MT Week 2: Day 5

I’ve been telling people back home that I am very uncertain about where my time is going, but I have the good fortune of being able to look back at this blog and see exactly how the day has unfolded.

This morning I spent time on the rowing erg – getting in a quick workout before starting my day. Everyone calls them rowing machines, or ergs, but it was only yesterday that I learned that the erg was short for ergometer, and that an ergometer measures Work, allowing for the computation of an Erg score and a standard measure of performance without having people sit on a boat. Rather lovely if you ask me. While on the erg, I noticed that the first four minutes felt hellish, but once I settled into a rhythm, boosted on by the fact that I was surrounded by some others feeling the same way, it got a lot easier. I began concentrating on the rhythm itself, and while sliding back and forth, I was reminded of march-past. That too had a very nice rhythm to it in school: Left, Left, Left Right Left. Good fun.

A long day of reading, some cooking – and in the evening I caught up with some friends. First, to set up the Cambridge University International Law Society and create a plan of action for the rest of Term – to figure out what events we had in mind, and how we could actually go about gaining traction on social media and otherwise. Then, to finally eat my first meal in College and meet College dosts. Living off-site means that it’s slightly trickier to catch up with them in an impromptu way – there’s a smaller likelihood that we’ll bump into each other, and so this had to be planned too. It was very much worth it though, and I got a good game of pool out of it as well.

Getting home, I read some more, and slowly realized how much I had neglected non-Law reading in the past two weeks. I’m going to use the weekend to catch up to as much as I can, before the onslaught of the reading list must begin once more.

MT Week 2: Day 4

Thursday means no interactive sessions, but also marks the beginning of a long-weekend filled with sport, reading, socializing, and sleep.

Truth be told most of my morning passed by in writing a couple of things, after which I went and played tennis. I had a horrid game, losing the only set we played 0:6, and winning a handful of points from unforced errors my friend made. Slowly I’m hoping to gain back some confidence, particularly on my backhand, where I seem to have lost any semblance of technique. I’m a left-handed player with a two-handed backhand (occassionally one, for the flair). The technique for both, as it was taught to me, is quite different, particularly in terms of how far my left foot crosses over to generate power. Owing to a lack of practice, I don’t seem to be able to gauge the distance to the ball on my backhand side, and then I get confused between wanting to play two-handed or one-handed, as a result of which my left foot is completely out of position. Hopefully I can work on that next week. It was good fun though, particularly because we played just after it rained, and got to experience changeable weather conditions at its finest.

The evening brought with it a wonderfully enlightening conversation with a Geographer whose works I’ve admired for a long time. It feels very nice to have this access to information, and hopefully I can do something in the short and long-run that improves that access, making it available to more people. For a start though, I’ve discovered that writing good e-mails really work. In a single conversation, I learned about the bounds of a subject and how to toe time with rigour, and he really spent time answering my queries about his work, his approach to the subaltern and what inspired him to write what he wrote – and what he currently researches. He listened to my ideas patiently, asking questions of me grounded in his own work, and I left the conversation with more to think about, which is always comforting.

Last night I had a wonderful discovery – where I found out you can use a laptop as a second-screen, and Windows 10 has built-in a wonderful projection feature. Now we’ve got that going in the room, so the eyes are less strained, and I have no excuses not to be reading and taking notes simultaneously. The pleasure of learning new technology skills is truly a kick unlike many others. Genuinely, I felt like I was hackerman.

MT Week 2: Day 3

While I tell you about how I’ve scheduled-in time for sleep, it’s equally important that I acknowledge that sometimes all schedules go for a toss. That tends to happen when you realize that there’s something you haven’t penciled in that you have left to do, or that you want to do. Yesterday after my lecture, I realized I hadn’t met my hostel neighbour from college for a week or so. I haven’t met some of my other newfound friends here for a similar period, but we’re catching up on the weekend – which I’m happy about. With this guy though, it’s slightly different. We’ve known each other for five years, but not just known. We were in the same class and spent final year sitting next to each other there, and as a result of being hostel neighbours, we bumped into each other in the washroom atleast once every day, in addition to meeting once daily usually late in the evening just as he was about to go to sleep – when my days in college used to start.

