The Curse of the Ring
It was my first winter in Ahmedabad. And a cold winter it was. I remember very few things from that period, maybe there was hardly anything worth remembering. Not from that winter, and not from the few months which followed it.
Although I do remember the irritating smell of fresh paint in the new hostel, the constant playing of Sayonni by two lovely seniors, who were never awake in mornings, and who hardly wore anything more than a lal chaddi. And yes, I recall sleeping a lot, waking up to my roommate singing Kishore Kumar songs. I remember him slowly breaking out from his pre-college cocoon, ready to fly, but confused how to flutter his wings. I remember the dingy and dark classroom, so much different from the first semester, when things were brighter, when gardens seemed greener, and people around me seemed so cheerful. I recall the guys not taking a bath, and I certainly recall guessing which girl had n0t taken a bath. There was a new food court in plans to challenge Brijwasi, putting my new found weight loss to test, a 15 KG miraculous loss was unsustainable few said. I remember me evolving from a small town slightly confused person, to an extrovert and loud, but still a confused person. Film club, cricket club, elections, cultural festival, joy, fights and sorrows, the second semester in DAIICT was about everything, other than studies.
I remember that it was around this time that I started reading a lot. Past couple of years had been spent in flipping through thick volumes of PL Soni and Morrison and Boyds of the world, but it had still not killed my childhood passion of exploring books. More than gaining knowledge and killing time, reading at DAIICT was about walking together with a brilliant flock of students and faculty who also read a lot. I remember picking up classic fictions from friends, few biographies and short story collections from library, and also at times fiddling with Asimov and HG Wells after which I decided to stay away from Science Fiction as I found it slow-paced and inconclusive.
It was during these times that I encountered Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings in my friend LKP’s hands. LKP (read la ka pa) always used to carry it around with pride and laziness. A torn book with yellow brittle pages and green cover had been a subject of two recent blockbuster movies and innumerable discussions (although nothing beats the amount of discussions on Matrix during that year) at hostel. Quite naturally I went ahead and borrowed the book.
It was a slow start to the book, as I progressed I flipped back and forth to have gaze at the Elvish key and the map of middle earth. The initial journey and formation of the fellowship was still not arousing the level of interest I had expected.
And then Chicken Pox happened.
It had been spreading in the hostel, I got it, missed 4 weeks, missed the mid-terms, screwed my academics, who cares, this semester was not at all about studies.
A lot of home-care, further weight loss, and few neem baths later I was back to college. I tried to get a grasp of the acads but they were too distant now. Trying to complete Frodo and the fellowship’s journey was of much more interest to me than exploring shortest path algorithm or breadth first search. So it was a week before the final exams that I picked up the book again.
And then Viral Fever happened.
The exam and its results are something which I don’t want to discuss. But over the next couple of months I went through an intriguing journey of discovering rural India and its tribal populace with one of my favorite professor and a bunch of inquisitive teenagers. Even during this period I read a lot and discussed my readings with friends and professor. After the rural internship and vacation I was back on campus again, the bright semester had started (somehow I felt, the odd semesters were always brighter and better, the even ones despite the fests were somehow marred by something or the other) and I decided to pick up the book again and start reading.
And then conjunctivitis happened.
People close to me know that I am a bit more than the usual superstitious fellow, and the next thing I did was to give the book back to LKP. A few months later I went ahead and saw the movies, and I have seen it hundreds of times since then admiring each and every piece of what Tolkien imagined and how Peter Jackson articulated his imagination. But it has been extremely difficult for me to order that book. In fact I have never dared to touch a copy of it again.
The small yellow pencil, wearing a friend’s wrist watch, putting on the same jeans for each and every exam, the timing of a haircut, sitting at the same place or doing the matchstick trick during a cricket match, eating the same breakfast on important days, not drinking on certain days, scratching the forehead before an important meeting etc. etc.
Is it only me who is afraid of superstitions or do I have others around for company too?