Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Stephen's experience

It was a very hot day and my woes added to the heat. By the time we reached our destination, there were beads of sweat on my forehead despite the journey by an air conditioned car. All the way from my uncle's house in Gurgaon to our destination in Old Delhi, my parents and uncle kept on discussing about the landmarks, which would help us to reach our destination the next time. But, I just couldn't concentrate on what they were saying. I just felt...well, I don't know even now just how I felt that day before the first ever interview of my life.

My interview for the English honours course at St. Stephen's College, Delhi, was scheduled for 3 pm. I caught my first glimpse of my would-be college after our car turned a corner, which sent a chill through my nerves. Inside the college campus, everthing was so peaceful. The Stephen's college campus is so much different from all other campuses that I have been to in this one month. Whether it was Presidency College, Lady Brabourne College or Jadavpur University, I saw student unions, senior students, prospective students and parents engaged in a war of words and a desperate fight to make the whole situation chaotic. Being used to such an atmosphere, Stephen's made me even more nervous at first with its silent grounds, smart students,calm parents and admission officials looking as though they were doing a very trivial job, unlike in Kolkata's colleges, where they give themselves airs. I really liked all this though and it made me more eager to be a part of the paradise called Stephen's. But, I still couldn't get over my nervousness. I had never before appeared for any kind of interview, and I knew that the Stephen's interviews were tough. My cousin, Sayantani Dasgupta, had told me about her interview experience at Stephen's. From her tale, I could picturize a dimly lit and very cold interview room, and myself not being able to answer the questions as smartly as she had.

It was only when I was waiting outside the interview room that I started gaining some confidence. As the candidates stepped out of the room one by one, the others gathered around them to know what they had been asked. I caught snatches of what they were saying , and I felt that if I would be asked the same sort of questions, I would be able to answer well because the questions mostly seemed to be about books, and books are my forte. Finally, it was my turn amd what a turn it turned out to be! My interview was ...a sort of discussion about books. They asked me about the books I had read recently, and what I thought about them. Slowly and steadily, I went on to discuss a few Bengali and English books with them. But, I thought that my last answer was the best one. They asked me, "Which part of our syllabus attracts you the most?" I replied, " I had gone through your syllabus a long time ago and cannot recall much, but studying in this college itself is an attraction for me. Whatever is there in the syllabus, I'll study with interest because my main motto is studying here." Then, my interviewers smiled and let me go. I came out of the room very much satisfied with myself. It didn't matter to me whether they ultimately selected me or not. The fact that my first interview had gone so well was the biggest joy.

But, they actually did select me! I got the on-campus residence facility as well. Now, I am a Stephanian. I am a student of that beautiful place with its red brick walls, lush green gardens and rich legacy.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Where the sea is a gorgeous blue

The days after the ISC results have sure been busy. They have all been about online college application forms,last dates of submission, admission tests, interviews,cut-off marks, etc., etc., which has kept me hooked on to the net for long hours, in the hope of getting the correct information, not just for myself but also for my friends. But, what seems to have been completely overshadowed in this aftermath, is the short but superb trip we made to Vizag just before my results.

It wasn't exactly a surprise trip. The train tickets had been bought long before , but they weren't getting confirmed. We were still on the waiting list of passengers. We had almost given up hope, but two days before the scheduled day of our departure, they finally got confirmed! Actually, my father had to go there for some office work and we decided to keep him company. After a train journey of around 17 hours, we reached Vizag early in the morning and saw the small hills surrounding it, looking beautiful in those early hours. Once we were at our hotel, we slept for a while, not having got much of it the night before. Later, we had a splendid breakfast with idlis, vadas and utthapams. As my father had to get on with his work, my mother and I hired an auto and went to the city's sea beach, Ramkrishna Beach. Vizag is one of those cities in India, in the state of Andhra Pradesh, which has the distinction of having both hills as well as the sea. Ramkrishna Beach is, by no means, one of the best I have seen. Neither does the sea have big waves nor is the beach very clean. But, in the light of the noon sun, the water turns a lovely shade of blue, something that I haven't seen elsewhere, even for the same sea( the Bay of Bengal).

