Goodbye, Cindies

How do you say Goodbye to that which you do not know, and that which you will not get to know? Do you say Hello? If the loss is communal, why is it then that the loss feels personal? Is it because I have lost the opportunity to discover your ways? I can’t explain why it is that I feel the way I am feeling, so I wrote a letter.

Dear Cindies,

As with most of my knowledge about the University of Cambridge, and Cambridge culture in general, my first brush with you was in one of Jake Wright’s vlogs. I remember watching vlogs in Grade 12 and learning about Revs, Life, Spoon’s, and you – and for whatever reason, my brain didn’t let go of that information. Not then, when I elected to apply to Oxford, and nor when I was applying to study here as a postgraduate student. It’s why coming here felt surreal. I was suddenly in places I recognized from YouTube videos and short films, from folklore and history, and that felt wonderful.

Cindies, the first and only question I had for you was, what are you? I couldn’t find you anywhere on the map (as with Life), and it was then I realized that you were steeped in time, left stuck in an era where you were not Ballare, but Cinderella Rockerfella’s. Boy, what I would do to see you in that avatar. Or any avatar really. As I discovered during my undergraduate study, I am not a very club-party type of person. However, as I learned as a school student I am very much a human being that enjoys music, and loves meeting new people. It hurts, deeply, to learn that you were a place that facilitated both, whether through the smoking area, the lack of washroom access, or on the dance floor. That shared, lived experience appears to have united this city. I will now get none of it, and that, dear Cindies, makes me very sad.

After arriving in Cambridge, I threw myself into Cambridge magazines and facebook pages. The Tab had this lovely quiz on which Cambridge night-out I was, and despite knowing I was likely a night out at Market Square eating from Trailer of Life, or waiting in the Pret queue, I learned I was Wednesday Cindies. You may infer from that what you would like, but this result was meaningless to me till I discovered this wonderful Wednesday Cindies playlist on Spotify.

That discovery has led to a lot of self-reflection and inquiry. The Tab’s quiz was not necessarily designed with the scientific process in mind, but truly, this time, it felt like they got me right, spot on. At my core, I am a nostalgic human being that looks at History with rose-tinted glasses. On Wednesdays, you appear to have been an embodiment of that, which makes your closure even harder to bear.

If you’ve reached this far, you’re likely asking: but Tejas, you’ve been here seven weeks, why didn’t you visit for a socially-distanced evening earlier? I do not have an answer that does not sound like an excuse, but put simply, you were not at the top of my Things to explore in Cambridge list. That is a shocking answer, and you may be quickly drawn into resentment, but I urge you to read on, for Cindies, you were on the list. You were just slotted away for when I felt I had settled in sufficiently to accept that the work wouldn’t get done anyway so a night out would be of zero-harm. As a postgraduate fresher, but a fresher nonetheless, I have not settled in to this level as yet. Consequently, I reserved you for mid-way through Lent. Far enough for me to feel at home, close enough for me to smell you – whatever your smells are.

For a place that seems to adore its legacy, from the limited information we the public have been given, Cambridge appears to be ripping a piece of that legacy’s soul away from itself. This may be symbolic of several things: capitalism, a rift between town-and-gown (to quote the 1900’s), and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on local business and the hospitality industry at large. This conscious uncoupling, whatever the circumstances, feels rough. It is personal, insofar as I will not get to experience you, but more so because as a student of the University, I felt attached to your existence. Knowing you were there felt like sufficient evidence of the statement Cambridge has an active nightlife. Knowing you are gone means I cannot claim that sentiment anymore, despite the existence of other clubs.

We may find another place, another room to blare out the Wednesday Cindies playlist. I may listen to it alone sitting in my room wearing pyjamas. Even with strobe lights however, these places will never replicate the atmosphere of that corner in the Grand Arcade (or Lionyard, pick your poison).

With this, and with the knowledge that people have Camfessed they would transfer if you shut, I say goodbye. Having written all of this, I am still uncertain whether I am saying goodbye to the ground upon which you were built, or to the people that made you who you were. Thus, I personify you, and say goodbye to the spirit I felt destined to meet and feel robbed of completely.

Thank you for existing, Cindies, and for making me feel more strongly about my desire to cherish more of the Things to explore in Cambridge list I built while waiting to relocate here.

Somebody else will miss you. Unfortunately, I just missed out.




MT Week 4: Day 6

The Saturday has come to a close. Would you believe me if I told you I slept for 11 hours again last night? Whether or not you believe me is immaterial, for my sleep-tracker says I slept 11 hours, and it appears as though, sleep-cycle wise, I am the healthiest I have been in years. There is a consistency, I am not over-stretching myself, and I sleep when my body demands it. It feels glorious.

