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.

MT Week 1: Day 1

Today was my first day of lectures. And yes – I’m finally right with it this time, it’s the first week of Michaelmas!

I got up rather early this morning, having had a late night. All of this was self-inflicted because as with other LLMs, we’ve all been very confused about when which interactive session is taking place, and I thought I had one class tomorrow that was today. That + an e-mail meant lots of reading this morning to catch up and be ready for the session. I was grateful to be able to finish in the knick of time, allowing me to catch-up with my best friend before heading to my first interactive session.

I say heading, but my first one of the week was online – so the only preparation I had to do was just check up my audio and clean-up the background a little. I should explain a little more about interactive sessions. Traditionally on the LLM program, teaching happens through a lecture in-person, per subject, each week. We study 4 modules, and so, it follows that you attend 4 lectures a week. Owing to COVID, the faculty has had to adapt, and thus, to ensure we get the benefit of some interaction with faculty, each subject now has a pre-recorded lecture component, and a live interactive component per week. The live component can happen either online, or in-person – depending on the interactive principles the Faculty of Law has laid out. It’s a rather well thought out solution that seems to be working okay for the time being. I’m grateful for how much they’ve communicated to us as they’ve made decisions. There’s a low level of consultation and no consultative process – as this was decided before we came to the University, but it’s been communicated in a timely way, which prepares us per week. As a consequence, to prepare for these interactive sessions, you need to do reading and watch the lectures for them. Then you can go in saying you’ve done the work – but you’ll always leave the interactive session realizing you missed something. At least, I’m prepared to: I’m prepared to leave the session learning more – and finding out fresh perspective my eyes may not have captured.

Today’s were lovely. Global Governance took place online, and the convening lecturer broke the ice quite nicely, allowing for introductions and commenting on our experiences before jumping into asking us questions and moderating a fruitful discussion about the week’s readings. That ended and I immediately had to rush off to the Faculty, about 2 miles away, to reach my Jurisprudence class on time. I say rush off, by which I mean rush down the stairs so I could cycle as slowly as I desired to reach there. I cycle rather slowly, just to be as careful as possible here. Today was the first time I got to enter the Lecture Theatre at the Faculty, and it’s so stunning. It’s just a nice pit-style ampitheater, with the lecturer at the bottom – but with social-distancing and a small crowd spanning the room, it was a geometrical sight to behold. While the Faculty’s building was only constructed in the 1990’s, it’s still incredible to think about the kind of people who have studied – and taught here.

A quick coffee meeting with my batchmates later, I headed back home, spoke to my parents while cooking dinner, and now I’m on my way to do more reading. I have a 9AM online interactive session tomorrow – one I’m really looking forward to, but there’s a 93-page document I have to get through before that. Should be a lovely night and early morning.

MT Week 0: Day 5

Truly, playing a sport after a couple of years in front of a crowd that has played competitively, regularly for the past few years is a humbling experience.

This morning I attended the Cambridge University Badminton Club (CuBaC) trials. I already signed up for the St. Edmund’s Badminton Society, and I knew I wouldn’t make it to the University team, but here’s the thing. University Sports Club Members get this amazing Cambridge Blue Fleece Jacket that I really want. I’m just joking, really. I went to trials because it was a free badminton hour, an opportunity to meet new people, and to force myself to get a badminton racquet. It was a great chance also to see the University Sports Center without feeling like a stranger.

And so it was that I woke up early and cycled to Decathlon at Grafton, bought myself a racquet, and then wore thermal pants under a sports kit and two jackets to cycle the 2 miles to the Sports Center. My body has genuinely just forgotten I am in a cold place. I felt nothing while cycling, and then I got off the cycle and felt my thighs warm up like it was nobody’s business. I was sweating inside and had to get the jackets off pretty rapidly.

Sports over here is organized at multiple levels: there’s the University-grade, the College-grade, and the Social. The University-grade is when you’re bloody good at a sport, and your main objective is to beat Oxford – apart from developing as a sportsperson and doing well at BUCS. You do training at a rigorous level a couple of times a week, in addition to lots of fitness sessions to develop muscle, etc. Depending on the sport, it is not unusual to have a diet regime and things laid out for you. The College-grade is when you play intercollegiate Cuppers. You play with people at your College against other Colleges, and you basically train maybe once or twice a week. Depending on your College, you’re either trying to have fun, beat other colleges, or do both – and that dictates a lot of the environment around the sport at the College-grade. Then there’s the Social-level, where you just play outside of these affiliations for kicks.

