Sunday, August 29, 2010

Second Home

It is 7.00 in the morning on a busy weekday. My cellphone alarm rings. I switch it off and go back to sleep again. When I get up again, its already a quarter to eight! But, I still feel relaxed because after having woken up late in this manner for a whole month, I have already mastered the art of taking a bath and getting fully ready, which includes meeting the 8.30 a.m. deadline for breakfast!

So, this is how a day begins for me at St. Stephen's College. Miraculously, I'm always in time for breakfast and for the morning assembly, which begins at 9.05 a.m. The classes, which begin from 9.35 a.m. are still not at all pressurizing. Instead of talking about studies (which are undoubtedly enjoyable thanks to those brilliant lectures), I'll talk about the other aspects of classes. Classes also mean getting to see a lot of greenery from each of the windows, pigeons flying into the air suddenly from the lawns, and even having dogs in the classrooms!One day, two dogs actually slept soundly in our classroom while we took notes. My classmates, in general, are nice, crazy and very talented. One of them, Sohini, is also one of my two closest friends here. I'm so happy and honoured to have a friend like her who actually got a compilation of poems and short stories published when she was in the 9th standard. One has to read them to believe what a sense of imagination a 12 or 14-year old can have. Then there's Suravi. Now, the moment I think about her, I start hearing giggles in my mind because that is what Suravi does most of the time. She giggles about anything and everything, forcing all eyes to turn upon her. But, she doesn't seem to care, and now, after spending a month with her, even I don't care. That's because smiling,shopping, sharing similar thoughts, going crazy and going crazier, are just the things that have woven a strong bond of friendship between Sohini, Suravi and me. When I think about how quickly we have taken a liking to one another's presence, I feel that this bond was always destined--there's something so very natural about this friendship.

Speaking of my other classmates, I feel sorry for the marginalised male section. There are just five boys in our class who always sit quietly in a corner, intimidated by the presence of 23 girls!College life during the day also means going to the library, the cafe and the chapel. The construction of the library is pretty interesting and I love a particularly dusty section among the downstairs bookshelves. The cafe( and not the canteen :-)) is obviously always full of people and we like going there in between classes to take a look at interesting people and regular people and for having the nimbu paani. The chapel is in complete contrast to the cafe and according to me, its the ideal place to study if one is too tired of sitting in a residence room. The chapel is a tiny world in itself because the moment one steps inside it, all the hustle and bustle of the world outside, the rustling of the tree leaves and even the sound of rain is shut out from one's senses. The only thing that one keeps on hearing is the sound of some musical instrument which someone or the other keeps on playing inside the chapel. The kind of peace that spreads throughout my mind and body then is indescribable.

One more extremely important aspect of my life in college is being a part of extra-curricular activities. For first years, its easier to participate in them and I'm trying my best to do that. But, talking about them will require a separate post altogether. So, I'll finish this off by talking about Residence. The most important person in Residence is my roommate, Barathi. She's a student of first-year Chemistry honours and is a state champion shooter. But, more importantly, she's a very nice and cooperative person. I've already had a lot of momos thanks to her and she too is a die-hard Harry Potter fan. She too gets up late, and in this way, we go along very well. We don't always talk a lot, and yet, sometimes, we go on chatting after switching off the lights at night. But, with her also, right from Day One, I've formed a very sweet bond.

Tomorrow morning, my day and week will start off in the same 'relaxed' manner. Life here is good. Every moment that I have to spend without my parents and they have to spend without me, is absolutely worth it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

My Last Duchess-from a different angle

Ok, before you all think that this is going to be another post on Stephen's, let me tell you its not. Well, its is connected to Stephen's in a way but that's not going to influence it in a huge manner. In my next post though, I'll revert to the Stephanian mode again because each day spent here gives rise to a new experience.

Anyway, I had read this beautiful poem called 'My Last Duchess' by Robert Browning in the tenth standard. But, I now realize what a limited outlook we had formed then about the poem. For us, it had been concerned with this plain and simple plot about a duke looking at the painting of his last duchess, admiring it, and expressing his suspicions about how his wife could blush when the picture had been painted or how could she could have 'depth and passion' in her glance, despite his absence. He never appreciated the fact that she smiled 'in much the same way' at him and many others and so, he took steps to wipe her smile forever. So, this was all and the mot analytical thing that we were required to do was to judge the duke's character, invariably as a very cruel and remorseless man. Looking back, I realize that not critiquing the duchess's or the painter's characters left us with an incomplete knowledge of the poem.

First of all, we should try to find out why the duchess behaved as she did. One of the explanations for this is that she was young and immature and didn't quite know when and to whom she should limit her favours and smiles. Then again, having married into such an old and glorious family, she was expectd to know how to conduct herself. So, maybe she had married the duke just to get the family name for herself. Maybe, she had married the duke to meet this selfish end only and didn't bother anymore about loving the duke. Just because the duke had killed her or sent her off to a nunnery because of her close association with people of lower ranks, the duke cannot be blamed entirely. Yeah, I agree that his action was a bit harsh and the duchess didn't deserve being treated so unfairly without any evidence but even then, a man could not--just could not--tolerate the idea of his wife being unfaithful to him.Therefore, at a certain stage, my sympathies do lie with the duke.

Then, there are other things that can make the poem so much more interesting like the way it is read. Yes, a difference in the way it is read can bring a whole world of difference to its meaning. The first three lines of the poem, for example, read:
That's my last duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder now...
Normally, one would interpret the first two lines as the duke's admiration for the painting, which was as good as real or alive. However, if one overlooks the full stop between 'alive' and 'I' in the second line, the meaning changes to a recalling of the painting scene by the duke. This contrast of meaning can apply to all lines of the poem. Plus, there's this whole discussion about visible characters, invisible characters, what's the significance of their being visible/invisible, etc., etc., etc. So, I dedicate this post to Browning and hope to return in future with more posts about his creations.