about it. His library made sure I did, within 10 days of being on campus.

He subscribed to the newspaper and read it religiously daily. He didn’t have an excellent command over English, and used Norman Lewis every single day. He once even asked me to use slang with him and share memes with him (he soon became dank) so he could pick up on the conversational aspects of the language. The humility of the request was something I won’t forget, and I began to ask him things I knew I could learn from him as well. It made our relationship a lot more open-minded, as we sought to share knowledge and opinions with each other.

He didn’t have a laptop, so all his studying got done through hardcopies or through his mobile phone (which was a Nokia Lumia, and presented it’s own challenges). He didn’t have a mobile data pack, which meant that accessing material in itself was difficult. Yet, he managed. I remember him outscoring me in the first set of midsemesters. That didn’t shock me as much as it made me admire his perseverance. I always knew he was a smart chap. His hardwork was something I hadn’t accounted for.

By the end of first semester, however, he had discovered four loves: Poetry, McDonalds, Amazon, and Coca-Cola. These four ruled his life. Their presence also meant that there was a marked shift in the ideology. Communism ruled his heart, and ruled in theory. But capitalism ruled his stomach, and therefore, ruled in practice. As a result, he spent more time reading about the right-wing and it’s interactions with the left-wing, as well as how the political spectrum in India actually functioned.

In 2016, as a joke, he began to support Donald Trump. I’d yell at him about it every single day, but he looked at America as a country which needed some radical change to make them realize they weren’t really the greatest country in the world in a lot of respects. He saw Trump as this candidate, and supported his victory (alongwith support for some of his policies). When I went to America, I obliged with his request and bought him a Make America Great Again cap. It’s all he wanted.

But, his heart’s strings drew for the left. He began volunteering wherever he could with the Party he identified closest with, in light of his new capitalistic discoveries, and we debated in the room a lot – about scams, corruption, divisive politics, and several other things. I saw an ability in him to defend his Parties’ actions, but also to concede to mistakes – a rarity amongst the politically educated youth, I would think.

Soon his volunteering activities brought him the opportunity to work with and for the Party. In a land that wasn’t his homeland, where he knew none of the Party hierarchy – he saw the opportunity, and seized it. He worked for local elections, worked at local rallies. And the work he did, it paid for itself – meals were paid for, travel costs too. He got a trip across the border to Rajasthan, and soon enough, a trip across several borders to China.

The China trip was a remarkable feat. This was especially because he converted all of his sadness upon being denied the opportunity to visit Germany, into more hard work – and trusting his peers that he would be granted an opportunity someday. He messaged me from China, the homeland of his ruling ideology’s heart in the East. And boy, did he enjoy the trip.

His work didn’t go unnoticed, and the Party’s hierarchy at the Center began to recognize his name. Soon he started researching for them.

And that took him to where he is now. A future Party member, confirmed.

To get the post, he had to lobby a lot  – with people he had interacted with, but people he didn’t share any connection with, apart from the Party ideology and manifesto. It’s rare – he doesn’t have command over the language they speak locally here, he doesn’t share their last name. But the passion he brought to the table was something they were clearly attracted to and wanted to engage with.

To see a Party work on merit and some lobbying is phenomenal and a little rare.

To see a person work for a cause so large is also something I do not relate to, but admire from a distance.

So here’s to my roommate. The guy watching 3 Idiots on his scholarship-won laptop at the moment, sitting less than 2 steps from me. The same guy who erases the exam schedule from my white board as the exams wind down. And the same guy who made me a peanut butter sandwich today. I admire, respect, and stand in awe of you every single day.

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