I do not think (in my wildest dreams) that I am capable of playing anything at University-grade at the moment. At best, I’m at College-grade in some sports (perhaps badminton & basketball, but not much else). The rest, I shall play socially, or to learn – for example, field hockey is something I’ve wanted to get back into for ages, and there’s finally the opportunity and the facility to do that. There’s also Boat Club to teach me rowing, which I’m super keen about trying.

It’s all very nice. All of this also involved a lengthy discussion with my parents trying to understand whether I’d actually be able to do what I wanted to along with my studying, and more importantly, whether I should. Particularly with contact sports. I’ve gained weight during the lockdown and I’m somebody who does better at sports rather than workout regimes and runs (even though I have been running consistently), so I’m hoping to use them as a vehicle to meet more people and get fit.

Badminton trials were insane fun though. I lost all my games, but I met a bunch of undergraduate freshers (17 year olds) fresh out of school who gawped at me when I told them I was a graduate student. It’s very weird to be considered old when you’re one of the youngest in your batch.

That was the most exciting event today, apart from fun events I did in the afternoon online, and of course, more studying.

MT Week 0: Day 3

I’m laughing at myself because I discovered this afternoon that this was considered Week 0 and not Week 1 of Michaelmas Term. The late discovery has meant renaming each of my posts from this past week, and facing the truth that no matter how many vlogs I watch, and how many bits of information I read about Cambridge and its quirks, I will be underprepared for the experience. This amusing fact kept me going throughout the day – and what a day it has been.

After completing some clerical work with the bank to update some documents, I made my way to the Sidgwick Site to see the Faculty of Law and the Squire Law Library. Last evening I had a conversation with someone who suggested I spend some time there in the morning, which led to a quick reshuffling of plans and booking a slot at the Squire. Owing to COVID, they aren’t operating at full capacity so booking a seat in advance is necessary, but there are no restrictions on the amount of time you can spend there in either the morning slot or the evening slot.

The building is an architectural marvel. Look up the David Williams Building and you will see what I mean. It’s at a right angle, but has a curved glass facade that allows just the right amount of sunlight to creep in and assist people using the library facilities. The lecture theatres are absolutely massive – I can only imagine what being there in a regular term must feel like, it must be swarming with people moving around, and the library itself, mwah. At GNLU, I was very fortunate to have an excellent library collection. I’m not extolling praise for no reason. We had pretty much every book I needed across my five years, particularly in niche subject-areas, but I think the downfall of the library was in it’s organizational structure (or lack thereof). Books here are so neatly compartmentalized, it was super easy to navigate around despite it being my first visit. The librarians are incredibly friendly, and so knowledgeable, I’m actually headed back tomorrow to get some recommendations from them. There’s also so much access online here. Despite these resources, I hope never to become someone supporting the paywall – I hope to continue fighting for open-access.

My morning pretty much went there. I cycled back past the University Library and the bookshops and came back home resolving to spend the day reorganizing and studying. I achieved the first – moving the position of some shelves to make the books I borrowed more easily accessible to me from the table, and I managed to set up some stuff I had put off for a while (my music and Kannada stuff largely). The second has been a real uphill climb.

I spent a while tweaking the system I developed yesterday and unlocking OneNote’s true potential (what an insane tool it is), and then I slowly waded my way through two articles, before realizing I’d done just two, but it was 11pm. I really need to get my mojo back – not in the least because at this pace I’ll be weeks behind my reading before classes kick off. The other downside is that I won’t have the time to do reading I enjoy outside of Law, so its best to get into a rhythm quick. Tonight and tomorrow, I say. I’ve made myself a big mug of tea to keep me company too. Very in-theme.

Slowly and steadily, my Outlook inbox is being flooded with e-mails from the different things I signed myself up for during the Fresher’s Fair. I’m glad I haven’t paid for any memberships as yet, because I don’t think I’d be able to do justice to more than a couple judging by the term cards and mailing lists, but I need to figure out which ones I’m most keen about and sign up to them in the next week or two so I can enjoy them to the fullest. I’ve already had to apologize to Eton Fives for not being able to make their taster session owing to clashing commitments.

