Pre-Term: Day #1

I’ve been out of self-isolation since Thursday, and since Thursday I’ve been meaning to write about all of the things I’ve experienced, but I haven’t found the energy to sit down and write anything at all. My body really is not used to the amount of walking around I’ve been doing, so I find myself quite drained as the day comes to a close, which is testament to a few things: my fitness levels, and what happens to the legs when they spend 14 days doing nothing but laying straight. Therefore, with it being Monday, there’s no better time to begin chronicling things. I’m going to chronicle everything on the blog, that’s a commitment – from pre-term through each of the terms and the holidays. Where I write subject-matter essays though, I think I’ll name them different – if nothing, for ease-of-access and retrieval.

Since Thursday, I’ve had the good fortune of seeing different parts of Cambridge. Thursday went in walking to College and collecting my ID card among other things, and on Friday, I relocated to my accommodation, completing a recce of my new surroundings. On Saturday I met one of my local guardians, who came from London to spend time with me and show me around, while yesterday, Sunday, I spent organizing and unpacking a little bit more, and doing a quick run to Wilko’s to see if there was anything else I needed.

Today’s the start of International Fresher’s Week. I can’t really comment on what the activities are like in-person; Jake Wright and the other Camvloggers provide better insight, but this year, any group activities are limited by the rule of 6 (so we can gather in small groups of 6 at most in one area). They’re all opt-in, so you only attend the stuff you can sign-up for, and getting a slot at events is rather tricky.

My day began rather early, figuring out cycles and recording the podcast with Amma. My hostel neighbour from GNLU is studying at Cambridge with me, so we spent the morning doing some grocery-shopping, since he was out of self-isolation and I needed some dal. Along the way, we met up with other Indian LLMs, and a few of us ended up at King’s College, which is right at the heart of the city and sat on the lawns. I heard from someone that once term begins, you’re no longer allowed on the lawns so it definitely felt like a privilege. More than anything else though, I think meeting a few others whom I had met virtually gave me more joy.

The afternoon was wonderful. I had signed-up for a Really Useful Cambridge Tour, which promised history & utility – and did just that. Our group was rather diverse, in courses and continents represented, and our guide was a former international student (now professor), who showed us where to get good student deals on everything – some information I hope to put to good use. A lot of walking and a coffee later, we wound up at Jesus Green, where we had a picnic. Snacks were provided, which were wonderful (Yes, British Kitkat tastes different). What I loved apart from all the information was how enthusiastic a group of people were to make international students feel as at home as possible here. This was led by the Graduate Christian Society, and apparently under regular circumstances, they pick people up from the stations in and around Cambridge and drop them to their accommodation, providing hand-outs and some vouchers along the way.

There’s a lot to soak in around me I think. A lot to really appreciate. Today, I’m glad the weather cooperated. The next week looks like a lot of rain, and I’m not going to complain, it’s a fact of life now, but adapting plans to account for the weather is likely to be a challenge.

Onto day #2 of pre-term.

Dear Cambridge

Dear Cambridge,

At the time of writing, I have described your weather to everybody as British Test Match weather. When I was younger, I used to spend days watching India’s tours of England. I’d watch the day’s play and then watch the highlights. I’d pretty much be glued to the television till my grandmother came home and insisted I do something else. That passion continued through as I grew older. Since I started following the sport, there is not one season of English test cricket I have missed till date. Every match, I hear commentators say the same thing late in the day. Lots of cloud cover, the sun shining through in the batsman’s eyes. Ball swinging, difficult session. That’s precisely how you look today, and how you have looked for each of the five days I have now spent here.

Cambridge, you will be the fourth place I call home. Thus far I have resided in Dubai, Bengaluru, and Gandhinagar, falling in love with each for different reasons. I’m curious to fall in love with you, to find out why I fall in love with you. I’m curious to understand your character – what you enjoy, and what frustrates you. I’m eager to find out your story, your stories, each and every one of them. The folklore that birthed you, the myths that continue to help you survive, and the reality that draws people like me to you from far and wide.

You represent a closed loop in my life, Cambridge. It feels surreal being here despite the fact that I am sitting in self-isolation, because for years, I have seen your logo on my certificates as I completed my IGCSE’s and A Levels. I have seen your logo across International schools in the cities I’ve visited. I have repeatedly watched CamVlogs, and Jake Wright’s Vlogs on YouTube, and have heard stories from seniors about breathing your air and experiencing your grandeur.

I cannot wait to earn your trust and be your companion.

I hope you feel the same way.

Love,

Tejas

Sharing Movies

One of my friends from University and I are learning Spanish together. We started this project with completely different motivations, at completely different points of time, but bumped into each other along the way. Since then, it’s been a lot of conversation over text in Spanish, aside from which we’ve both, admittedly been using Google Translate a fair amount to learn new phrases we’d like to incorporate into our ever-growing vocabulary. Last week, when we were talking about Spanish as a language, I made the suggestion that we read Harry Potter, a series we’ve both recently re-read, in Spanish, taking a cue from my best friend who has intended to read the series in French. This morning, I asked if he had seen Coco, a movie I hoped we could enjoy in Spanish. He hadn’t, so we set up a time and decided to figure out the mechanics later.

A few hours later, we reconvened and grappled with technology. We didn’t find the Spanish version, but I was keen he watched the movie, so we went along for the ride in English anyway, synchronizing time across devices.