Today was when media outlets began to project Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to be the next occupants of the White House. This is truly a small step for America, and I’m curious to see how the international order, that has become so used to searching within for leadership, responds to America’s attempt to lead the world again. What I most grateful for though is that climate change is now certifiably, real.

In the morning I completed a run, spoke to family, and got around to reading. I’m currently wading through my Jurisprudence reading list, where we’re reading Lon Fuller’s The Morality of Law. I have to admit that thus far, the subject is sailing over my head, but I am learning new things each week, and I am looking forward to my December break, where I hope to spend some more time with the texts we’re reading and the commentaries, and really formulate some opinions on the text grounded within it’s internal logic. I’m looking forward to reading Hart again. For a start though, I have begun to appreciate why jurisprudentialists and philosophers ask themselves What is Law? – because at the moment, I find existing answers slightly unsatisfactory. Atleast the ones I am exposed to.

The afternoon saw some ice coffee from The Locker, a time-lapse, and a lovely walk along Midsummer Common with an undergraduate third-year whom I will be working with through this academic year. I’ve met quite a few undergraduates and doctoral students here since I’ve arrived, people who are outside the Law department and program, and people within, and every person I’ve met has amazed me with their story. Sometimes I’m left wondering if I could just spend every minute here, instead of studying, meeting new people and understanding their journeys – what they find fascinating and what excites them, what got them here and what they’re going to give back. It feels like these are things to hold onto in reserve particularly when you’re uncertain about your motivations being here, if that ever occurs.

In the evening we celebrated the projections with some take-out, and now I’m back to reading more Jurisprudence. I’m taking breaks to watch clips from The Office because Biden is from Scranton, and that is amusing me to no end.

MT Week 4: Day 5

Yesterday was an incredible day.

In the morning I had a workshop for International Environmental Law, followed by a lot of free-time to read before an evening full of adventure. We hosted our first event for the International Law Society, which was delightful. Although attendance was a fraction of the number of individuals that joined our facebook group, it was really good to see that those who did attend were rather excited at the prospect of what the group had to offer – and more importantly, they came with a bunch of ideas. Hopefully we can use that to build something successful and sustainable in the Lent Term and beyond. After that I had my first team meeting for the moot that I’m participating in. It’s a joy to be mooting again, quite a thrill to be working with some new people. I’m eager to see how things go.

I think the excitement exhausted me because I slept 11 hours, and woke up this morning to get going on my reading for the next week. Lockdown means that I’m not going to get my sports quota in any time soon, so some time around the afternoon I walked along the river to clear my head and do some photography. Back at home and I cooked myself some risotto and came back up to do more work. Having spoken to my parents, it’s now been about 4 hours since the risotto business was done, and I’ve done nothing, so my goal for today is to now churn out the newsletter and then seriously, get cracking on some work for the rest of the day.

Tomorrow I’m hoping to get a run in just as the sun rises or thereabouts. Let’s see how that ambition fares.

MT Week 4: Day 3

Another week of interactive sessions down, and I feel Week 5 coming at me faster than I did yesterday. This morning was fairly slow, which was nice: allowed me to get into my reading and follow the US elections just to see the kind of stuff happening there. In the afternoon I had my interactive session, where we focused on environmental regulations in the maritime environment (for which I have a workshop tomorrow morning).

That led to the highlight of my day. I spent my afternoon preparing paneer tikka masala for my hostel neighbour from GNLU, and then went out to meet another friend for coffee. We realized that owing to conflicting schedules, the International Law kids tend to rarely get the opportunity to speak to the Corporate Law part of our cohort, and we were meeting after nearly a month. A nice long walk around the city centre later, we parted ways and I went off to do my last erg session for the month (and the Term, in all likelihood).

This evening, I was with a different senior from the Boat Club, who really knuckled down technique on the erg, getting us to focus on separation and building out the back-stop and the catch, and each part of the stroke. I had a ton of fun, and genuinely felt my strokes in parts of my lower back I did not know I had. The other reason it was enjoyable was because this senior made me laugh a bit – he pointed out to my knees at one point and told me to complete the arms before moving my legs. Essentially by not separating, I was ending up in this weird position where my arms would invariably come into contact with my knees. On the stroke itself, my knees were getting slightly wobbly. Through that exchange, I was reminded of the countless times I was told about my knock-knees in school. Most races, the knock-knees would make my parents worry I’d trip over. I giggled.