Such is life, and life is such. It’s nice to be a busy bee after six months of self-imposed busyness.

MT Week 0: Day 1

So this is it? Michaelmas Term has commenced.

I’m done with my first official, official day at the University of Cambridge. Two officials are necessary since I’ve been here a while now, I’ve matriculated on a different day, the academic session started a week ago, but today, things felt like they meant more.

This morning I finally had the chance to meet my buddy at St. Edmund’s, who is on the fast-track 2-year Tripos Law program. Most Colleges create College families for freshers, but as a mature College, Eddie’s offers buddies to help us adjust to life here and ask questions we may otherwise feel like holding in. Very helpful. As both of us are Law students we attended a meeting with our DoS, Dr Sean Butler – as well as our Fellow, Ms Catherine Dobson. Apart from offering up free sandwiches, both of them were super encouraging. Coming here this year, amidst how uncertain everything is, and how imminent another lockdown appears was a risk, and it’s very gratifying to know that some faculty and staff recognize that. I think the struggle with everything moving online is making the most of all the social events Cambridge has to offer and the experience that it is; but every one is really working toward providing a safe atmosphere in which we can enjoy them. I think the only issue with that is the level of responsibility thrust upon every individual, and I can only hope everyone takes it seriously.

Post-that we had our LLM induction – which felt like it stretched on a little, but was essential for the Faculty to carry out, to provide us with all the information we need before we get into the reading. Finals this year are set to be carried out all online – as 24-hour, open-book exams. I have very mixed feelings about that decision, but I know I’ll have to now account for this method of examination while doing my readings and preparing notes per course as well, so I’m appreciative of their decision to announce this policy so early on in the year.

In the evening I cooked myself some pasta, attended a theological study group, and was able to reflect on everything this past week brought as I edited the podcast. It’s been surreal. My plans for tonight are to figure out how to actually allocate pieces of my time to reading – and to reply to my messages, because I feel friendships from afar slipping away slightly as my replies delay beyond 24 hours.

Another side-thing happening at the moment is that we’re trying to mobilize my school’s alumni association. So if you’re an Inventurer reading this, please reach out – we need the support.

Pre-Term: Day #8

Today’s the last day before Term actually begins, and this becomes a #Camblog for a short period of time. I can’t think of how this day could have been better. I woke up this morning and recorded a lovely episode of the podcast with my mother, which gave me a chance to think about how I dealt with some things before I came to University. You can listen to that tomorrow if you’d like. While eating breakfast I managed to catch-up with my childhood best friend after a week or so, which felt very strange especially given how we were speaking every day for nearly five months – and I went off to the Cambridge Union.

I debated during my undergraduate degree, and I enjoyed the activity. It gave me the opportunity to improve logical reasoning skills and make new friends, but it also brought back my reading habit. I don’t think I was the best debater at University, not by a long shot – but I had fun with it. When we were there, I remember discovering the debate clips from the Oxford Union and the Cambridge Union. Close friends of mine studied at Oxford and I was able to ask them what the Union there was like. I never asked friends at Cambridge about it, and I’m glad I hadn’t. This morning, I had my breath taken away from me. The Union is stunning. The building itself is just wonderful to look at, but the history – and the way it’s preserved is delightful. I was taken by the Chamber, and taken by the fact that the bicentennial debate was This House is not what it used to be.

How else to mark changing times?

They were kind enough to sponsor free ice-cream after the tour, a double-chocolate cone at Jack’s Gelato was my pick. A walk to Eddie’s to collect goodies & check my pidge, a quick stop at Sainsbury’s for some groceries, and I cycled back home to eat my lunch and finish some meetings.

The evening was actually when things really kicked off. I went to Wilko’s and picked up a kettle and some colourful pens I needed, cycled around Cambridge with a friend from Bangalore, and cycled up to Eddie’s once again – using a new route I discovered on Google Maps that makes the hill climb bearable. We played table tennis out in the rain; and I haven’t found a sport more thrilling, particularly because the wind made it seem like I had some incredible top-spin ability.

