The Vacuum

When I set foot for the first time in Kolkata five years ago, I never knew that a day would come when I would miss it badly. Since my college was (yes, sadly it has become past tense now) situated more than fifty kilometers away from Kolkata, I never got the opportunity to spend much time in Kolkata. Nevertheless, I feel attached to the city. After leaving it, I realized I am more attached to Kolkata than Mumbai. Mumbai with its beautiful Marine Drive and vibrant city culture always attracts me. I have seen with my own eyes what they mean when they say Mumbai never sleeps. (By the way, Mumbai University campus does sleep during weekends) I always felt Marine Drive’s view of Arabian Sea is far more romantic than Howrah Bridge’s view of River Ganges. Now I realized I often looked on the wrong side of the Bridge. I was supposed to look inside the city and not away from the city. This is where Howrah Bridge beats Marine Drive. Of course, nostalgia helps me to forget the paan stains on the bridge and garbage floating on the surface of the river. However, if you watch from the Bridge during night time, then you would see what I mean.

When you stand on the Bridge, you realize it doesn’t provide you rock solid support. Instead it keeps on vibrating continuously as if to remind you how close you are to death. Even for an instant, if it fails to provide you support, then the next instant you would be on your own fighting against the mighty currents of river Ganges.  No, I am wrong. It reminds us of life, not death. The Bridge at each instant struggles to live and bears the weight of its Creator – humans.

During my time spent in Patna, I did miss Kolkata and Howrah Bridge but surprisingly I didn’t miss the bridge that connected my adolescence to adulthood (at least numbers tell me that I have grown to be an adult). Perhaps this was because I told myself repeatedly that I would be coming back to my institute in a couple of weeks. This denial of separation was tossed to winds when I came back to campus recently.

In the last two years, whenever I came back from my parental residence, it gradually dawned on me that the campus is not only far away from the city, but also disconnected from the problems of the real world. It is an escape from the reality. Here we are not bothered about either mundanes of running a household like arranging groceries and vegetables or headache of any Indian city — horn-honking traffic. Like everything else in academics, the whole of the campus is sealed beautifully in a transparent glass bottle. Now you don’t misunderstand me. It is not that the campus’s atmosphere is suffocating. Far from it. In fact, it is liberating in some sense. The soothing cool breeze that blows during evenings with yellow sodium lamps on streets is just heavenly. You would know what I am talking about if you have seen the campus during dusk from the bus as it takes a bend around Lalbatti (The Bud).

After a gap of three weeks, when I reached back to the campus this week, I found that the wind had become stronger. Apparently it blew away all of my past and numbed my senses. It was as if I had come back to a completely different college. The empty room, the empty wall, the empty corridor and the huge empty mess table with chairs kept on it upturned added to this feeling. There were a few people left in the college, and a fewer known faces were there. It was then it hit me hard that I could never come back to my college. There was nothing left for me to grasp in my fist. The only thing that was left was vacuum. It was everywhere — both outside and inside of me. And I just stared blankly into nothingness with my room’s windows open as the strong breeze kept hitting my face.

The adventure of a name called ‘Vaibhav Karve’

When Vaibhav Karve entered IISER K campus, his name had no indication that it was going to suffer any assault. During the very first lecture of Life Science on the first day, the instructor asked his name. He stood (at that very moment, Cupid got his first victim. Yes, somebody fell in love) and said, “Vaibhav Karve”. The instuctor said, “Oh! Baibhab Karbe! What is life?” He thought that this would be the first and the last mistake regarding saying his name. But he was wrong. This is life.
Throughout the first semester, during LS lectures, whenever sir called ‘Baibhab’, it took some moments for dozing Vaibhav to realise sir is calling him. But, no probs. Sir was considerate. But he always blamed sir’s wrong pronunciation for his getting caught dozing often. He waited patiently for the semester to end. Then he started looking out into this issue during vacations. Ah! he found out. In Bengali script, there is a letter which looks like Devangiri script ‘v’ but sadly for him, it is pronounced as ‘b’. So,in bangla, you can find stalls selling ‘vada pav’ exclaiming ‘bada pab’ in bold letters on their respective banners. On some cases, Bengalis become sentimental on their inability to use v. So, they use ‘v’ sometimes unnecessarily. For example, welcome has been noticed to be written as ‘velcome’.

In the next semester, all Profs including LS Prof got replaced. Thank God! Now no,Baibhab Karbe because new LS instructor didn’t prefer to call students’ name (He didn’t do this to save effort in remembering 90 students’ name. On the contrary, it would have been easier for him to do so because merely a score of them attended his classes. For he had droning voice that was almost guaranteed to cause severe drowsiness within ten minutes, five in AC switch-on mode. Most of them couldn’t resist the soporific power of his voice).The new Maths Prof was a young IITian who was the head of movie club. During roll-calls when he came to Vaibhav’s same, he called “Vaibhav Garve” taking inspiration from Bollywood style Mumbai Police constables.

On his birthday, he got a cake from an acquaintance living in Kolkata ‘city’. On seeing his cake, his friends started taking photo not of the cake, but of what was written on it- “Happy Birthday to Bhaibav!”
But that is not end of the story. One abnormal day when Animesh Biswas was not at his home, Vaibhav took his mobile and was scanning his phonebook for Bengali females numbers. If it hadn’t been Bengal, he would have passed that particular name without much ado. But surely he was not expecting his name to be written as such and that too by his own roommate (defining roommate as one whose belongings is kept in the same room) –

 “Bhaebab Karbe”

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