The night was just a delight. In GNLU, every Wednesday was paneer & ice-cream night – and we were able to recreate that tonight, together, which brought a little bit of Koba into Cambridgeshire. The lockdown means it’s difficult for us to recreate this again before Term ends, but we’re going to try – and I’m hoping to try out some other things I learned during the lockdown in India. It’s always more fun cooking for a crowd.

MT Week 4: Day 2

You know how I keep referencing Week Five Blues and saying that I’m not going to let it get to me? This evening, after a rather tiring day, I spent some time on the phone with my parents theorizing why Week Five Blues exist? What brings them on? What sparks them? What makes it an affliction that unites the entirety of the University’s population? I haven’t experienced them yet, and I hope I don’t feel disappointed next week, but my working theory is as follows. It’s the realization that you’ve done so much already (and remember so little of it), but that you’ve got halfway left to go before the end of Term, which is a fair amount of work to come. Alternatively, it’s the realization that you’re behind on work, and that consequently, you have to make a choice about whether to catch-up to work from last week, or begin afresh from the subsequent week – letting go of past readings & starting anew. In either case, it means that time away from Full-Term is still going to be loaded with reading and reflection, and perhaps that causes some amount of being blue. I shall overcome. We, as a community, shall overcome.

Today, though, was quite something. Woke up by 7, did some reading – and had an interactive session for the International Human Rights Law course. Today we were discussing human rights bodies. My interaction with this subject has largely been through the lens of moot courts, or reading papers I found interesting, and although taught at University, I had never considered the subtleties within treaties, and linguistic differences in output that these bodies produce. It was a really nice way to feel awake, and at one point, I legitimately felt like the neurons in my brain were absorbing information and snapping into life.

After that, as I’ve recently been appointed as a General Editor for the Cambridge International Law Journal, I was given some training for my role. That was rather enjoyable. I’ve loved editing because it feels like you have the opportunity to play a small part in somebody’s writing process. It’s a position of tremendous responsibility, and where feedback is given, it’s an excellent exercise on how to write critique that is legitimately helpful to the author.

Then I had a workshop for International Human Rights Law, on forced labour conditions and the International Labour Organization. Before that I cooked & did some preparation for a fun evening dinner I have planned tomorrow. Coming back though – workshops, on the LLM, are essentially small-group teaching where the faculty:student ratio of 1:13 is respected and adhered to. It was interesting because there was nowhere to hide at all. I can only imagine how the undergraduates feel during supervisions.

All of this listening made me crave a power nap, so I gave my body what it asked for, spoke to the parents, took a quick walk – and then had a 7pm Jurisprudence interactive session. Why 7pm? Well, yesterday I had a conflicting Global Governance workshop, and the Professor was kind enough to accommodate the conflict by offering an online session tonight, which was fantastic. Just 5 of us going through legal abstractions – yes, Jurisprudence is still going over my head.

All of this, and it felt like it was time to give thanks for everything this place is allowing me to live out, and remember everything I have to give back to the community. That closed out what has felt like a forever Tuesday.

MT Week 4: Day 1

Today’s been an intriguing day. Having slept for 8 hours, I woke up, completed some reviews of submissions I was reading – and got to my reading lists once more. We’re at Week 4 now. Week Five Blues are close-by, it appears. As of yesterday, we’ve learned that we’re going to be on National Lockdown from Thursday. However, this seems to be a rather soft lockdown – with Universities and Retail that’s Essential continuing to be open. Restaurants are going to remain open for takeaways. The decentralized nature of decision-making at Cambridge means we’re awaiting instructions from College and the Faculty of Law on the implications of the lockdown on decisions that had been communicated to us earlier in the year – particularly on in-person teaching. For me, as an off-site student, something that I’m waiting to understand is if I will still be able to visit St Edmund’s – and to what extent I can interact with my College.

I knew this was likely before I signed up to study this year, so I felt adequately prepared for this, and I am still feeling that way. I will continue to study and make the most of what this place has to offer. If I feel like it gets to me though, I will reach out for any help I need.

I had class in the afternoon, followed by a Graduate Workshop. Where we have classes that have more than 13 students signed up to study a given subject on the LLM, we get workshops that accommodate only 13 people twice a semester. That’s really helpful, and is the small-group teaching that allows for broader discussions about subjects we’re clearly passionate about. Today’s agenda: common spaces, something I adore with every fibre of my being.