So it was weird realizing that we hadn’t met, and that it hadn’t occurred to either of us that such a long time had passed between meeting each other. Clearing out what we had for the evening, we had dinner, caught up – and owing to the fact that we have no overlapping subjects with each other, tried to gauge what the others’ challenges were. We went for a walk, set-up some IT infrastructure, got some shopping done – and when I returned home, I realized I don’t feel homesick because I often carry pieces of home with me wherever I go. In small ways, for example I’ve had the same alarm clock for the past 12 years of my life, and I’ve carried that everyone.

In Cambridge it appears as though that has happened in a large way: both of us seem to have carried people.

Field Hockey

Like most other Indian kids born around the late 1990’s and 2000, my love affair with hockey begins at the meeting point of Chak De India!, a coach, and my friends. In late-2006 and early-2007, I was cricket-mad. I’d been following cricket religiously for close to 5 years by that point, and playing it seriously, with leather-ball coaching for half a year. The net sessions were grueling but extremely enjoyable. I’d play with friends at school and loved it, and I’d play at a friend’s house, in his room, for hours on-end. More about that is here. However, I was never one to shy away from new sports. My parents encouraged it, my school encouraged it even more. So it was that turf was laid out in school [with rubber], a hockey coach was brought in, alongwith 25-30 fluorescent yellow sticks, and we began to be trained in this crazy sport.

It was insane.

We had Games periods, and all of our Games periods, as a collective Grade 4 class, ended up going in training with Stallone sir. I found his name pretty amusing at the time, because he reminded me of Sylvester Stallone and I was just off a Rocky phase, but there he was, teaching us the absolute fundamentals. How to pass a ball along the ground, how to trap a ball, and how to push the ball into the net. As one of the only left-handed people in class trying to play the sport, he had a unique challenge with me, and I remember him vividly trying to explain me to how to turn my body around so I ended up behind the ball on the correct [right-handed] side to trap it more accurately. I never ended up successfully doing it, and my passing was pretty woeful because I had no power at all in my right-hand, but he persevered with me. In our Games periods, he’d split us up into mixed teams and make us all play these mini matches, which we thoroughly enjoyed.

We slowly began to develop individually and collectively. We learned the rules and regulations: not to use the back of the stick, to ensure the ball didn’t hit our feet, and to try our hardest not to commit fouls by aggresively tackling and making people fall by hitting them with the stick. The sticks at school were pretty small, so they were very fun to play with, and he taught us to take more powerful shots, swinging hard at the ball. While everyone learned that skill right-handed, the first thing he taught me was the reverse-hit, because that came to me more naturally. So it was that the left-hander in me felt consoled and tended to, and learned there was a sport that was right-hand dominant that reserved a special kind of shot for us, and a nice little cross-pass technique too. Stallone sir was really good at coaching and motivating kids – and I think we were all so enthused by this new sport that we took to his coaching gleefully.

I ended up dividing my time between hockey and cricket. Cricket was still the more serious sport at home and at school, with school team trainings, weekend net sessions and practices, and games with friends, but hockey ended up becoming the sport that brought out more joy. My friends and I started to play within enclosed air-conditioned spaces in the ground floor of our apartment complex. They were all physically more fit than I was, and I remember being so impressed at how they ran with the ball, and the ball just seemed to go with them as they sprinted everywhere. On the other hand I’d really struggle with it: I’d either take a first touch too hard and lose control of the ball altogether because I couldn’t keep up, or I’d end up in a slow jog and someone would tackle me.

Hockey was super fun at school because Stallone sir mixed the boys and the girls together. It was one of those sports we all learned together, so at the start, I don’t think he saw any reason to split us off. As a result, playing together provided the kind of interaction for us we had never had before. The girls used to play basketball (I hardly remember any guys playing basketball), and the boys used to play football and cricket. Everyone did athletics and swimming when required, but hockey was the first sport that brought us all together in Games period, and not just summer camp. It broke down a lot of the cootie barriers we had.

