As I walked into the MRTS station at Kottupuram this morning, I noticed something I wasn’t used to seeing on a daily basis there. An old man lay sprawled on the floor, bare-chested. He was homeless, yes. Drunk, maybe. He lay there beneath the giant staircase leading to the overhead rail. Under his head he had a small bundle of clothes that he used as a makeshift pillow, with his slippers placed by his side.
Looking at those slippers, I couldn’t but help notice the familiarity of the scene to something I was accustomed to not too many months back.
Just over a year ago, I was still a student. Back in Ahmedabad, it was the culture of working in studio till late at night that got us used to sleeping in the studio / lab whenever the occasion demanded it – which was rather too often now, come to think of it! It was not uncommon to walk into a studio and spot an insomniac dog trotting about on its midnight rounds; until of course you caught sight of a student or two curled up on a drafting table, or sprawled on the discussion table, their slowly heaving chests the only indication of the life in them.
Sleeping in studio was something you needed to get accustomed to. People used to bring mattresses, chattais, bedsheets, pillows, and the occasional mosquito repellant to ensure a comfortable, albeit short, snooze before a jury. Some were innovative enough to dismount the drafting board and place it on a set of bricks that turned it into a makeshift bed for the fortnights of night outs before the finals every semester. This was in the days before they built the luxurious bathroom with the shower stall. Once we had a place to bathe on campus, nobody wanted to go home at all!
Me, on the other hand, I made sure I carried the bare necessities for a nightout. A bedsheet, a toothbrush, a toothpaste, a hairbrush and some facewash. Come 2 am every night, I’d open the windows of my big balcony (the view of which I posted here), spread out my sheet – but not too close to the railing- remove my shoes and put them someplace I wouldn’t see it first thing in the morning, place my laptop bag under my head, and I was good to go. In the summer nights, the breeze would blow like a lullaby to my frazzled nerves, and I’d find it hard to rouse myself 6 hrs later to start the new day.
And then, one day, I saw a rat the size of a cat darting from one balcony to the other, and that pretty much ended my sleep-in-the-studio-sessions.
Something about those old man’s slippers made me realize how much I missed being a hassled, stressed out student sleeping on a balcony for the 6 hours of her day that was really worth all the torture.
I am dangerously close to turning this into a ‘nostalgia’ post like this one, so i shall promptly change gears.
I guess there’s something about the spirit of an education that makes you want to be dirty, sleepless and basically, eccentric… for a very short period of time, of course. Quote from the play I’m currently rehearsing for:
“Angelica: Are you hungry?
Benjamin: Only for knowledge.”
Yeah, I know… corny line and all. But it symbolizes a lot.
Beats me. I don’t have to figure it out for a review/jury! I’m off to hit the sack.