The sea as visible from Ramkrishna Beach

From Ramkrishna Beach, my mother and I proceeded to Rishikonda Beach, again in an auto. The best thing about it was that along the entire route from Ramkrishna to Rishikonda(picture left), the sea was visible to us on our right and the hillocks on our left. Rishikonda is about half an hour's journey from the city, and the beach is almost similar to Ramkrishna, except for the fact that its much more clean, and much nearer to the hills. We returned to our hotel just in time for lunch. At the same time, we learnt that the tickets for our return journey to Kolkata were still a long way from being confirmed, and no tickets were available via the Tatkal Scheme. So, we first went to an airline office and bought plane tickets to return to Kolkata. Next, we had to go to the railway station to cancel the train tickets which weren't confirmed. All this naturally took up a lot of my father's work time. But, he said that he would be able to work in peace now that there were definite arrangements for our return. Dropping him off at the hotel, my mother and I ventured out again, this time to the Kailasgiri hills. The auto took us upto the foothills. From there we climbed a few stairs and completed the journey to the hill top on ropeway cable cars. It was a top class experience, as we went slowly up the hill, and left the city and the vast expanse of sea below us. From the main view point on the hill top, we could see the waves softly lashing against the sea shore, and numerous boats with white sails. It was blissful to sea the blue sea and the green hills against the backdrop of the faint orange evening sun. We liked the place so much that on our third evening at Vizag, we returned there with my father. We thought that he shouldn't leave Vizag without enjoying that view. When we went with him though, we were a bit more late, and stayed on to see the city and hills completely lighted up. A park has been built on the hill top and a train ride through the park, gives one a very good view of the whole landscape.

My mother at Kailasgiri(top);The view from Kailasgiri (above and below)

On the second morning of our stay at Vizag, my mother and I preferred to stay back at the hotel as my father went for the final round of his work. Having finished it, he came back jubilantly and then, post-lunch, we went to Simhachalam, a temple town about an hour away from Vizag. Simhachalam is the abode of Nrisinghadev, one of Vishnu's avatars, I think. Anyway, it so happened that we went there on the occasion of an important religious festival and so, saw people from all parts of Andhra Pradesh thronging the temple. We had to wait two hours in the snaking queue before we could catch a glimpse of the deity. But, tarpaulin sheets had been hung to protect the devotees from the sun and I found, much to my relief, that South Indian temples are much more disciplined than North Indian ones. The temple's wall carvings, mostly of stone, were very beautiful.

Simhachalam in the afternoon (above left) and in the evening(right) when we were returning

The next day, we visited the Three Hillocks. The three hillocks have a temple, a church and a mosque on their hilltops respectively.We went to the temple and the church, both of which are very nice. The view from the top was also very good, but not as good as the one we got to see from Kailasgiri. In this case, we mostly saw the docks, and less of the sea.

From the Three Hillocks, we journeyed to Bhimanipatnam or Bhimili, another small place away from the city, by following the same hill-and-sea route from Ramkrishna to Rishikonda, and further beyond. Again, we were spellbound by the fact that we never lost sight of either the sea or the hills. Bhimili's beach is more open and large(picture on the left shows myfather and me at Bhimili). Otherwise, there's not much of a difference with Rishikonda. But, for tourists, its definitely the best beach around Vizag. The same afternoon, we had Hyderabadi Biryani for lunch. Though n0t much of a biryani lover myself, I enjoyed the one which we had that day thoroughly. I thought it was the best biryani I had ever tasted.

Our flight was scheduled for the early hours of the next evening. So, we only had a few hours of the morning left to see the only thing that remained. It was actually a boating programme in the sea, just around the breakwaters, in a launch! The day being a weekday morning, it took a long time before our launch got the minimum number of people, without which the authorities refuse to venture out into the sea. Needless to say, the launch ride was awesome(one snap from the ride on the left and two more below). The launch ride lasted about twenty minutes, during which we could see those little boats sailing past us, and those big ships only a little ahead of us, all of which we had so far seen from a great distance. At first, everyone was seated, but as soon as the launch moved into the clearer expanses of the water, they all got up excitedly, moved towards the doors and windows, and tried to feel the breeze by slightly leaning out of the doors.

We couldn't visit Araku Valley this time, but I would love to return to Vizag, tour Kailasgiri again and go to Araku in future.