Sebi was new to film class. Her long pointy eyes incapable of a direct gaze was also new to us. During lunch hours, she would disappear in thin air like steam from a hot-water jar; leaving me little opportunity of getting to know her. She was a batch younger to ours and except for film we had no other class in common. However, in the long four hour class, twice a week, I would devour her with an all pervasive passion of a boy about to hit puberty. Which should tell you about my pursuit for this girl was more than a fleeting curiosity. For your information, I'm 24- mature enough to prioritize my crushes which were dwindling anyway as i started engaging with libraries and discs, rather than people.
The fact that i could be aroused by a girl who I barely heard was an incredible milestone for my emotional health. My friends have abandoned me more or less for my sullen response to their party invites aka a reckless night of watching porn. Oh Sebi! what have you done to me.. I find myself reading Neruda and listening to Billy Joel under the table during lectures.
This one time, I entered the class late to find myself sitting next to Sebi. A seat usually reserved for her faded brown duffel bag. Who knows what she carries in it. Weapons of societal denunciation I would suppose. But back then my thoughts were swirling like Sufi dancers in trance. i was sweating profusely in first week of March. Taking long deep breaths, I decided to take the momentous opportunity to my stride. Three minutes into the lecture, i found myself scanning her from head to toe; relentlessly searching for something peculiar, something odd, something to crack a joke about. For a punk hairdo and catty demeanor, she sure could have exhibited some quirks. Different earrings, different socks, perhaps a cheeky quote on her tee-shirt but no, she was calm like a river in a white salwaar kameez. Hale Berry has an Indian doppelganger I thought.
The professor was taking a class on the evolution of psychoanalytical theory; first propounded by Sigmund Freud. Thankfully, the class wasn't boring today. the professor broke into anecdotes from Freud's life. For instance- how his study was always replete with a huge collection of midgets and soldier toys from far east to play with. For a man offering life-altering insights on the sub-conscious and the unconscious, he seemed quite pantsy. The classroom environment had lightened a bit. Sebi smirked devilishly. While we were on the subject, I muttered out loud "Do you dream often", purposely avoiding an exchange of glance this time.
"hell yeah", she replied "Who doesnt".
Ceasing the moment spontaneously, I paraphrased my current favourite author Sue Townshed, "The only thing worse than listening to other people's dreams is listening to other people's problems". Sebi smiled this time frankly and warmly. i was struck by the simplicity of her dimples.
I clearly remember she was wearing a cheap cologne which could have smelled nice only on her. I was silent for next 45 minutes, determined to look stoic and dignified. Afterall it takes a recluse to befriend one. I mean if one were to scrutinize Coetzee's readership, one would find it dominated by retired colonels, divorcess, invalids and grumpy professors. It was clear by now, Sebi had no friends in class. I once overheard her classmates referring her as Lisbeth Salander from Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Led by an undying curiosity, I looked up school website to arrive at bonafide section. Her page didnt say much except that she was the daughter of Mrs. Manjali S. raised in a south Indian town. The empty blank under her contact number angered me much. Day and night I was grappling with the question:How did she turn into an enigma. What had drawn me to her? Physical attraction never lasts more than two days, and I was yet have a proper conversation with her. I mean she could be anybody-a vicar, a sleuth, a vampire or a rockstar living dual lives. I was reminded of how renaissance artists painted the goddess clad in satin clothing, hiding her private parts, to heighten her sexuality. On one or two occasions I eavesdropped on her conversations with classmates which were extremely curt and unavoidable. It always left her confused and befuddled, even though she tried to come across as a humble person. her sheepish smile in the end had almost become her signature expression. What could possibly be hidden in those elfin eyes. What was her vice. While i was going cuckoo with a fatalistic desire for her.
It was time to take grip over my emotions. I started spending more time in my room. I resumed to playing piano to wade her thoughts in my head. Luckily, the film classes did not take place for next three weeks limiting my movement from room to library and back. Once in the library corridor, we crossed paths and she greeted me with the same strange confused expression, as if she was unsure that we had met before. The same expression I would inevitably bear after a class on Derrida. she looked frail and skinnier. I decided not to acknowledge her presence ever again and forget about her all together.
It was a sunny April afternoon, I entered the department library listlessly when a flashy notice caught my eye. It read Sebi, student of Cultural studies was found dead in the hostel room due to an overdose of memory-erasing pills; accompanied by a picture of her long pointy eyes shut like Buddha in meditation.
Thursday, March 8, 2012
A pocket full of posies;
Hush! hush! hush! hush!
And all fall down
-first printed nursery rhyme
Among the most revered things about JNU, Holi gains a prime spot. It's probably the only national university which wakes up to the sound of people shaking their bottles to ensure a giddy cocktail of milk and bhang aka female canabbis plants at wee hours. Needless to say, it's India's version of Mardi gras and therefore much-awaited festival of the year for international students living on campus. Palpitating with excitement my German roomate and her gang bought colours, water-pistols and white-shirts a day before the festival from the campus vendors who in their hearts must be thanking Bollywood films and Shiva in equal measure.
This was my second Holi on campus. Armed with wild experiences from the last time and flu medication I succeeded in limiting the consumption of Bhang milkshake passed around in plastic water-bottles to a cautionary few sips. In an hour or so the drug began to show-up on everyone's face. The whole campus turned into a candybar cover full of smiley faces in colours of pink orange and yellow. On the other hand red, having more than an emphatic connotation on campus settled everywhere like dust. "laal hai bhai laal hai, JNU laal hai", some sounds have an after-life here on this campus.
Insanity level shot up, as the day progressed. Like all hallucinogens, bhang amplifies your state of mind evoking responses as diverse as human minds. A common experience reported by everyone is the illusion of time slowing down much akin to watching an Angelopoulos film. So it wasn't unusual for people to ask "How long have we been sitting here, looks like a day has passed". The most dramatic event of the day was watching a friend halt at the staircase, looking at the third floor with a quizzical look on her face. She had forgotten the flight of stairs she had climbed to get to the third floor, for it felt like the divine stairway to Vaishno devi temple quote unquote.
Holi leaves one with all kinds of adventurous tales. More than Diwali, it's time we start printing Have a safe Holi on hallmark cards. Today, the international students were first to chug the cannabis drink and subsequently the first ones to pass out. Along with the hazy memory of printing colourful hand-marks on white tee-shirts and dancing to confusing dhol sounds, what remains is the vision of a bunch of kids holding hands at a merry-go-round before they scream ..And we all fall down