I’ve been back home for a while, and was able to catch-up with my household. Living with a family is really nice because you always come home to people – and it’s always pleasant to talk about new experiences you’re having with locals, to whom all of the foreign-ness I am experiencing must sound absurd.

Like I said earlier though – tomorrow is when Michaelmas Term begins.

From the Statutes and Ordinances of the University of Cambridge
The Michaelmas Term shall begin on 1 October and shall consist of eighty days, ending on 19 December. The Lent Term shall begin on 5 January and shall consist of eighty days, ending on 25 March or in any leap year on 24 March. The Easter Term shall begin on 10 April and shall consist of seventy days ending on 18 June, provided that in any year in which full Easter Term begins on or after 22 April the Easter Term shall begin on 17 April and end on 25 June.

To quip in Hindi, feel aata hai. These small bits of tradition give me joy – and I’m pretty eager to see how much my days change now that the University is in full-swing. I already know, for example, that tomorrow is packed with inductions and introductions, yet somehow, I need to attend a Virtual Fresher’s Fair to get to know about the Societies I want to join – and sign up to as many e-mail lists as I can. I’m also hopeful there will be free merchandise, but we shall see.

Pre-Term: Day #7

Today has been a very amusing day.

This morning I woke up and ran in the rain, which was a first for me. It’s taking some acclimatizing, and I’m being forced to pick between running quickly to warm up, and running slowly so I can actually complete a decent run. It’s very entertaining for me to look at how my head makes these decisions, and makes me more curious about seeing the inside of my brain one day. I do hope that becomes possible in my lifetime.

A solid run later, we were scheduled to walk from St. Edmund’s to Grantchester Meadows, a 3 mile walk – and so I walked to college, adding a mile to my own count for the day. Grantchester is a stunning little meadow close by to Cambridge with a little village and everything, where the Bloomsbury Group used to do a lot of thinking & writing. The walk was very pretty, and I was in excellent company, keeping me in rather good spirits in the cold and the rain (the real feel at one point said 6 degrees – so the worst is yet to come). What absolutely dampened most people’s joie de vivre was the discovery that The Orchard, our destination for the day, was shut. We walked back and I returned to the warmth of my home, hoping to spend the evening on some work.

I ended up playing some videogames and attending QuizSoc’s Fresher’s Pub Quiz – making new friends, instead. The quiz was super fun, and I really love attending new quizzes to see how innovative people get in coming up with unique rounds that they can add into their quizzes. There was a letters round today – asking you to find the letter that sets two words whose definitions were presented apart. For example, you’d see the part of the alimentary canal below the stomach; the intestine and round, circular dinnerware. That would be bowel and bowl, making the letter e the letter setting them apart. Another round was dingbats, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

A bit of work on our school’s alumni association, some international law reading, and writing this blog – and I’m a very pleased man going to bed, hoping to wake up in time for another run out in the rain.

Pre-Term: Day #6

Last night was legitimately crazy and I’ve ended up walking a whole bunch across cobblestones in my formal shoes, which is not a very pleasurable experience. This morning, I awoke to two realizations: it’s been one week since I moved out to my new home, and I’m four days away from the start of Michaelmas Term. It feels like the week has flown by with coffee meet-ups and learning Cambridge’s culture, but most of all, the week has been a lesson in the art of layering up. That’s right, not lawyering up, but layering up. I’ve understood since I’ve come here that a lot of my excuses to get out of social meet-ups when I don’t fancy going will no longer work. These are some I can no longer use:

  1. It’s raining too heavily,
  2. That’s too far away,
  3. I’m stuck in traffic,
  4. It’s too cold to meet-up.

None of these will work any longer. The weather here stops nobody, which is a testament to their character given how frigid the rain can feel. It’s also made me appreciate footballers more. On television, I always wondered why they wore gloves, and why their breath fogged up so much when it looked rather pleasant and the rain didn’t feel as heavy. I’m experiencing it all now, and trust me, I no longer understand how they play football at all.

There was a lunch meet-up and a household tea happening today which I was unable to attend owing to some work commitments (that reasoning continues to hold good here), and thus, today became a day-in. A day to rest my weary calves and thighs (barring a run in the morning), to sit, think, and work. It also allowed me to catch-up with family, cook leisurely and eat my food without wondering how to navigate to where I need to be next.

