This region of Vilathikulam-Nagalapuram-Pudur should feature in any list that containts the most backward regions in the whole of Tamil Nadu. Since it's completely a deserted-rural area and there is no major town anywhere close by, the lives of people from that region has never improved. Urban lifestyle, technology, fashion... everything reaches there very late. In any college you can find region-wise groups. Seeing that if guys from our region try to form groups, they will be disappointed. I don't think any college will have more than five people from our region. That's the maximum one could think of. Despite that whoever went for higher studies went northwards only. Generally, it's places like Aruppukottai, Virudhunagar and Madurai that we prefer. Few go to Sattur also. Not just for education, for everything our people went northwards only. We hardly have people that have any connection on the south side. Only those who have their mother's place that side might go that side. There may be a few people like me who went southwards for their education as well without knowing really why they did so.
What to do?
Let's first see how I went southwards. Like majority, even I went northwards to Aruppukottai for higher secondary. One thing I was very clear during my higher secondary was that I would study only Computer Science irrespective of whatever marks I score in higher secondary. If the marks are good, I would go for B.E. Computer Science; if it's lesser then I would go for B.Sc. Computer Science; if it's worse than that then Diploma in Computer Science. The reason - two of my cousins who had chosen computer science (Prakash - B.Sc. in Computer Science and Mahesh - M.Sc. in Computer Science) had quickly come out of all the initial troubles and were almost settled in good jobs. I strongly hoped that they would help me get a good job if I choose the same subject too. Those days, it was not so easy to have such guidance for those who were educated in such remote places. So, that way, I think, I should have been extraordinarily lucky.
So, with a very clear idea about future, we were waiting for the results. The marks were less as expected. They were less than what we had expected also. Even if it was the same as expected, I could have joined Engineering. We were also clear on another thing - only if it is a free seat we will go for Engineering; otherwise, a strict 'no'. We were not interested in going for payment seats with self-finance colleges. It's needless to say - it's not just the 'interest' that is required, right? Not only that. Only extraordinarily intelligent students were studying Engineering those days. Since I was becoming worse year after year, I had to drop that idea. From the next year itself, I could see that both higher secondary marks as well as Engineering seats were given generously. That's because the number of Engineering colleges suddenly jumped up. Many times, I have wished I were born six months later.
Okay, let's talk about what happened. The time is never enough to talk about what did not happen, right? Ifs are always exciting but they are things that didn't happen, right? So, no point! We were almost sure that we won't get Engineering seat. We didn't try for anything else. A family friend of us from our place - Mr. Paul Pandian was working as lecturer in Aditanar College, Tiruchendur. He is still continuing. We checked with him as to what could be done next. He said, "We may be able to get computer science in our college for this score. Let's try!". We tried. We also got a seat. We have talked so much about my future plans with him right from childhood. I have proudly talked about my plans to go to Russia to study medicine and all. Finally, the plane that planned to go to Russia landed in the same college where he worked - that too with his guidance.
Joined the college. Joined the hostel. The first day in college was over. When we came back to hostel, there were a lot of introductions and self-introductions. Heard a lot of stories about people crying in different rooms. I don't know how the others that didn't cry felt but I felt that there was a strong feeling to cry though I managed to control it. It was not the first time for me to go away from home. So, it was easier to manage. However, the first day in any new place where you don't have anyone known is always difficult to handle, right? That too in the evenings it would be very tough. Evenings have an extraordinary power (I think, there are too many 'extraordinary's today!). It's very difficult to conquer that. We all decided to conquer it. By going to the beach. Beach? Yeah, it's not too far from our hostel. It's just behind the hostel. We can see the tides if we go upstairs. So close! A tsunami will wipe off the whole structure. It's so close! But, luckily, when tsunami hit the whole of coastal Tamil Nadu in 2004, nothing happened in Tiruchendur. The media had their own stories for that also. On the first day itself, we were also told that there were only two colleges on the seashore in the whole of Tamil Nadu and ours was one of them. So, we decided to go and see the beach in a much closer proximity.
One can easily hear the sound of waves sitting inside the hostel itself. We went to see it even closer. As we got closer the noise got bigger. We were scared to go any closer. The thoughts of seeing the same sea in the same place in childhood once when it was all the more scary kept coming to my mind. I had also seen it in Rameshwaram, which doesn't make so much noise. People back in our place call the Tiruchendur sea as male sea as it makes so much noise and the Rameshwaram one as female sea as it is silent. Poor people - they are calling it reverse. Maybe, they would have corrected it now. When we went closer, I started feeling as if there was going to be something like tsunami in next few minutes even in the days when that word was not known. Some of my friends were scared like me. Some others were emboldening everyone saying, "All these fears will be there only on the first day; see you will get used to it within a week!". It did happen. We got used to it.
There were a lot of people on the beach. All of them were the hostel students. Mostly, the first year students on their first day. There were also some seniors who were engrossed in enjoying the beauty of the sea by singing some movie songs. There is no dearth of songs for such people in our movies, right?! They were just lost in their own world. It didn't look like they were all 'love-failure' cases. They looked sad but the sadness didn't look to be real. To me, they looked like the ones who wanted to fall in love with someone and then they wanted that love to fail and then they wanted to sing those songs in sadness. Or, maybe, the sadness was because they couldn't even dream of going near the girl they had in mind. Whatever... they were teaching how to enjoy the next three years in such artificial sadness to their like-minded juniors who had just joined. It's needless to say that some of my batch mates also started like that afterwards.
