BITS Pilani – so many years ago…
The desert sands stretched as far as one could see. The road meandered through the yellow dunes, rocks and scattered thorny bushes. Stunted keekars stood like lost sentinels guarding that emptiness.
Drip irrigation was something only read about in articles on Israel and still a long way away in the future.
The oasis of the campus consisted of buildings with typically colonial arches and faded yellow and white structures. The gardens though were lush and green. The trees with their red flowers spread their branches over neatly laid out roads.
Memories of the gritty sandstorms layering everything with a fine glaze impossible to remove, the cosmic man on his pedestal outside the museum reaching for the sky and the final farewell with drinks at the Flying Club airstrip followed by teetars at Panditji’s – these would remain with most of us always. As would journeys on the night train to Delhi on freezing winter nights huddled five-strong under a single blanket on one berth.
Unknown to us, each moment experienced there, was forging links that were to last a lifetime. Time and distance had no essence in this closeness that was developing. The strands forming the bonds were flexible and could pick-up and let-go at will. These in the future were to form the basis of our relationships.
And thrown into that cauldron of life was also the craving and intensity of youth – which carried with it the un-chartered depths of anger, joy, laughter, despair – and a passionate search for answers to the purpose of life, who and what were we, where our destinies lay.
With others it was a desire to excel and reach those high pinnacles of imagined success.
We were to remember the once-heard-never-forgotten piercing call of the peacocks, lost in their loneliness, looking for a mate in the darkening dusk, and the earthy, risqué and bawdy Rajasthani folk-songs sung by the mess-workers to the foot-tapping rhythmic beat of the hand-held “dhapli” – the words of which never failed to evoke grins in all who were listening.
On cool summer nights we would lie head-on-laps on the lush lawns of the Saraswati Temple, listening in melancholy to the throaty rendering of ‘Mere hatheel Shyam..”.
Perhaps, if one listens carefully enough today, the strains of that voice may still be heard echoing through the Temple lawns in the descending darkness of the desert nights. Sadly the singer is long gone.
It was as if the voice, the song and the ambience of those nights, all together, in retrospect, seemed to eternalise our prayers, longings and yearnings for all that was there.
These were moments etched in our lives by the desert sands to become memories that would last many lifetimes – for all and the many that lived them….
At times an overwhelming nostalgia triggered by events, gives rise to an ache – to perhaps, if possible, re-visit in real-time the magic of those days, that gave us this togetherness which still survives.