I was right. The two weeks of quarantine meant it would take me at least one week to want to stay at home. Trust me, I didn’t particularly want to either. I would have loved to go out – but sometimes the socializing urges have to give way to more practical things. I’m certain now that the art of time management is one that I’ll continuously get to work on over here.

Tomorrow I’m back out, and the forecast says it’s very cold, so I’m eager to see how things pan out.

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.

Moodle

Moodle is an open-source learning management system. Several Universities appear to have their own variants of Moodle, versions build off of the codebase that Moodle offers. Cambridge is no different. We’ve got our own Moodle, a virtual learning environment that allows us to enrol in courses and see all the material for our courses on a single database, in conjunction with Panopto.

I first heard of Moodle when I secured a place at UCL after Grade 12. UCL had us log-in to Moodle to communicate with the University, to inform them about impending arrival dates and everything. At the time, the technology didn’t particularly strike me. I only had access to the inbox side of things, and I was amused at how much the word sounded like Noodle, which for the most part just left me feeling hungry.

Late last evening, we received an e-mail indicating to us that Moodle was now open for us to log-in to, to enrol for our courses as students who wish to participate in the evaluation of the course, or auditors. I was too committed to a Pictionary night when I got the notification, so like most others who joined in for the game, I put off navigating Moodle for today. So I arose this morning knowing I’d discover something new.

Being in self-isolation naturally means that the feeling of being in Cambridge hits you slower. Moodle sped that up about two weeks. You log-in and see a smattering of repetitions and reiterations that you’re at Cambridge, and you can see details about all the courses on offer and the ones you’re studying, which for me – really grounded my brain in about the amount of academic work this degree is going to be. I’m certain all postgraduate degrees are the same way: a lot of rigorous, critical thinking, but boy did it hit me earlier than I anticipated it would. For a moment I was worried that perhaps I rode my luck a little too much during my undergraduate course but seeing reading lists and listening to Professors offer reassurances that prior knowledge is not assumed was rather helpful. In the least it will mean I can tackle the readings to gain foundational knowledge on which my term can build.

It made things very real, and for most of the rest of my day, I navigated Moodle to look at all of the material it stores and the range of ways it enables faculty to interact with us.

In the evening though, I had a puzzling thought. I wondered whether an attempt to create a Moodle would be ridiculed back in India. I look back at less-visually appealing attempts my own University administration made and all the various intranets we had, and I cannot recall being as awed by it. I’m fairly certain that unless forced to, we would not have used it at all. So why am I so thrilled when a University abroad creates an intranet portal that stores information?

My conclusion is this. I never properly utilized the intranet during my undergrad. If I had actually explored it’s full potential, I would perhaps have been equally taken aback. I know the library system at University shocked me when I realized everything was catalogued on our intranet and I could figure out if a book was available without walking till the library.

I missed that opportunity earlier, so tomorrow I shall wake up and navigate through more of Moodle and understand how it continues to survive open-source.

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

Exams Are Postponed

I slept really late last night, apropos my terrible sleep cycle (am I using apropos correctly?). The aim was to wake up this morning and begin studying – a task that would have fixed the sleep cycle. I need to be wide awake between 3 and 4:30pm, which is the time I’ll be writing exams, and I desperately wanted to do that today, to get into the habit of things. Except, I woke up and saw an e-mail on my phone that said exams had been postponed by a day and promptly went back to sleep. In fact, most of what I can remember from the day is sleeping. The other part is watching YouTube videos and reading. I’ve got 4 hours left in the day, in which I aim to start studying. We shall see how productive that ambition is in some time.

I can’t recall when my exams were postponed last. I remember there being some discussion around the postponement of exams owing to a senior national leader’s passing a year or so ago. The atmosphere on campus was this crazy blend of celebrating the fact that we may be getting a day off; when instead we should have been in a state of national mourning or such.

Before that, I don’t think exams at school were ever postponed. I’m the kind of person that stresses out about exams so I would have absolutely detested them getting postponed or advanced when they were given a designated date. Today, however, knowing that this is the last set of mid-semesters I will likely write, I’m absolutely okay with the postponement. It doesn’t affect me too much.

I would imagine the juniors at our University are less than pleased.