The Next Day
The second day itself was a holiday. It was very helpful for us to get introduced to all. There is absolutely no ragging in our college. I am sure it continues like that even now. It's one of the best colleges in southern Tamil Nadu. Be it studies... games... extra-curricular activities... our boys rock in everything and everywhere. Hmm... Let's come back to the second day introductions. People were forming gangs based on their regions. For many people, there were known friends from their own place already. But, I didn't have that privilege. When I scouted throughout, there was one person from our Vilathikulam region. I could find another interesting, in fact a more interesting, person. Someone who studied in the same higher secondary school and hostel in Aruppukottai where I had studied - Mr. Mohan Ram. He is from a place called Thangachimadam near Rameshwaram. He had come out of school two years earlier so I didn't have the opportunity to know him in school. But, since he had wasted one year in between while trying for Engineering seat, he was just one year senior to me in college. As I was very close to him, I became very close to his entire gang. He was very popular in his batch. He looks tall and stout like a police commissioner. He looks scary but is a very friendly man. Good person. That day, a gang of some fifty people, led by him, went to the beach to take sea bath. That's the day when the fear of sea (should be some phobia!) vanished gradually.
Right from day one, I was roaming around with his batch. This irritated some of my batch mates. Somehow, I have been very fond of being with elders from childhood. I feel more mature when I do that. It roots from the feeling that the people of our age are not as mature as us. I know that it's wrong and it would be called arrogance but I have never been able to conquer that feeling fully. The price I paid for that in college was too much. All my batch mates used to look at me differently. Most people talked about it as a big problem. I used to try to reduce my connection with the seniors and increase it this side but in vain. Likewise, the sub-warden Mr. Vairavaraj who was taking care of the hostel was from our computer science department. So, I used to speak little jovially with him. My friends used to have problem with this as well. Some even doubted if I was his spy. This habit of defying boundaries still continues. I mix up with everyone - people from all cultures even in work place without having any reservations. Generally, people form groups based on many things in work place. But, I always love crossing borders. My intention is not to irritate anyone's eyes but that's how it's taken most of the times. According to me, it's just an attempt to be boundary-less.
I don't know how it is in other colleges and hostels. We had something called 'committees' in our hostel. They used to be responsible for all administrative jobs. Just like ministers! Like each ministry having a minister or two, each committee would have some members. Mess committee, Sports committee, Magazine committee, Audio committee, and Hygiene committee are some of them. Each committee would have two to five members. If there are two, one would be from second year and the other would be from third year. These committee members would generally be popular in their batches. Or, let's put it this way - Only the popular guys in their batches would get nominated for these committees. If one was interested, it was a great opportunity to hone their managerial skills while being a student itself. Even there, there were guys who looted the hostel money (only few, not all!). That's when I realized that even if our politics is filled with educated fellows it may not get better drastically. Corruption is in our veins. Some of my friends did a good job in that as well. I have also seen how difficult life is for them.
Mess committee is the most powerful one. There is lot of money. Not just that. You would get good food. Special food! The mess staff would pamper them because they are like their bosses. Even the wardens would give them some respect. Though there were no elections for this, it was almost like the students union in the college. It had equal respect in the hostel. I had decided to become one of these committee members right in the first year itself. I just believed that it would be a good learning ground for me as I was dreaming to join politics later. Only when I came to second year did I realize - Just like joining politics, even that's not a kids play and not all can do that so easily and successfully. There were bigger big shots who were born and designed for these things. I got - Yoga committee. That also was because of my closeness with Vairavaraj sir. He was the one who taught Yoga so generally the computer science boys who were close to him would be nominated for Yoga committee. So, by that logic, I became the Yoga committee member for second year - that year. I didn't want to lose hope. Decided to try in the third year also.
I was eyeing the Mess committee because of the power it had. But, I didn't have people support for that. If I ask, I would be told, "You need some extra stuff for that, which you don't have!". Knowing that I didn't want to put myself in embarrassment. So, I was looking something better than Yoga committee. I mean, something that has more power! When I looked around, what looked interesting was - Magazine committee. What is that? All newspapers and magazines that come into the hostel would be put in front of my room. Every morning, I would have an intelligent crowd in front of my room - waking me up with the day's stories. That's not all - I would be part of the editorial board of the bi-annual magazine "Hostel Light". That's anyway an interesting job for us, right? So, I took that wholeheartedly. In the first year itself, I got second prize in a poetry competition, which ensured I never forgot poetry in the rest of my life. In the first year itself, a short story of mine got published in the "Hostel Light" so that meant "for the next three years... for all these kind of jobs... he is the guy in our hostel!". So, in the second year, though I was not part of Magazine committee, Vairavaraj sir gave me a special role in editorial board. So, there is prior experience as well! More than all that, even this committee won't have too much competition - more or less like the Yoga committee. Something that I thought too big which others thought nothing! So, I was the unanimous choice for the Magazine committee in third year. If at all I had been adamant about becoming the Mess committee member, I am sure you can guess what would have happened. I would have been kicked on my back and asked to sit in a corner until the course ended.
- Not 'The End'... :)