The end of a semester

I woke up with a start.

It was 2:30 in the middle of the night. I could see my roommate had returned from his nightly study sessions at the Octagon Computer Center and was lying in bed, watching what looked like YouTube videos on his phone and enjoying a bag of crisps. I tried to fall back to sleep, but couldn’t. Every time I closed my eyes, the sound of him reaching into his packet of Lays woke me up. It was the minutest of sounds, but it kept me from falling back to sleep. I plugged my fingers into my ears to block it out. I think my roommate saw this, because despite my best efforts to disguise it as some sort of weird sleeping position, he quietly walked across the room, disposed of his pack of chips and returned to his bed. But I still couldn’t sleep! Now it was the night light! It was absurd. Suddenly I felt hungry, anxious, and angry all at once. I probably just wasn’t sleepy.

Moods like these are very rare, but when they come, I usually visit someone’s room for an impromptu chat, call up an old friend, read a book and try to distract myself. But this time I didn’t feel like any of it. Strange.

Out of ideas for what to do, I got off the bed, took out an energy bar from my cupboard and headed to the hostel terrace for a moment of solitude. It was a beautiful night. The moon was full, stars shining and not even a wisp of clouds to be seen. I opened the energy bar – I was running out of them.

It’s funny how sometimes your mind gets on a train of thoughts, really racing through events, thinking of so many things, and yet you feel calm and tranquil. These weren’t thoughts with anxiety, or contemplation of any sort – but memories – memories of good times and good company.

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Illustration by Ayush Mishra

I thought of previous term break back home, when I had been out to shop for these energy bars with my Dad, and how he had insisted on buying more boxes – knowing I’d run out of them – and how I kept declining, feeling that what we’d already bought was more than enough. I had moved on instead to the rack holding sauces and picked out a bottle of Thousand Island for the room. The bottle was still stashed away in the fridge, three-fourths full.

It had been a great vacation on the whole; but the beginning and end, like always, were more fun. And this is in part attributed to the pampering you receive on both occasions. When you arrive – you are always “As thin as a stick” and fed at least five times a day. When you’re leaving, you carry extra food so that you don’t return as thin as a stick. Your mum will pack you with supplies fit for a camper in the middle of a desert – which funnily enough is very much akin to life at NIT Trichy. Almonds, Walnuts, energy bars, chocolates, jams – from guilty pleasures to items on a nutritionist’s diet prescription – you have it all. But no matter how much you pack, it all lasts for about two weeks. Three if you’re lucky, a month if you’re frugal.

But despite this being an ineffective strategy, your mum will always pack it all, and your dad won’t think twice before making you buy more of it. Perhaps just for their peace of mind. I wouldn’t know. Parents are strange selfless creatures. Makes you miss them that much more.

And with everything packed and the mindset with – well, honestly no specific agenda – you head back to your dear old hostel, in your dear old college. Sometimes bad grades give you an agenda to work on – your GPA. Grade Point Average. Three words to send a college student on a guilt trip faster than a fat kid on a water slide.

The train of thought, so far happily chugging away on a picturesque mountainside, had jack-knifed off a cliff, and was diving down to its ultimate death. So I took an umpteenth vow, to work harder for – well, whatever was left of the semester – and headed back down to my room.

My roommate was still on his phone. He looked up from it and asked me what’s up. Nothing, I tell him. “Wasn’t feeling sleepy. I am now! The weather’s really great outside though.”

“Yeah, looks like it. Pity these windows are so tiny!”

“Yeah, ha-ha. Night!”

“Good night!”

As I grabbed my pillow I noticed he wasn’t watching YouTube videos anymore. Just seeing some old family photos. He soon put his phone aside though, and retired for the night.

Most people count sheep. I closed my eyes and counted the number of days to the end of the semester.

– Ayush Mishra
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