A Love Letter to the Idea of Ashoka  

 

In a room full of baggage, luggage and clutter

A place I call ‘home’

2179 kms away

Bangalore, India

 

18 August 2016

 

Ashoka University

2179 kms away

A dot on the map amidst

Barren lands and maturing dreams

 

Dear Ashoka,

I’m a day away from flying to you. I sit here all heavy and jittery, not ready per se but oh, armed with bucket-loads of excitement, fully aware that this letter might reach you long after we’ve met, yet compelled to splurge words to you. How are you?

Back home, Ashoka, everyone has been wishing me ‘a good beginning’. But the truth is, only you and I know, we’ve already begun. Right from the time I first Googled you, and stalked your online presence, we’ve begun what’s not reversible.

I must’ve built you with the cement of my mind a million times over by now, probably to the point of tainting your independent, indifferent existence, and run you over with a bulldozer again, leaving behind a debris of biases, swept to a corner in the hope that it will not erode over our relationship. I’ve rummaged across circles, Ashoka, to pick every little story about you that I can find, and used them up to fill blanks and make you a giant saga. I’ve seen the sleep-deprived smiles on their faces, hunted for words to match my urge to learn, and observed the apprehensions sieve in and out of my peers. We’ve all walked that phase, finding finally a probable spot worthy of losing sleep over. Worthy of investing in. Worthy of waking up our hope to engage with the world, that the last fourteen years of schooling have somewhat made dizzy and tired. That long-drawn journey that I’m only reminded of with the smell of fresh brown cover and the noises of fest crowds in the distance. You’re not my first, Ashoka, you’re a third. First of which I was too unaware to consider and so I just went with the bumpy ride that opened my eyes to ideas of reality. The second was admittedly—a fling, yup, a dash of glamour and struggle for balance, one I’m still not sure how it turned out.

But I believe that all the farce was just so I could be groomed enough to receive you.

 

Giant facebook groups, people will say, are not the ideal way to step into something. They look at us like we look at Tinder, Ashoka. With the cynicism in their eyes glinting at us, with me cowering back a little afraid that the harsh shine might be a mirror shining my fear, my scepticism, my insecurity and my helplessness back at me. After all, we’re an institution. But we’ve walked those phases too. Of belief in the face of doubt, of melodrama before our welcomes, of leaning at your walls before we know what to do, and of taking agency of our concerns before we know them to be true.

We’ve walked, that whole time, only partially visible to each other—the time when I knew exactly what to expect. Textbooks in the trash, running around prepping for events, writing and rewriting, evenings of poetry, staring at the sunset over Coke Studio, signing up for clubs hoping to not take myself too seriously, and burying humiliations and inadequacies over happy times and lungs that take full breaths. But I’ve been over this filmy reel enough to know that I don’t know, actually. I’m often left that way, Ashoka, when idealism descends to reality. When you’ve signed up for the whole meal, not just dessert. When a cherished dream manifests itself into everyday life. I don’t see those images any closer than they were, when I know I’ve to share you with about a thousand others, and put those shots together frame by frame.

I suspect if you’re as all in as I am, sometimes.

I imagine it must be hard for you too, though, this weird polyamory, with a three hundred starry-eyed kids with a three-hundred Ashokas packed into their little heads every year. It must be hard, standing tall against the famous Sonepat skies, chin up at the incessant romanticism of naïve hearts that have longed for a place they can belong. Hard, this lurking pressure to fulfil, when all their directions are slightly off your compass. Some looking for Shakespeare, some looking for a trip to DIFF, some with a top notch trekking plan, while all others climb is a table-top slamming away to delighted finger-snaps, and yet others wondering if you have Pokestops.

We’re already more eager than you can imagine, Ashoka. We have conversations with vulnerability. We’ve let go of the familiar, adjusted our postures to suit change. And we await what nostalgic 20-somethings claim will be “the adventure of a lifetime”. But deep down we know that all our mental exercises are no match for the real you, whatever that means. We know that what you’re going to be is far more overwhelming. And that we’re far less prepared for it than we think we are.

 

How many other relationships do you get into in full knowledge that it’s meant for the long haul? You’re going to see our homesickness, Ashoka, our guilt over parental effort, our drive and our struggle. You’re going to absorb it all. To top it off, you’ll give us all a designated space in your heart marked off by a room number.

I’m…already indebted to you for that.

I’ve come to realise that above all, it is the fear of losing you that haunts me. Losing the idea of you. Losing the why of us. But maybe that’s a good fear to have; it will weigh up our moments, and let us stumble. I know that we’ll figure our way out, crawl into each other’s lives perfectly. And I know that we’re counting on each other—you to deliver, and me to assimilate into and create your culture at the same time. So now that we’re here, let’s.

See you in exactly two days, till then—it’s a date!

Clingy, awkward and yours,

Nidhi

Undergraduate Batch of 2019

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