Ever seen a German shepherd when he sees a bowl of his favorite dog food? If yes, you can get an inkling of my feelings upon hearing that I’d been invited to Manipal. Manipal! TAPMI! Yes!
Sweeter than the invite was the fact that I, as an alumnus of that blessed institute had been invited to serve on the Admissions Board. For me, having spent 5 years fighting impossible deadlines, even more unreasonable bosses, and a social life tending to zero at times, this selection was a sweet vindication of my worth. Made saccharine by the fact that it was an all expenses jaunt. So before you could say “hallelujah”, bags packed, and face scrubbed to a shine, I was on a plane off to Mlore.
I love flights. If it’s not the thrill of take off, and the feeling of freedom while up in the clouds, then it’s the hours spent observing the good folk at the airport. Smart stewards, sexy airhostesses (why shy away from saying so?) and curious passengers caught up in their own busy world make for amazing watching. Or is it that my co-passengers are too scared to put down their make believe world of Mr. PPT, Mr. Excel and Miss Blackberry & face real life?
Finally, I got to Mlore, rushed over to grandma, got fussed over BIG TIME, grabbed some sleep and hit the road to Manipal! How do I describe the ride? Lush green fields, clean water, quaint little bridges and miles of road, with cheerful little girls selling jasmine flowers, all along the way.
And so I alighted at Eden. Some prelims later, I was all ready for interview time. Hitting the men’s washroom to freshen up, I chanced into the old crooked mirror. Seven years back,at my admission interview, I glanced likewise, mirroring a face with edgy nerves and queasy stomach. Now, here I was, the prodigal son, leaner (poetic license here…), meaner (what do you expect after 60 monthly sales target meetings?) and definitely more richer (courtesy the customers who contributed to my incentives). I seemed to have bartered my innocence for all this though. Did I lose it for my own good or otherwise?
The next two days saw me wading amongst howlers, smart Alecs and smarter people. Given that I was being paid for institutional and perfectly legal ragging, boy did I emerge as a fast learner! And so we discussed college discipline, chewing gum, the farthest way to Goa and simultaneous equations. Pummelled cute girls into jelly. Converted aggressive men into whimpering pageboys . And took the occasional fire from the smart ones. Evenings late into the night went into sampling some delicious street food, tall milk shakes and ice cream. The highlight as always was the experience strolling down the pavement, into armies of college girls from all over town, and being relentlessly assaulted by Miss. Gucci and her pretty sister Miss Nina Ricci. And sometimes their glamorous cousin, Miss Chanel herself! Did someone say Scent of a Woman?
Like all good things, before you could say, “wake up!” I was flying back into dear Chennai and the real world. Still it was nice to feel wanted, so far away from home. Till I go back again, reflections are all there are to keep me company!
5 Years have gone by since I graduated, the world is a sadder place, governments have come and gone,stock markets defy gravity and sanity, but Manipal remains pretty much the same. The bikes are all there, as are the beautiful girls, slumped scandalously all over their boyfriends, riding into the sunset. The girls as always order from the menu, and the men pick up the bill. Equality – pfah!