The last time I went to a movie theatre to watch a film was probably a year and a half ago now, or even two years ago. In Bangalore, I’ve largely been for movies with my school friends, and with streaming services becoming so popular and movies available on the internet pretty much a week after their theatre release, I haven’t really felt that urge to go, or to share my movie-watching experience with people. My mum’s usually my movie companion. We watch a movie or two, or three, every time we get to spend time with each other. Quite often it’s biographical, or animated, and watching Coco today, an animated film, made me think of how many movies I would have watched with my family had we been in the same house in these times.

I’m yet to meet somebody, across the age spectrum, who has a passionate dislike for animated films. I do know individuals who aren’t particularly fond of them, but animated films feel like one of those few things the world agrees is universally good. If the animation is well done, the story can be absurd, and bizarre, but it will still be a lovely film (for me atleast). I can’t speak for everyone, but what I love the most about animated films is how child-like they make me feel again. Childlike innocence is a lovely thing, and animation, as a medium – even when you have sophisticated storylines and plots, seems to capture that innocence like nothing else ever has, does, or ever will.

Watching Coco today with a friend was an excellent reminder for me, of why I enjoy sharing the movie-going experience with my friends, and in a very strange way, made me really think about why I stopped going to the theatre in the first place. We were talking at different points in the movie, checking out Spanish lingo, mostly, but still, communicating what we felt about the film as we felt it – a laugh here, a tear there. That surprise when the plot twists, a pause to discuss and explain it.

When I was in Grade 10, Skyfall came out, and a group of us from school got together at the Central on Sarjapur Road to watch the film. To date, that has to be one of my fondest movie-watching memories. We ribbed each other so much as the movie unfolded, and then, before we headed our separate ways (since we all had curfews back then), we legitimately spent time discussing the movie, and the kind of things that would have to happen for the next one as a consequence of everything that panned out.

When Coco finished, my friend and I just chatted for a few minutes about how lovely the entire experience was. I’m going to try setting this up with more friends now. I don’t discuss film and TV much with many people at all any more, and maybe this is a way to get back to it all.

Hair Maintenance

This is the longest I’ve gone without cutting my hair. I’ve explored my relationship with haircuts on this blog, here, for example, but it’s only when you don’t have the ability to get a haircut that you’re able to truly define what the haircut means to you, and what, in a sense, it’s always meant. As a child, my father instilled in me very early on that I ought to have neatly cut hair. At University, I often relied on my benchmates in class to confirm whether my hair was long enough to necessitate the solo trip to the barbershop, and sitting through episodes of a Gujarati sitcom I did not want to enjoy but enjoyed anyway. The frequency with which I had my haircuts dropped from one every month to one every alternate month. My haircare routine was simple. Oil my hair once in a week, maybe twice, when it was longer, and shampoo every alternate day – to help with general cleanliness.

The shampooing felt necessary because of how much I sweat at college. There’s a humidity in Gujarat that just doesn’t exist in other States I’ve visited, and every two days I felt unclean if my hair wasn’t shampooed – because it began to smell, or something of the sort.

Now, this long hair I’ve now grown, which somedays, feels like a mane because it’s grown out the sides and the back, and merges into my beard when I grow that out, needs so much extra maintenance. It refuses to sit in place and behave the way I want it to. The thing I’ve learned about why haircuts are necessary, for me, isn’t just the practicality of having shorter hair. It’s also about being able to let go of this weight that grows on us month-on-month. It’s the same with nails. Each time you allow them to begin growing afresh, you allow yourself the opportunity to let go of all the stuff that’s burdened your head for months past.

Now? Things are a mess.

Playing Catch-Up

Over the past three years, writing has become an integral part of my life. Days feel incomplete without it, because it feels like I have failed to articulate or structure, or really do anything with my day. On days that I write, even if I’ve spent the entire day on RuneScape, or watching Netflix, I feel accomplished, instead of looking at the time that seems to have flown past with terrible graphics and a lot of nostalgia. However, like I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I procrastinate from time to time. Last week was just one of those weeks, where every day, writing seemed like a struggle.

I didn’t even realize a whole week had gone past. A combination of the lockdown and a lack of effectively implemented deadlines (or strictly implemented, rather), has meant that my only actual realization of how long it has been. It’s been close to a month since the lockdown began – and to this date, it has now been one month since my last University in-person lecture took place.

I didn’t write for close to a week. Then I decided it was time to write, that my lethargy really could not, and should not, last any longer. Today was the day I played catch-up with myself. Honestly, the way I saw it was that I could have ignored all the writing I missed. It would not have affected anybody at all – particularly because I don’t think too many people read this blog religiously anyway. For me though, taking that easy route out would have represented giving into the challenging times this lockdown has placed me in. You see, for me, working and consistently doing things – being on the move, so to speak, gives me the most joy. I can sit still and quiet down when I need to, but I thrive more, in terms of happiness, when I have the opportunity to express myself.

I’m privileged to be safe and healthy at present. I need to keep expressing myself for my own mental health at this point, because otherwise I will give into the fact that my hobbies cannot replace traditional notions of work. That is untrue, fundamentally, because my hobbies are enough to keep me going. Writing everyday serves as a reminder of that.

Writing today, I’m determined not to play catch-up ever again because it makes me feel insincere to this craft I am trying to doggedly pursue and perfect.

Plus, honestly, writing more than these posts a day is quite exhausting. There’s no need to do so much in one day when you can consistently do a little each day.