Thursday, June 10, 2010

Default - a reality based fiction piece


An ode to my budding buddies of undergrad

We never remained in one definite spot. At least, not for too long. It characterized the way we were explicitly sighted by others as it even implicitly defined our connections with each other.

It, in fact, loosely began in the cafeteria and further formulated in our common Christianity.

She continued to stare at the menu. With only seven minutes on her watch to fight her way into the counter, order the food, wait a while and force it down without acknowledging the taste; she bought a packet of chips. Familiarity detected with two in the crowd was excitedly reciprocated by one of the girls. “Come Margo, we don’t want to be late for CC class!!” cried Natasha as she held on to the silently maneuvering Caroline.

The “hall” (because it is so spacious) was packed. The conductors looked at the jostling crowd with optimistic hope of spiritual excitement, regarding the earlier announcement of compulsory attendance merely as motivation. We managed to sit cross legged on the rough carpets without hurting each other. It was no surprise that the plain clothed girls, some with drapes and others with hoods, occupied the front space, closer to the podium. Songs started before I could digest my “lunch” and the mayhem. And the song got over before I learned enough to participate.

The saree clad sister appealed everyone to add newer songs to their rotten list. Like everyone else, I looked at everyone else to respond. And suddenly everyone was looking my side.

Shit! They’re not picking people at random, are they? The raised hand beside me got up and I saw Natasha eagerly approaching the podium.

The session got more engaging as we noted down songs to be sung in the upcoming ones. It was one of those moments when I felt neutral to neither loving the activity nor hating it like a spiritual spoilsport. I became aware to more known faces around me. Somewhere it was reassuring to have a good number from the same faith. I accidentally peeked into her note as one of them was taking it down. The error was only minor to what I made of it. But my experience of the moment made it appear more ghastly. ‘Fear’ instead of ‘cheer’ was a precious mockery. We didn’t quite think alike since I solely sat laughing like a hyena for 15 minutes. Obviously, I did not make an impression with Nicole that day.

The import

Alex is the male counterpart of her catholicized identity of Alexandra. She only used it to introduce herself the first time. The first time, that is, when she coolly (despite being disoriented) walked into a bubbling discussion in general psychology. And involuntarily got roped in as an exemplary guinea pig. Later, caught hold by Natasha, who felt personally responsible of the foreign exchange, she just as naturally became a part of the troupe.

Margo is not a born suspicious character. However, she is always slightly weary in making first moves. This was more of a tendency than a strategy. But all the same, she hardly ever made pre-conceived remarks or opinions. So she felt as neutral to Alex(andra) as she did to a new pencil. Alex, in her turn, didn’t present herself in any particular way to like/dislike her. So there wasn’t really this big or risky chance that Margo was taking. But with the flow as she went, she made her first impression with her. Not a good one, again.

“So uh Alex…do you have like beaches and all to go to in your country? Said Margo in her attempt to sound inquisitive and make conversation.

Flabbergasted with the “intelligent” inquiry, Alex thought of the politest way of showing her shock at the ignorance of her motherland.

“Well…I am from Brazil and if you look at the map…here” Alex quickly scribbled a rough picture of her country with the continent “…you see its along the coast. So there are LOTS of beaches to go to”

Unable to find a better way of excusing her dim wits, she just publicly acknowledged it with a loud laughter. Alex joined in. She, at least, liked her humility.

There were two more lives connected to this fate. One, Sagarika, who like most didn’t immediately find her comfort zone. She was late for class and for the first orientation. So she only had the option to follow the crowd. But her beady slippers from “Africa” appeared gawky amongst the Gucci gang. Much to her delight, she found her permanent settlement with the late admission, Sunita (the second). To the rest, till then, Sunita was a kumari.

Seasons changed as people did.

Nicole maintained quite the public profile. More people than she knew knew her. All due to her natural charm. A charm Margo was always suspicious of but chose to say less to evade the risk of sounding envious. But even as Margo tried to look beyond, she still surfaced Nicole on the wrong percept.

Differences don’t keep us apart, prejudice does.

“She seems so different now. Like she hardly cares!”

“Yeah, and those two seem to adore her as faithful pupils would! Not to mention the loaded debutant that they live off”

“Look at her, hogging up the limelight”

The girls tsked and shook their heads in agreement and social disgust. However, these critical voices soon died in oblivion. The surprise fall out from the material girl meant the earlier socially despised girls were much more than just flatterers; an indication of real dignity.

Junior year, the year of togetherness.

We, recognizably, formed a full circle now. Because we were celebrating birthdays together. Courtesy may have played a huge role but it wasn’t all of it. Our socializations were diverse; from discussing fantasies on the field to cheering in musical competitions.

Whilst Margo continually joined the good times, there was an uncanny void. She knew we were just living in the moment. Her anxiety turns her to a fatalist, now and then, and to her dismay, reality does keep up.

An iron curtain that was transcendent yet translucent

It only took a boy to break the Brady bunch banner leading up to the great divide of senior year. Each one knew more of their respective side. It was hard being a fence sitter for some. But even bad fate has something in store for everyone. A lot of our individuality, which had either distorted or sidelined, emerged from the lack of a cohesive group.

Fate too unfolded in such unlikely ways. Margo learned of the person within Nicole as they tainted their lungs in bitter temptation. Nicole, after all, did care…even much more than others. Catherine found a judgmental accomplice in Nicole, simultaneously finding a mutual friend in each other. And Alex had begun to bond with Sunita…online. Natasha occupied the most detached yet unique position. Too busy with her man and away from the unpleasant yet never fully estranged. Sagarika had problems of her own; between piano and dancing lessons.

By critical assessment, we were a pretty dysfunctional group of friends. In my pessimistic best, I would even add air quotes to friends. But I could never completely convince myself of doing so. The meaning of friendship had leaped to connote something more pragmatic in three years. One would even suspect a superficial one, something I was afraid to conclude it as.

An inconclusive affair

I can’t speak individually for anyone but myself. However, I can say with confidence that the feeling of separation will settle at different moments in different ways. We know who will be quick to move on or will forever hold on; who will keep in touch and who will be out of mind as out of sight. But in unison, we shall all feel the separation. And it would hurt.

Like love, we didn’t so much as choose one another. It does happen, after all, by default. Default implies unplanned but not without reason. Our unifying reason being in congruence with whoever, however we are. And this congruence with each self led us to accept each other in our light, tan or thick skins. Only if all of us knew each one of the other a little better, this would have been a fairytale. But an open ended (rather never ending) series with lots of seasons isn’t half as bad. Did someone say LOST?

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