Goodbye, GNLU

Dear GNLU,

This evening you informed me that my seminar papers had been cancelled, effectively concluding our final-ever semester together. In the few hours that have passed since, I have not stopped thinking about you for even one moment. You and I both know that we will not forget each other, and that there are never really any goodbyes. Simultaneously though, we both know that we need the closure, to complete a journey we both embarked on five long years ago. I may never get to hear what you have to say, but I do know that I will wait forever for a chance to hear your voice once more. I don’t want to leave things unsaid.

The first time I heard your name, I was in Grade 11. Another one of your companions told me tales of the people you took in and the families you built. I learned about your tenacity – your willingness to push forth against the toughest of circumstances. I understood that not everybody viewed you the same way, that you split opinion, but that you were unwavering in your objectives and proceeded with them nonetheless. I heard of your swaying moods, your hallowed halls, your infrastructure, and your grey walls. I was enamored by the way your name rolled off my tongue, a single syllable when pronounced as a word, and endeared by how unassuming your companions were.

I just wanted to be your friend.

So, of course, you rejected me, and twice, no less. I flew from Bengaluru to Odisha, and Odisha to you so many times, I was certain I qualified for frequent flier miles. I understand now that perhaps you doubted my commitment. After all, I loved Odisha. In those three weeks, I settled in, made friends, and tasted Law for the first time. For a long time, you remained a distant dream. I thought of you when I went to sleep, and thought of you when I woke up each day. I struggled with an internal dialogue, urging me to try to strike up a friendship once more. I caved in, and I am so glad you opened up to me.

In the past five years, we have become best friends. We’ve spent eight months together each year, and even when we’re apart, I introduce myself using your name. We’ve organized events together,  and traveled around the country with each other. You’ve taken me places I had only dreamed of as a child. Literally, as a child. I was 12 years old when I fell in love with the idealistic image of the United Nations. You took me there. I was 15 years old when I first heard of the Jessup. You took me there too.

Most opportunities I wanted, you handed me on a silver platter. Timely internships, project resources, University-level debating, editing books, starting a blog. You just made things happen. You didn’t care too much about what it cost you, or whether I reciprocated your affection. You just made sure I had every single thing I needed to be happy.

You knew me so well, you knew I would enjoy trying things I hadn’t ever thought of – especially the food you showed me. Onion rice, Aloo tikki Chole, cheese paranthas? I knew none of these, but I love them now. Your favourite things became my favourite things: from music, to clothes, to the committee t-shirts I collected each year. You introduced me to your culture, your language, your other friend circles. You trusted me with that, and I am ever so grateful.

You helped me rediscover my passions of the past by reminding me how beautiful they all were. I was scared to quiz after Grade 8, yet, you showed me the way, sending along guides to help. I thought I would let go of Model United Nations after I left school, but year-on-year, you brought me back to a society of people I cherished. There were some things you couldn’t convince me about – public music performances remain one of them.

You remained my best friend, but you were never the jealous kind. You wanted to share me with people, and you gave me a community I loved. Across five years, you introduced me to people four years elder to me, and four years younger to me – so I always retained some inter-generational perspective (I cannot believe your new friends were born in 2003). I hope you never forget how blessed you are to have such a diverse set of people in your immediate circle, and that you forever ensure everybody gets to appreciate it.

Just like any other set of friends, you made an impression on me by imparting to me the strangest quirks. Today, when the electricity trips in my house, I long to hear someone scream “Shoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooot” into the void. All text needs to be formatted and justified in Garamond, 12 point, and I have begun to love blue font in e-mails. I love completing and making citations uniform. I am hungry at 1:30AM in the morning, 6PM feels strange without prayer, and cricket on the television is not the same as catching a glimpse of the sport as I scurried past the field you had. I double-check my WiFi is connected once I log-in, and each time I move my laptop around my house, I double-check that I wasn’t logged out automatically. I am unable to use a toilet without double-checking that the bidet and the flush work, and the door locks properly.

However, in my opinion, you were not without your flaws. You were reactive at times, not as responsive as you ought to be. You were discriminatory, harmful, and hostile. At times, you were a bully, attempting to shape people in your image, not fully allowing them to find themselves and flourish on their own. You were judgmental and authoritative. Some decisions you made were without reason. Sometimes power went to your head, and you failed to account for the opinion of your friends, your custodians. I hate how rigid you were about “attendance”, and how much stress you caused everybody around exam-time.

To be fair, though, I was not without my flaws either. You brought out the best in me, but you also brought out the worst. When I made mistakes, I am glad that you called me out on them, because I know they will never be repeated. When I made mistakes, I am grateful you forgave them when you could, but took distance from me when you could not, because it was that decision that avoided us both more pain. Each time though, as you have with so many others, and as you will continue to do, you made it a tremendous learning experience that made me better.

You taught me so much, friend. You taught me about love, unconditional, and conditional, and about loss. You taught me about people. You taught me about the Law in more detail than I knew before, and about where my own morality lay. By teaching me about injustices, by showing me what they looked like, you guided me toward my understanding of what I believe justice needs to be. By helping me understand hate-culture and hate-speech, you taught me where freedom of speech lies. While I am grateful I learned them in a protected environment, a smaller circle than what the outside world is, sometimes I wish these lessons were taught another way, I genuinely do. Ragging, for example, is something I hope you leave altogether and wean all your friends out of too.

Having to split off from a romantic partner hurts. Having to split off from a friend hurts equally. This one is no different. It sucks that we’ve come to the end of the road, because I look at some of our happier times and I wish we could turn back to those moments and live in them once more. We both know that we’re past our expiry date now though. We’ve given each other everything we could so far. At least, I know you’ve given me everything you had to give, and I know I tried. I only hope you feel the same way about me. Just with other splits though, it is going to take time to adjust to a new normal.

After five years of letting you dominate my facebook and twitter, I will now have to resist the urge of sharing your posts on social media. Unless you do something incredible, which I am sure you will, repeatedly, and soon – you will have a share from me, and a public display of affection and pride.

Thank you for giving me a home when I felt like I was losing one. Thank you for being my physical family when I missed my family who were far away. Thank you for giving me the privilege of your association, and your company, which I will miss dearly.

Thank you for making me the human being that I am today. I know this is bittersweet since we will no longer be together, but life has a funny way of connecting us all sometimes. I’m fairly certain we will see each other again soon.

I know we are going our separate ways today, but please, never forget, I will always be rooting for you. I will root for you to succeed at everything you choose to do. I will support you to be better, to improve, to innovate, to progress. We aren’t going to be as close from today, but if you ever need me, I will be there to help.

I see the good in you. The bad, I see as your unrealized potential. That said, I’m always going to be proud I am your friend.

Love,

Tejas

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