First Day of College: Expectations vs Reality

Humour

First Day of College: Expectations vs Reality

Illustration: Arati Gujar

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our last board exam paper comes with a mixture of anxiety, nervousness, and a feeling of relief is second to none. It’s like having a glass of cold water after hours in the sun. That short-lived relief is quickly replaced by stomach-turning sense of unease: 95%, and you could be in the coolest college with the smartest kids in town; 45%, and you could be homeless.

But no matter what the result, you were going to go to college. And if Bollywood, cousins, and seniors have taught us anything, it is that college was going to be awesome.

When you’re in school, all you want to be is a grown up so you can go to college. You look up to college the same way Nirav Modi looked up to LOUs. It’s a Utopia with unlimited freedom – you can wear what you want, attend lectures at will, eat as you like, and party whenever you want. Or as Ranveer Singh calls it, Wednesday.

Everyone remembers their first day of college quite vividly. There’s an inexplicable excitement in the air, akin to awaiting the first showers of the monsoon after three months of blistering heat. After all, that’s what a decade of school feels like – scathing, harsh, severe, choking, blistering heat.

I remember the time when I was heading to college for the first time. My preparations were – to put it mildly, and in millennial lingo – “extra”. This was the time when a sum total of two people (me and Ashmit Patel, let’s be honest) thought “spike hairstyle” would be a cool look to rock. It was when you fought with your mom for the right to wear torn jeans because they were in. You had Kurt Cobain’s face on your chest and Linkin Park’s “In The End” as the ringtone on your not-quite-smartphone.

An expensive watch from Ghaffar Market, a nice pair of sneakers from outside Bandra Station, and you entered hallowed portals of the college, the epitome of cool, i.e. a sasta rip-off of Honey Singh. The look had to be complemented with the best six-inch phone from the market to win the dick-measuring contest of whose brick could click better selfies.

After you were all dolled up and feeling on top of the world as a legitimate adult, wondering what to do with all your new-found freedom (Should you just elope? Become the Indian equivalent of Alex Supertramp from Into the Wild?), an elder will ask the super embarrassing question: “Should I drop you to college?” Thanks, dad, will you next offer to pin my handkerchief to my chest?

Leaving college behind is a bit like watching DiCaprio die in Titanic: It’s sad, but it is also beautiful.

While getting the right look seemed important, it was also important to make a great first impression straight off the bat. And that depended entirely on who you were seen with in college. You couldn’t show up on your first day with that chomu from school, who you never deigned to speak to. You had to enter with all the hot chicks and cool kids because networking was currency. The bigger the group, the more exciting life was going to be.

Or so you thought.

You didn’t carry tiffin because it’s not cool, only office-going and boring people carry their lunch. Obesity sponsored by McDonalds is cool. You bunked lectures for the same reason Donald Trump writes racist tweets – because you could and it was cool. There was a thrill to breaking rules, because losing your disciplinary virginity was cool. So you downloaded porn using the library WiFi and made out with your crush in the washroom. You just sat in the canteen or fooled around in the campus like Rohit Sharma in the recent IPL, because, you guessed it – it was cool.

Your first day of college was everything you thought it would be. But somewhere, after a few heartbreaks, exam failures, beer towers and reruns of F.R.I.E.N.D.S., you grew up. People ease into college life the same way a Scorpio eases into a Rohit Shetty script. After getting ragged and mocked a bit, you dial down the fashion. You go from Honey Singh lite to Patrakar Popatlal from Tarak Mehta. Then, the inflation rate hits you and you start getting rid of necessities like expensive coffee and “first day, first show” movie tickets. All the swag is drained out from your soul after you find your name in a few attendance blacklists and your parents are – in an embarrassing repeat of a practice you thought you’d left behind in school – invited to college.

Your friends circle, like the Congress’ political map, comes down from a two-digit number to merely three close friends. You dress up like Arvind Kejriwal and try to attract as little attention as you can. You’d rather sleep at home for a couple of extra hours than come to college and bunk to go to a mall. You travel in trains and eat ghar ka khaana because the concept of money is introduced in your life.

The journey of your college life can be summed up by the narrative arc of any American sitcom character.

Between your first and last day in college, you go from Jim Halpert in season one of The Office to Jim Halpert in season nine. Leaving college behind is a bit like watching DiCaprio die in Titanic: It’s sad, but it is also beautiful. After all the grand and exciting things you thought college would be, it’s the little things you’re going to miss – like the security guy you bribed to get alcohol in or the Xerox shop where you got chocolates instead of change. You’re going to miss the canteen pav bhaji and enjoying the entire class being punished for signing proxies (College rule #1: never bail out on anyone).

Change is constant, they say, and as you are about to leave college, new blood is making its way in. You look at all these new junior college joinees who’re sporting spiked hairstyles, wearing Kurt Cobain tees, arriving in posh cars and wearing fancy accessories, desperately in need of fitting in.

You want to give them advice and tell them it won’t matter a year down the line. But you’re in senior year and all your youthful enthusiasm has been replaced by a faux cynicism and jadedness. So you just look over to your friend and say, “Look at that fucking wannabe.”

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