Then Chak De India! was released. Damn, what a movie. There are parts of it I now find strange, and disagree with, but it was remarkable to me that there was this hockey, and this sports accomplishment in my home country I had no clue about. The tactics they showed in the movie, the physicality of the sport, it all appealed to me and I knew I was in love with it immediately. I spent a week convincing my mother I needed a stick to play with – using the convenient excuse that I was left-handed and so would benefit from a different type of stick (all a bahana – I’m sure she saw straight through it), but we went to Lulu and we bought a 60 Dhs. Karson hockey stick, which I carried with me to school everyday to play with.

Then came the tournament. We were invited to Cambridge International School in Abu Dhabi for a 7-a-side mixed indoor tournament, and we were so excited, I think Stallone sir basically took half our class to the tournament. I look at the photos we have, I’m so glad for facebook, and I can see all of my close school friends from that time in the photographs. We all bought shin-pads to play with, and everyone had their own sticks by this time. It was an absolute blast. I don’t think we did well at all – in fact, I can remember only one goal from the entire tournament (that my friend scored), but we enjoyed ourselves so much! By this time, hockey-wise, Stallone sir really was encouraging us to have fun. Outside of game-time, when I remember him being quite strict, he was teaching us how to scoop, how to juggle the ball (which one of the Keegans picked up very well).

My uncle, who really enjoyed pampering me – asked me what I wanted for his last birthday we’d spend together in Dubai. I wanted a Slazenger hockey stick. So we drove down to GoSport, in Dubai Festival City, on a weekday evening, and went through everything on offer in the shop, and picked up a fibreglass Slazenger hockey stick. I used that for the rest of the year, making sure I didn’t play with it indoor, only when I was on a field – out of worry that it’d be scratched.

And then I relocated to India. When I first visited Indus International School, where I was set to enroll, I saw how many sports facilities they had, and I was very intrigued by the fact that they didn’t have junior hockey. As an international school with boarding facilities and such a vast expanse of land, it felt easy to demarcate one area for junior hockey-playing. Seniors apparently played, but not very seriously. When I asked the admissions officer about this, she seriously remarked to me that I could make a reasonable request that junior hockey be offered at school. You see, there’s no real difference between junior hockey and senior hockey except field dimensions and maybe more rigorous coaching because we’re trying to learn the sport. At that time of course, I had no idea, and I was grateful that somebody might listen to what I had to say.

So it was that in July 2008 (I still have the e-mail), a month after I relocated, I wrote up a statement of purpose and sent it into the admissions office. This was my introductory paragraph:

Hockey is a very popular sport and is the national sport of India. I like hockey a lot and am looking to achieve a lot in it. I want to represent Indus International School in Inter-School tournaments and after I become big want to play international hockey for India. It challenges all players mentally as well as physically.
e.g.- If you are in the opponent’s ‘D’ and your player is covered by your opponent, you need to think to either pass to him or shoot the ball from whatever distance you’re in from the goal. That’s how it challenges the players mentally.

I look back now amused, but at that time, I was very impressed. So impressed, that I used Comic Sans MS:

I’m not kidding.

My parents were quite impressed with how serious I was about this, and most of the school was too. I remember meeting the CEO of the School as well as my Principal, which at my young age felt rather cool. My friends back in Dubai gave me a fair amount of encouragement – especially my best friend, who kept updating me with how Stallone sir had really taken hockey at school to new heights, with proper teams practicing and playing regularly. I can’t quite tell how much of a role my SOP had with things, but I got approval and stayed back every Tuesday to play hockey at school.

In my complex, my tennis coach, who was custodian of the colony (as President of the Welfare Association), and someone I called Uncle because he was my mother’s friend – doubled up as a hockey companion. I dribbled around against him in front of his house a couple of times, with both of us deciding not to play there any more because of the un-evenness of the surface. We moved to the children’s park once, but then I think my enthusiasm faded slightly, especially with opportunities coming up to play in school.

