Monday, May 11, 2009

Walking into.... just another day

He opened his eyes slowly and uncomfortably. Slowly, because he had slept after 12:30 AM in the night and it was just 5:50 AM in his watch. Barely, a five hour sleep. Uncomfortably, because when he came to senses, he realised the moistness around his neck and chest caused by the sweating through the night. Damn the hot, humid summer and the stuffy room, he said. Since he had slept late last night, he was in no mood to get up. But, the sultry summer and his east-facing window didn't make things any better. He could never sleep if there was light entering into his room. Again, damn those people who designed this hostel, with windows facing east.

He woke up grudgingly, wiping the sweat off his body while trying to get a grip of the situation. His stomach belched violently and along with it left a taste of the beer he had last night. Moving out of the bed, he cursed himself for drinking and eating more than he could handle and for the millionth time vowed to reduce his alcohol intake. The next moment itself, he knew, he wouldn't be able to keep his own promise. Not that he was a habitual or regular drinker, but being a student, he couldn't spend too much on alcohol. This meant that very few treats involving alcohol would not go beyond beer. It had been a treat in his honour. For the past month, he had been helping his fellow Teaching Assistants (TAs) with their TA-work. Those TAs weren't acquainted with the work assigned to them, although being TAs meant that they should themselves have learnt those things. He had sacrificed his research work and had a shown-down with his advisor and himself lagged behind with his TA-work. His fellow TAs gave him a treat (and themselves enjoyed much more than he did) to express their gratitude for his help. And they drank and ate merrily till the waiter told them to place their last order.

Nevertheless, all the merry making was over and now he had to face the day after an improper sleep and with a hangover. While going through his daily chores, he began planning his day. In the planning stage itself, he conceded that he would be forgetting to do half of the stuff. Giving a sigh, he resolved to prepare a to-do list everyday, before starting off from the room. The mood was still not so good. The daily activity of washing clothes seldom interested him. Darn those councillors who put a ban on the practice of washing undergarments in the hostel's washing machine. They felt that undergarments can spread skin diseases, but soiled sports clothes cannot. Where did this common sense come from, he said to himself, cursing them again. Any ways, he went through his daily ablutions.

The cold shower removed all the discomfort and made him feel fresh. The bath left him with a feeling that one would have if he/she entered an air-conditioned room on a hot afternoon. This period of the day is what he liked most. Grooming himself for the day, he did it in style and pomp. Talcum powder to prevent clothes from sticking the body after it sweats, deodorant to ward off offensive body-odour, which invariably came back after a few hours. Later in the day, he would be asking himself, why does he spend so much on deodorants if they can't keep body-odour away for eight hours. This was followed by applying hair-oil to his scalp, to keep the hair silken and shiny. Clothes that were always carefully chosen, creased and never soiled, went on next. Soiled clothes immediately found themselves in the wash bin, from where he would put them to wash once a considerable number had accumulated. Finally, he sat for his daily prayers. He didn't miss them, always starting the day by reciting prayers to various Gods and Goddesses. The prayers were in four different languages- English, Hindi, Marathi and Sanskrit. He prided in having a good command over all four of them. But at the end of all the praying and hymn-chanting lied only two wishes that he repeated to God and hoped would come true soon. One, was that his progress in research should accelerate now, and two, he wanted to complete his Ph.D. before his TA-ship, alternately termed as stipend, runs out. Today too, he was repeating the same prayers to God, but with more rigour.

It was now time for him to start for his lab, where he would spend the entire day trying to work on his research problem. With a final look at himself, he then packed his sack to carry various things like books, papers, sheaves of documents, cheque-book (?), etc. to the lab. To make sure he hasn't forgotten anything, he took a final stock of his room. Once assured that everything he needed was on his person, he locked the room and headed straight to the mess, wondering what would be served for breakfast. For him, breakfast was the most important meal of the day. If he had a sumptuous breakfast, he wouldn't come back for lunch, thus utilising the extra time for his work. As he entered the mess, lost in his thoughts on organising the day's work, he was greeted with the aroma of steamed idli and fresh, hot sambar. It was just the type of breakfast he needed. Light on the digestive system, yet sumptuous enough to skip lunch. Today, though, the reason to skip lunch was different. He wanted to give some relief to the stomach after last night's overload. Still lost in his thoughts, he collected his breakfast and sat with a few friends who had already begun munching on their meal. The topics on breakfast table were generally the same everyday. What happened last night, the headlines in the morning newspapers, the breakfast itself, politics in the institute and many more rumours. They all discussed most of these events fervently, while simultaneously munching their breakfast. As he gulped down the last drops of tea, he rushed to catch the bus to the department.

With the day becoming hot already, he was happy about the internal transport system which, if non-existent would have meant that he would have to cycle to the department. On a hot, sultry summer day, this activity would be torturous, he thought. He boarded the bus and found a seat next to the window. On a normal day, the bus would be crowded with students at this point of time. He and many of his colleagues used to plan their mornings such that they land up at the bus stop just after the lectures had begun. This ensured that all students who needed to attend lectures would have gone, therefore reducing the rush in the bus. Being summer vacation time, the bus was relatively empty. Sitting in the window seat, he waited for the bus to start. Along with it, would begin his journey into another day of a research scholar's life.
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  1. hmmm...perhaps semi-auto-biographical fiction :)

    If i had written such a thing...i would have woken up at 11:55, and hurriedly taken an auto to dept to get the signature done with...strolled back to the mess...had lunch and hit the sack again

  2. Was this a day in your life? Nice reading it...reminds me of my college days...

  3. kaushik,
    this happens with many PhD students @ IITB. so, it is general enough not to be termed as semi- autobiographical ;)

    not really a day in my life. i may face it sometime, but then many people have an identical start to some of their days

  4. damn.. u hv da same template as i do.. :(

  5. shown-down with his advisor ??

  6. idli and fresh, hot sambar

    H1 foo I d was better than what I manage to cook now...those god old days

  7. @ PK,

    need to add some masala... BTW, it is a work of fiction. if u feel there are any similarities with any person living or dead, it is pure coincidence.

    ha ha... about your comment on food. Man always desires what he doesn't have. No worries man, these days too will pass