Having received a notification about a book that I had to return, in the evening I cycled to Sidgwick, returned the book to the Faculty, cycled to College, and came home. Now I’ve spent an hour watching YouTube videos – so I’m going to spend the rest of the evening preparing for my 9AM tomorrow.

MT Week 3: Day 6

This afternoon, I went out for lunch with an undergraduate Law student at the University, someone I’m working with as a part of Decolonize Law Cambridge to discuss work and other things. Over the course of our conversation, he brought my attention back to this blog and it was at that point that I realized that I didn’t write all week after Monday. For all the talk about recording every impression this place makes on my mind, I was upset with myself for not actually following through on it. Particularly because I heard about this Theatre teacher in Singapore who has been doing something very similar to what I do since Blogspot came about (which is a while ago on the blogosphere now). I got back home and told myself, that’s it, I’m going to spend the entire evening writing – and churn out six quality pieces about the week that’s gone by. One essay in though, it felt pointless. The day’s past, and I feel like I’d be dishonest to myself and to anybody reading the blog in saying I wrote this on that day. Although I journal and take notes everyday to help me fill in gaps where I’m unable to blog, the conversion of those thoughts into concrete sentences just never feels as raw as writing observations on the day of events feels.

Henceforth, therefore, I shall strive not to miss days – because I don’t want to. If I do however, I’m not going to strap-together or plaster-together a string of posts that act as observations from the week. I think I’ve been doing a lot of that because of my own obsession with completion and counting, but someone pointed that out to me as a character trait of mine last week and I was very amused with myself. I’m legitimately obsessed with numbers – because they never lie, yet in my case, I’ve been using them to further the notion that I am a daily blogger.

I’m a blogger, a writer. Daily-ness happens frequently.

The rest of the evening went in a secret project that may be revealed to the world some time in the future, some music, readings & work. We’ve just discovered we’re going to be on lockdown beginning Thursday all through to December the 2nd, which is just 4 weeks. I hope this helps contain the spread of the coronavirus – it would be very difficult to the NHS and for hospitals here to have several patients to tend to. I need to use this week to figure out a regime that replaces all the sport I’ve been doing in the past couple of weeks with some other forms of fitness. Maybe I’ll do hockey drills on the Common – we shall see.

MT Week 3: Day 2

I woke up in amazement of everything that had transpired last evening. I wrote about pinch me moments, and it feels like I want to hold on to every single moment of every single day and let it linger in my memory palace.

A morning lecture and then I was done for the day, free to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening on readings for tomorrow’s interactive session. A quick trip to the bank and I got back home and had the opportunity to eat pancakes at home with my housemates, a treat that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I should explain my living situation. I’m a paying guest in a house – so I live with a family. The house is always a lovely environment to stay in because it’s rarely empty. There’s atleast one person at home most times of the day. It’s great to come home to that, and to pop down into the kitchen for conversations whenever I’m taking a break – for moments like this evening’s pancake adventure of course.

I’m not singing Chapel Choir this weekend, but we just received an e-mail from our Chapel Music Director with recordings from last week and I can identify moments within those recordings where I wasn’t confident of the sound that would come from my mouth so I’m quieter and suddenly I get louder when I don’t necessarily need to. This weekend I’ll be practicing music for the Symphony Chorus, and hopefully all the practice gives me the confidence to trust my vocal chords once more. I know I’ve written this before, but I’d like to be as free as I was when I was a child. It was just my parents that thought I sang well initially, and that gave me the liberty to explore singing to my heart’s content. I’d like to do that of my own accord once more.

MT Week 3: Day 1

I’m already tired of myself talking about how quickly time is going by. Henceforth, I hope you can assume that for me, time is flying rapidly. I won’t dwell on it any further, because truly, on days like today, I feel like I’m making the most of the 24 hours given to me each day: to grow, to rest, to think.

Academically, today marked two interactive sessions I had a lot of fun in. On Mondays, I have Global Governance & Jurisprudence, both of which are rather theoretical subjects that allow for a lot of self-reflection and leave me wondering how I got here in the first place. I only kid. Although Jurisprudence is currently going over my head slightly, I’m hoping that as time passes and I get more comfortable with my readings I’ll be able to formulate opinions, which I’d really like to do. Global Governance is just a lot of fun because the questions we deal with there all have relevance to current debates within International Law, a subject I am inherently fond of.

