Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Life 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.


Aditi Das Patnaik said...

" Hmmm...." is all i can think of saying... what exam did you take by the way?

Kumari said...

She was really good at her job though she got on my nerves most times. She spoke sweetly to my mum when she visited. I can't imagine MB without MBans :(

Nice write up.

Anonymous said...

Surprisingly if you think about it carefully, exams and death have a lot in common.
Exam (and death) is something every human distastes but then we all know it is inevitable and spend our lives preparing for it.
The examinee (and the dying) are objects of universal sympathy and respectfully quarantined from the rest of the blissful society.
Our near and dear ones are always left in a state of shock and they are unable to help us anyway......

We do not like exams because it challenges us to prove ourselves and we fear that we might not be able to live up to our expectations where as death signifies the end of a beautiful opportunity we call life.

May thee farewell .......

Alan said...

in response to anonymous... unlike death, there is life after exams. Also, I feel a bit sorry for anonymous. (s)he surely has died many deaths.

Sam said...

a sad aspect of life!! these links they break one by one as years pass.. till one day your alma mater might seem like something strange.. as if it has moved on.. without you!!

Anonymous said...

Dear Alan,
To elaborate your point which I deliberately ignored in my last post:
You see that a sad part about exams is you are forced to carry the burden of the ashes of your past (that is your preparations efforts and most importantly your result!!!!) while death gives you a fresh start (that is if you do not believe in afterlife/ incarnation etc if you believe then its no different) So in any case the analogy extends only if you are a believer.
For me personally it doesn't.

As for me to be reborn fresh after an apparently dismal situation is the most wonderful thing. Yes figuratively I died many deaths. Thanks for your sympathy :)

Joy Forever said...

Well... That's sad news. Some time around 2000 I had come to know that a relative of some distant relatives of ours was the warden of the BITS Pilani Girls Hostel, and the fact that the hostel was called Meera Bhavan and the warden Meera Banerjee seemed too hilarious to be true. Although I never met her, I always used to brag to my BITSian friends (I have quite a few) that the girl's hostel warden is my relative!

Anyesha said...

Aditi: It was a proffessional licensing exam.

kumari: yep, she had this way of talking to parents that would make them feel like a million bucks.

anon and alan: Now that was some discussion on death and exams. I have never thought about both in such a rigorous way ever!! We should add exams to that famous list of things certain in life - death and taxes.

sam: I agree...sooner or later one's alma mater exists just as a pleasant memory. The people who made it a memorable experience cease to exist and without them the buildings seem empty.

joy_forever: How uncanny!!You and I share the strangest of connections!!