It was just me in Grade 6, but Bhowmik sir at school really made time for me every single Tuesday. He spent time with me largely on my fitness and stamina, and in the cricket nets, set up dribbling exercises for me. We worked on my scoop shot even more. As exams rolled around, I stopped staying back on Tuesdays, but Bhowmik sir reeled me back in. I ended up playing a few cricket games for school in the U-10 category (because I had a year on me at the time), but hockey was really what kept me going in Grade 6 as I adjusted to this new school.

Grade 7 rolled around, and a couple of new people joined school. One from South Africa, and one from Germany. A few other people from our class joined in with us – because they had played hockey before as well. A senior hockey coach joined as well, and suddenly from one, we became quite a few of us who cared about the sport. The footballers joined in with us too – and we began to play during sports sessions where we were free to pick a sport (I played badminton in the other period). It was then that it became apparent to me how much physical fitness I still lacked, so I focused on doing some basic things as best as I could, but I was not really much of a match for the footballers – who could generate a ton of power in their legs to support some very hard hits. We once played a game of regular hockey players against the footballers and lost some 0:5 in school, and I remember feeling rather humiliated. I continued to stay back on Tuesdays, and worked with Bhowmik sir and the hockey coach (whose name I cannot recall at all unfortunately) – which led to a rather sudden inclusion in the Under-17 Hockey Team to play a Rotary tournament.

This was a massive highlight – really. I wrote an e-mail to my dad when it happened, asking for hockey shin-guards (because my old ones were not good enough for outdoor tournaments) with ankle support, and hockey stockings – and on his next trip to India, I had a pair of white colour Adidas shin-guards I was very happy with. I just looked through our chats, and I don’t know why I got frustrated with him when he asked me very reasonable questions about the shin-guards. He just asked for specifics: what size, what colour, where to buy them, and my responses reek of an irritation I can’t quite fathom. Sorry for that, Appa.

One of my friends in Grade 7 gifted me a new blue Rakshak hockey stick – which held a lot of sentimental value, because as an Indian brand, it reminded me of the Vijayanti stick in Chak De India!, and also was a stick the Indian hockey team used. I took that and the Slazenger to the tournament, where I came on as a second-half substitute in two group-stage matches, and confuddled my rather-senior, big, teammates by playing reverse-stick half the time. They yelled at me, I remember, which scared me because I was 4’8 or something at the time, puny, and these were 5’9-6’2 monsters. As a day scholar, I wasn’t close to any seniors – the boarders appeared to develop a bond, so I remember spending the bus ride back to school with the German 7th Grader who was also included on the team to his surprise.

The rest of the year was pretty uneventful. I played hockey with two or three people in Sports Hour: one v. two. When I moved to Inventure Academy, I tried asking around about hockey – and the school’s CEO had played and was interested, but my own interest seemed to be dipping. I stopped playing hockey altogether, switching over to basketball and tennis more seriously, developing those to a good, social level. Hockey became the sport I used to let out frustration from time-to-time, going onto the terrace of our house with a stick and a ball and whacking it against the wall. Truly though, I must’ve done this 4 times in the remaining 5 years I spent in Bangalore.

My love for hockey didn’t ever die though. I watched highlights of several matches, and watched a lot of the FIH games that happened if they coincided with dinner. I was really happy when the Hockey India League was founded, following those games with a sadness that there was no South Indian team. My sadness was underscored by the fact that Karnataka, and Coorg especially, was the cradle of Indian hockey – with legends like Len Aiyappa and M.P. Ganesh hailing from the region.

Having not played at high school, nor at undergraduate University, when I applied abroad, on 20 September 2019, I made this declaration that I’d play hockey wherever I went next. Cambridge has a lovely hockey tradition, and through Fresher’s Fair, I was able to sign-up and although St Edmund’s didn’t have a team, able to find two mixed college teams to play with.

I got myself the equipment, including a mouth-guard for the first time in my life (my canines are so grateful), and turned up to play for Selwyn/Trinity Hall on the weekend. To my teammates, during practice, I tried making it apparent to them that I had not played for ages, and I had last played on mud, not on turf. I don’t think I prepared them enough for how much I really needed their help to improve. Initially they stuck me up-top, which I now regret, because within 10 minutes I was so tired of making runs that I just dropped back and played defence the rest of the game, hardly moving out of my own D. It was 7-a-side half-pitch, and for the life of me I can’t imagine what playing full games will look like.