In the evening it was time for my matriculation soiree. Yes, fancy. Before I left Bengaluru, a very close friend gifted me a purple tie, and when I received it, I knew how I’d like to wear it. A Pantone Cool Gray 38 suit with a pink shirt and that tie – and that’s what I wore tonight to the event. I had the opportunity to sign the College Register, that Lemaitre also signed all those years ago with my Lamy pen – another gift from a friend who considered me worthy of the instrument. Our College master said something to allay any fears of the imposter syndrome – she said Cambridge doesn’t make mistakes, and that we all by virtue of signing up to that Register, had a home here. That was very comforting to hear.

At the soiree, I met such interesting people who are within my matriculating cohort. A doctor from Japan now studying for an MBA in anticipation of a career in Government work, a student from Egypt with work experience at the WHO studying Public Policy prior to returning to the field. What a delight to hold conversation with them. I learned something new over the course of the evening too – parallel algorithms, which definitely feel like something I want to read more about.

Got home, updated the Google Photos album for my family (I didn’t realize a week had passed since my last update), and went to bed content that I had done readings between Thursday and Sunday because I didn’t actually read anything today.

MT Week 2: Day 7

Another week draws to a close. I look back on it and think, shucks – time has flown by, and I anticipate that this is how the rest of full-term is going to feel as well. Each day I come home I tell myself I’ve had a couple of pinch-me moments, fleeting instances where all of this has felt a world away. A few months ago, none of it seemed possible, and I prepared myself to access as much of this education as I could from my home in Bangalore. Yet we’re here today, testament not only to the fact that Cambridge was desirous of us spending time in-residence during term, but more crucially to the idea that now, this is where we should be. I hope more people get to come here, and get to access the space that Cambridge is – for the ideas I’ve heard, the people I’ve met, the air I’m breathing, all of it seems wonderful.

This morning I sung at Chapel Choir. I dabbled in singing while I was younger, but aside from a few classes here and there, I’ve never trained my voice. I joined Chapel Choir and the Symphony Chorus to learn how to read music better, to better understand sound in my head – to see, and sing, rather than having to rely on an instrument to gauge music. To perfect the pitch in my head would be delightful, and I hope to use the wonderful opportunity to sing with a Choir to gain confidence, gain insight into what the lines represent, and understand how to be conducted. Of course, finding my voice along the way would be excellent too, although I have a feeling that may take more than a year.

There is a solemnity to everything we sang this morning. The selection of music, Terry’s Short Mass in C, was wonderful, and there are two phrases that have struck with me. The first is Kyrie E-Leison, which is Lord, have mercy, something I find quite remarkable – an expression of a wish, of hope, of desire. The second, is Miserere, another variant to Have mercy on me. I find the latter quite astounding, for the English word most commonly associated with the root might be Misery, yet rather here, is Mercy. I left service with insight, and the space with a desire to go back again, to sit in the quiet, as the Dean of St Edmund’s mentioned.

In the evening I played hockey. We lost both games, but I’m slowly gaining confidence, and I’m going to stop babbling on about being a left-hander playing right-handed. It’s rather silly I think, and it’s an excuse that worked in week 1 that I’m happy to shed off henceforth. The games were super enjoyable – the first one less so because we kept conceding, but the second one felt like we began to display a solid defensive shape and an understanding of where each player was likely to be, and how each of us responds to situations. Unfortunately at one point, my response to a ball being behind me was to watch it roll. I felt rather lazy at the minute, I must admit, but now, looking back, all I’m hoping for from next week’s games is that I jog around and stay light on my feet throughout, so I can build on my stamina. Having my left-hand on the top of the stick I think might also make tackling a lot easier, but we shall see what I carry forward to next week.

Later, I caught up with a friend over coffee, and having wondered at the delights of the Pret-A-Manger subscription I possess, and encouraging him to begin his own, I returned home, my legs longing for rest, and my mind looking forward to tomorrow – where the pace of life brings me to 2 interactive sessions and a lot of thinking.

MT Week 2: Day 6

Today was a day spent at home, tending to things and taking care of everything I had to before the next week starts. Although the evening presented me with some unexpected, eventful surprises, most of it went in trying to contextualize the reading I had done in the past week.

The rest? Well, I realized most of my room was laid out in a way that was more comfortable for a right-handed rather than a left-hander like me. Simple set-up issues. Owing to my consumption of media I’ve traditionally seen microphones that are set-up on the left side of the desk with the arm coming in from the left. However, for me, that takes up valuable real-estate where I’d much rather place a notebook or allow my elbow some more breathing room. Moved that over to the right side, moved a couple of shelves a bit further to the right as well, to allow my right hand the freedom to reach for books and things while my left hand has more working room. It’s wonderful how inspired the brain can choose to be while trying to pass some time before you’re expecting a call.

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.