...as we know it had come to a grinding halt over the past few weeks, thanks to a vile exam that yours truly decided to inflict upon herself in a fit of misplaced enthusiasm. The cranial cells were saturated with evil equations, the muscles were sore from lugging reference materials (each of which weighs approximately 4.215 kilos*) and the Boy was left to his own devices for one whole month.
But now that exam is over, I am back - happy, cheerful and free to stop and smell the flowers if I so please, without worrying about the amount of rainfall runoff generated by the meadow!! I am also free to spend countless hours in Ikea furiously comparing the Ektorp to the Vreta, the Markor to the Ramvik or the PS Eden to the Norden or the.....
And yes, I am enjoying it.
However, in the middle of all this I had to stop for a few minutes when a message popped up on one of the college e-groups. Meera Banerjee, the much feared and also much loved warden of the Meera Bhawan passed away on January 30th, 2008. It seemed impossible at first. To us, the lady who rode her bicycle to work everyday without fail, who could wither you with a mere look had always seemed sort of....indestructible. For us she was a force to reckon with, an institution to rebel against. Oh! how I hated her during my first year on campus. Every dictate of hers was directed towards making life miserable for us. We were advised to be in her good books. Bad things happened to girls who found themselves in the other book, or so we were told.
I remember furiously cycling back to the Bhawan on quite a few evenings, just to make the eleven pm deadline. Enforcing the eleven pm curfew was something she took rather seriously, sometimes even staying up late to have a word or two (those were some words, my friend) with those guilty of returning late. Requests for permits to stay out late were met with utmost scepticism on most occassions. But then who were we kidding? We wanted to stay out late at night because it was fun, because we felt we had the right to do so. Project work was just a convenient half truth.
Over the years, the fear gave way to respect as the enormity of her job hit home. When a measeles epidemic hit the campus, she would personally drop by the impromptu quarantine center and check on the unfortunate souls who had caught the bug. I was one of them. And towards the end of my four years in Pilani, we had even started talking. The conversations would start off with something mundane like the weather, coursework etc. and then veer off to all sorts of fun stuff. Her early days on campus, what she thought of my future plans, her views on campus policies, my views on the same.
I left campus for good in 2000. MBans as we called her, retired in 2003 and continued to live in Pilani. I never went back to campus but the vast network of alumni, friends and friends of friends managed to keep me feeling connected to Pilani over the years. With the death of Meera Banerjee a small part of that connection just broke. To all those who knew her, the hostel and warden were indistinguishable. For us, she was Meera Bhawan.
*Oooops...multiply that by 2.2046 to convert it to pounds mass. Incase you didn't know we are in the US of A and we totally refuse to move on with the times. Besides SI units is for sissies.