I made a bunch of mistakes, slipped up a couple of times and fell onto the turf, brazing my knee, we lost 1:7, but I was playing hockey again – after ten years. I was beaming when I came home. This year is probably going to be a long year in terms of improving in hockey, and I’m going to try to play in the lower College leagues to get up to Selwyn’s level if I can, something more relaxed to improve my skills first – but I was so very happy. My parents saw it, as did a couple of friends, and truly, I am so grateful to them both for supporting my desire to play the sport the first time by buying me the gear, and now, again, by buying bits of gear.

It’s crazy to think how many people help you to get here. People like Stallone sir who first taught me how to pick up the stick, to Bhowmik sir, who really had no obligation to stay back with me and play hockey with me for two years – to people I had never met in my life who answered my queries about Cambridge hockey over e-mail very politely and were okay with me joining in their weekend game having not played for so long.

One day I hope to hit a drag flick again and have enough confidence to play the entire game right-handed. That is likely to take a very long time.

MT Week 2: Day 2

My interactive session this morning was at 9AM. It’s rather tough to wake up and feel active enough to attend a 9AM interactive session, which by it’s very nature demands some amount of participation. I’d like to think I’m slowly getting the hang of it. My preparation routine extends to ensuring I’m doing something that requires my brain to rotate its gears until the session begins. A warm-up of the mind to ensure it is at its spongiest to soak in whatever happens till 10:30.

The rest of the day is free, and that’s a dangerous thing because it is very tempting to Netflix away. Without any external accountability mechanisms, and having spent six months doing things exactly like that, the last two weeks have been interesting in terms of recalibration. Today I’m pleased to say I was successful in studying for tomorrow’s International Environmental Law class, and in taking some work-related calls.

Seeing how I was largely at home through most of the day, I decided to take a walk into town in the evening – just to get some fresh air. It’s such a delight to live in a place where town isn’t too far off, about a 20 minute walk. That distance is the right amount to feel active, or that you’ve done some activity, on days where you can’t manage much else. One of the things I need to do over the course of this week is to find a physical activity routine. Unlike my reading lists, which largely get done between Thursday and Sunday, I can’t just ignore my physical well-being between Monday and Wednesday. It’s difficult to will the body into a run sometimes, so perhaps a combination of some running and some cycling will do the trick. The weather forecast anticipates that it will rain all through the rest of this week, and I’m curious to examine how that impacts my mood as well.

Late evening brought with it some spiritual meditation and reflection, and in the night, following on from a Manchester United win in the UEFA Champions League, I looked at some treaties, and fell asleep.

MT Week 2: Day 1

We’re at Week 2 already. Someone’s posted on Camfess (the confessions page at Cambridge) asking Just wondering which week of term week 5 blues are meant to hit. Is week 2 too early?

I’ve read and watched a lot about Week 5 Blues, and my parents even discussed it. Truth be told, I’m hoping to avoid the feeling altogether. I’d like Week 5 to be Blue, but just another week filled with Cambridge Blue.

Speaking of Blues, I had a rowing ERG induction this morning. Super fun, and a very, very rythmic movement. All sports I’ve played have rhythm and flow built in – you look at tennis, cricket, hockey, and golf – and you can see examples of that flow, in every swing or shot. Rowing feels the same way, just more repetitively and at a higher frequency. Mass workouts for our Boat Club start this week, and I’m very excited to see how my stamina and fitness develop through the workouts.

Today was two interactive sessions: Global Governance and Jurisprudence. Both super fun – one used Breakout Rooms, and the other one I made fun by watching the lecture on Together Mode on Teams, which made me feel like we were discussing Jurisprudence and HLA Hart while watching a basketball match. The small joys of a virtual learning environment. Although Jurisprudence only happened online because the Faculty Building closed today.

Aside from that I spoke to a Professor whose work I had read as an undergraduate, chatting with him about his current research, life at Cambridge, and things that fascinate the both of us. I’m really looking forward to his lectures when he takes them in Global Governance, but interacting with him more. It feels like a privilege to just e-mail somebody whose work you’ve admired and ask them if they can have a conversation with you: informing them that you have the same institutional affiliation and would like to learn from them. I’ve cold e-mailed before, a lot of times, and I’ve never expected a response, so it’s very heartening when you do hear back.

I’m worried that the workload and the stuff I want to try out here will see me slip away from the healthy sleep schedule I built for myself during lockdown. This evening I charted out my day on OneNote, slotting in non-negotiable “Sleep” hours and “Personal” hours – to play videogames and de-stress, or write/read and destress. Basically something I’m committed to doing, but doesn’t fit in with the otherwise output oriented nature of my existence. I hope I can live up to that.

My roommate from College reads the blog daily, and spurred me on to write these today – so I hope he takes some joy in knowing I sleep on time and wake up quite early. Which is quite unlike the Tejas he saw for five years at GNLU. I relied on him way too much to get me up for class, and often chose not to go even after waking up, electing to do some work instead, knowing I had the exemptions and the access to notes to figure out exams when I needed to. That’s absolutely not an approach valid here. I mean, it is a route, but it’s too burdensome, and for me, not how I want to take academics and their values anymore.

MT Week 1: Day 7

Tomorrow the week begins again, so today – after 3 days of positively enjoying myself, I forced myself to push on with the fun and frolic, but ensure I got my reading in. Tomorrow’s lectures: Global Governance and Jurisprudence are both very theoretical subjects, taught incredibly well, and with very reflective reading. My brain has to process and form opinions – which seem to come from the heart rather than the brain – about every text I’m reading, because based on last week, if I don’t do that, I will not have anything to contribute to the class. More critically, I feel, that if I don’t develop the art of gaining perspective and voicing it – on the first instance, it’s very difficult to have somebody challenge that view. For the time would have passed and we would have moved onto something else. Allowing people to supplement, or present a contrarian opinion to one I hold is what I want to take away from my classes, and if I’ve not read – and thought about it, it’s tough for me to do that.

So of course I went to try out for Chapel Choir today, and am pleased to inform you I will now be singing on Sundays at the St Edmund’s College Chapel, Choir group permitting. I am an untrained singer, so I sing in the bathroom and quietly when I play my guitar – so what I would love is to gain confidence by singing in a group, improve upon my skills by learning to sing at sight, and more importantly – serve. I would love to continue with this as much as is possible. This and Symphony Chorus, together, I think, will really complement the Music Theory I’m studying well, and hopefully improve my own understanding of music. The Chapel Music Director was very kind about the notes I sang that were terribly off, and she really encouraged me to project, which in her words, would fill the Chapel with my voice, and oof – did that bring me happiness. It made me sound a lot better than I am, and I loved it.

Then I went and played field hockey. About ten years after I had last picked up a stick competitively, I played. I slipped a couple of times, added very little value to my team offensively and got tired quick, made one save I think (I’m taking credit). With seven outfield players and no goalkeeper, we lost 1:7 to Emmanuel (I played for Selwyn/Trinity Hall) but I was a happy fifth-grader once more – the kid who learned the sport. I was so happy throughout, and my parents saw me beaming when we spoke in the evening. As did a couple of friends.

After which I began reading once more. Reading should really have more synonyms, and it is not at all dull; which I worry my descriptions of it will make. So I’ll stop this post here – and talk to you tomorrow, to tell you how wonderful reading was, and can be.

MT Week 1: Day 6

And so it is the weekend. Truth be told, it feels like the weekend begins on Thursday, because I know that I don’t have any interactive session commitments from then onward, and all of the 24-hours belong to me, to use, to read, to spend how I desire. However, I think that’s just us on the postgraduate side of this University. The undergraduates definitely look for the weekend I think. Their week is divided up between lectures and supervisions for academics, and all of the socializing they do. Which means weekend time is Sports time at the University – and you can really see it.

The river is filled with Boats, every Commons (field) and Park and Playing Field is filled with people. All the Sports Clubs are occupied.

Naturally, the libraries are a good place to be on the weekend.

All of this however is just the University side of things.

It’s easy to forget that Cambridge is a city, a town. So the weekend is when it really comes alive, and into its own. The marketplace is swarming with cityfolk picking up their produce and shopkeepers meeting their regulars, King’s Parade has a market too, people busk and play music on sidewalks – things are very bubbly. In a lot of ways the marketplace reminds me of Bengaluru’s MG Road area. You could transplant that setting, the weather, and suddenly, Cambridge would be home.

It’s when the town bursts into life that you remember there’s local clubs that play on the weekends. Cambridge United in Football League Two, for example (the stadium is 15 minutes away by cycle). You also realize, very quick, that the town has accepted students – in a way that there’s very little divide. You can go into town but not tell the difference between a local, a family of locals who have been here for years, and a student who currently calls the city their adopted home.

That’s very comforting to me.

MT Week 1: Day 5

Another lovely day: more reading, some tennis, and reading once more.

Over the course of the week, as time has passed, I can see that I’ve been drawn into making decisions about how involved I would like to be in things here. During my undergraduate course, I tried my hand at pretty much everything that was on offer there. Five years was a long time in one place, and it felt suitable to sign-up to things, and then decide how committed I would like to be. I was, however, guilty of signing up for things and not following through on some of them – because by the time the event or submission came around, I found myself electing to be uncommitted. Largely this was down to my own flawed perception of where my interests lay. I have to say I feel I got better at this in Years 4 and 5, where I only did stuff I would commit to wholeheartedly. The rest I volunteered for, without much responsibility – taking on only the responsibility I could actually agree to.

Cambridge is larger than my undergraduate University in terms of size and population. Naturally as a consequence of that and people’s diverse interests, there’s a Society for everything you can think of, and a space to learn anything you are interested in. I’m very curious about most things in the world, and given a chance, I’d just rotate among the 200+ odd Societies that are on offer. But even then I wouldn’t be able to experience it all well, becuase having so many societies to fit into a week would just mean clashing commitments all of the time.

So it was, through Fresher’s Fair and this week that I’ve eliminated a bunch of things and unsubscribed from mailing lists. Some events are events I genuinely want to know are happening – even if I don’t attend, and so I’ve stayed onto the mailing lists. Societies and Clubs form a large part of the social interaction you can have here, and so I’m committing to the events I would like to meet people at the most. Some of them I’m on because I’m curious about meeting these people, who share an interest or a perspective divergent from mine.

Which brings us back to tennis and some sports. I can only commit to them socially – and without paying for them (because I cannot commit to them every week). As a result I’m literally on a Social Tennis WhatsApp group – finding people of the same or similar level to play with week-on-week.

Hopefully we shall improve together. We’ll definitely have fun though.

MT Week 1: Day 4

No lectures today, and so ample time to relax and unwind one would think. That is only partly true. The absence of interactive sessions does create a void in one’s life: a 2-hour window (and the 30 minutes prior and 30 minutes after) that is to be filled with an activity of one’s choosing. Yet a morning glance at the Outlook Calendar, my OneNote, and Moodle – with next week’s reading list allays any misconceptions I have. The 2-hours are now filled with more joyous reading, but also a less quick pace of life.

That allowed for random tid-bits, a bit of piano practice, some phone calls to family, some YouTube scrolling, figuring out how to manage relaxation reading alongside University work, and a quick trip to Decathlon. Why? To pick up a mouth-guard, among other things to play Field Hockey. I do have a long essay planned about the sport later on in the week, but today was about ensuring I have the gear with which to play and partake in the game with as little fear as is possible.

I was able to take a nice walk along the river in the evening. Although we consistently experience changeable weather conditions here, the sun was shining bright, which meant rowing teams were out practicing. The crowded river, with the shutters of every boathouse open provided the perfect background for a conversation about Jurisprudence classes from the last week with a fellow batchmate, whose undergraduate education is so different from my own.

My Jurisprudence lectures at the undergraduate level never asked of me to engage with the core texts – nor did they reward or encourage that engagement. Although I read one text, I didn’t have the curiousity while studying my course to read through any of the other core texts or primary material we were critiquing. Over the course of my five years, I spent only my final two semesters reading some more core literature, but never for academic reasons. On the contrary, the batchmate I was speaking to spent five years reading just the core texts per paper. So he’s already read through the stuff here, and is just gaining different perspective.

I don’t blame the system for me not reading the core texts, and I think I could have if I wanted to. My curiousity at that time was directed elsewhere, so I’m quite glad it’s being directed here now. Jurisprudence is often described as the theory or philosophy of Law, and it seems to lay down formal logic that’s applicable to the field; with different authors suggesting different systems of logic that may apply. It’s a ton of fun, really.

That’s where most of the night is going as well – and trust me, I’m a happy camper.

MT Week 1: Day 3

Today was the ideal blend of academic life and personal life – insofar as I was able to actively ensure neither was left lagging behind. My interactive session was at 1pm and I had some reading to get through before that, so a quick lecture-watch and it was down to readings. Something I’m discovering is that I need to concentrate a lot better, so music I choose to accompany me as I read is a lot softer than it used to be at undergrad. My system of note-taking is still a work-in-progress. In the past few days, it’s become apparent to me how much the system here relies on self-motivation and figuring things out on your own – there’s a lot less instruction and a lot more of a guiding hand, if you’re ever in doubt about things.

The 1pm session was incredible. The Professor teaching the course is somebody I’ve wanted to work with and learn from for a while so it was excellent to be able to meet him at last (albeit virtually). The lecturers here have such a vast body of experience, and work on such current issues that there is a joy they derive while speaking about it. What I found most curious yesterday was two things. First, the characterization of the course as being a system of learning, rather than teaching, which when explained, placed a lot of onus on us to really get into the subject and interact and gain from the ecosystem he’s providing. Second, was how when one question was posed from him, he very nonchalantly replied, I don’t know. To me, that was the hallmark of somebody good – because he followed it up with the fact that he’d be wasting our time if he gave us an answer immediately, but he was looking into it – and would have an answer by next week. That was enough, to be honest. I admire that honesty, particularly because it showed me how much confidence he had over core subject-matter, and how willing he was to engage with us on issues that were developing if we gave him time.

Then in the evening I went out and did errands: paid up my Union membership, met some friends, and got back home – all while cycling the rain. I spoke to the parents, cooked myself a hearty meal, relaxed in the evening and planned for the week ahead. Having 4 days without interactive sessions is genuinely just a gift of time being given to you – to prepare for what is to come.

In other news, I have now discovered I am a member of the Cambridge University Symphony Chorus – which I’m supremely excited about, as I’ll truly be able to learn perfect pitch. Should be a good year.

MT Week 1: Day 2

An early morning with a 9AM interactive session meant waking up and completing some reading to be adequately prepared. Thank goodness for that. I’m observing that Faculty here are willing to go out of their way – in terms of time, and in terms of covering material, to ensure that our queries are answered, but also to ensure that we voice our own thoughts on the material we’ve consumed. That’s new for me. I have some opinions on the state of the law, but I haven’t developed a habit of crafting opinions on every sentence I read within academic literature. It’s probably something I did subconsciously but is now something that’s coming to the fore. I left the session with more things to think about and more stuff I wanted to read – alongwith the feeling that I wanted to read through the reading list once more just to develop more opinions about them.

Time unfortunately does not sympathize, and so it was that I made my way to the Squire with a couple of friends to get moving on the readings for tomorrow. A couple of hours later and we were able to have a mini picnic with some pancakes, after which I headed out to meet a friend.

The world is such a small place. This friend of mine was a neighbour for 2 years, after which he moved away and I lost touch with him, only to recently discover he was doing his PhD here at Cambridge. A quick message and it was easy to re-establish contact, and a meet-up later, it felt like all those years had changed us, but not what made it enjoyable to sit across from him. I used to play table tennis at his house really frequently when I was younger, and he was on my bus route as well – so we spoke a lot about a range of things as kids. Some of the things he does now, his research and the Spartan races in particular were incredibly inspiring – and I can only aspire to that level of fitness, I know.

The evening was mellow; more reading, some cooking, and some FIFA, and on I march to my final interactive session of the week.