Fest

The moment she walked onto the grounds she knew she shouldn’t have come. But it was too late for regret.

She had been hearing about Connections from the first day of college. She had heard about it in school too, about this coolest college-fest in town, but it was a distant thing then. In college, it was an all-pervasive presence. Everybody grew more and more obsessed with Connections as December approached but her family had already planned a vacation to the seaside. The next year, the fest was postponed to January, just before their exams. No questions of coming, of course. When the final year fest came around, she was struggling with a terrible cold and was also feeling quite lazy about the whole thing. She thought about her sore throat and what the outside wind could do to it, and she thought about the crowded evening buses. And then she decided to go.

It took a while to find her friends in the fully packed ground, what with the band on the stage at the far end of the ground and the crowd screaming with them.

She got introduced to Tina’s cousins and found herself forced into group-photos with Neetu’s boyfriend’s pals.

“So you actually came?” Exclaimed Tina, “I thought you’d stay back again!”

One of her cousins asked Tina something and she turned back to reply.

“What is so great about the Connections evenings?” She asked Neetu.

“The crowd, of course! The huge crowd! You get to hang out with friends!”

She looked around. The people closest to the stage were dancing and whistling and screaming madly. In the outer circles, the mood was more relaxed – people strolling, smiling, glancing now and then towards the stage and sometimes singing along. But except Tina and Neetu there wasn’t a single familiar old face. Somehow, hanging out had seemed better during skipped lectures on sleepy afternoons during normal college days. She felt tired. This wasn’t the great magical place she had imagined it to be. So at seven o’clock she started making her way towards the front-gate.

The gate was shut. A group of perplexed students stood huddled at the courtyard, barred from advancing towards the gate.

“You can’t leave now.” A harried volunteer shouted at the annoyed group.

“You can’t just hold us up like this!” Someone snapped.

“Wait for five minutes, please.” Another volunteer appealed.

Ten minutes passed. Then it started raining.

“They can’t let us out because of the huge crowd pressing to get in.” And so there was a crowd, a very rowdy crowd looking as if they could break the gates. Meanwhile, the foiled run-aways couldn’t return to the grounds because the volunteers had now blocked that entrance as well.

“They say those people have got fake passes.”

Fake passes for a fest?

Breaking the human chain of the volunteers, the prisoners made an impatient run towards the gate. And the enemy outside chose that very moment to finally break into the castle.

It was a near stampede. Without a clue about where she was going, she found herself back at the grounds.

By then the show was over, thanks to the rain. But the crowd hung around hopefully. She walked towards the small back-gate and found it miraculously open, without any trace of a fake pass-holder. And so she was finally out of it.

“You shouldn’t have gone.” Her mother said.

She thought for a while and then replied.

“But I think it’s better than regretting missing the fest for the rest of my life. I’m disappointed, not sorry.”

The moment she walked onto the grounds she knew she shouldn’t have come. She had almost stayed back home, but she came. Now she was regretting her decision.





She was a schoolgirl when she first heard about Connections, the coolest fest of the coolest college in town. At her class, they weren’t even allowed for the school-fest. Two years later, they became the seniors, the fest organizers. She watched some of the stage-rehearsals but never went for the finals. The auditorium was far from home and it would go on late into the night. A year later, she became a college-fresher. Everybody talked more and more about Connections as December approached. She listened and when December came she went to the seaside. The next December came and she was all excited.

“Let’s come during the day,” she suggested, “and till afternoon to watch the contests.”

“But how silly, the fun really begins after six o’clock.”

But college was quite far from home, and she could not afford too stay late. When the final year fest came around, she was struggling with a terrible cold and was also feeling quite lazy about the whole thing. She thought about her sore throat and what the outside wind could do to it, and she thought about the crowded evening buses. And then she decided to go.

One of her friends gave passes to a host of cousins; another was busy with her boyfriend’s pals. It took a while to find them in the fully packed ground. Even the old faithful mobiles failed, what with the band on the stage at the far end of the ground and the crowd screaming with them –



Have you ever thought

Of the stars light years apart?

They are still nearer, dear,

Than you and I are together!
*



She got introduced to Tina’s cousins and found herself forced into group-photos with Neetu’s gang.

“You’ve got a cool pair of earrings.” Tina said, “I love them.”

It was her favourite pair, imitation stones in a beautiful shade of ocean-blue that looked green in the light.

“So what about Connections?” She asked.

“This is Connections. There’s music in the open and you stand and listen.”

One of her cousins asked Tina something and she turned back to reply.

“So what is so great about the Connections evenings?” She asked Neetu.

“The adda it provides, of course! And the crowd, the huge crowd!”

She looked around. The people closest to the stage were dancing and whistling and screaming madly. In the outer circles, the mood was more relaxed – people strolling, smiling, glancing now and then towards the stage and sometimes singing along. But except Tina and Neetu there wasn’t a single familiar old face. Somehow, adda had seemed better behind the covers of books on sleepy afternoon classes. Today, the place didn’t seem to be her college at all.

She felt tired. She had planned to stay till eight but that was before arriving here. She didn’t know what she had expected, but she felt somehow cheated. So at seven o’clock she started making her way towards the front-gate.

The gate was shut. A group of perplexed early birds like her stood huddled at the courtyard, barred by first-years wearing official badges from advancing towards the gate.

“You can’t leave now.” A harried volunteer shouted at the annoyed group.

“You can’t just hold us up like this!” Someone snapped.

“Wait for five minutes, please.” Another volunteer appealed.

Five minutes passed. Ten minutes passed. Then it started to rain.

“They can’t let us out because of the huge crowd pressing to get in.” And so there was a crowd, a very rowdy crowd looking as if they could break the gates. Meanwhile, the foiled run-aways couldn’t return to the grounds because the volunteers had now blocked that entrance as well.

“Why did they issue so many passes?” She asked someone as they cramped themselves under the little shade of the auditorium’s archway entrance.

“They say those people have got fake passes.”

Fake passes? She looked at the gate. What was happening? A cricket match? A bollywood night? What madness was this?

Breaking the human chain of the volunteers, the prisoners made an impatient run towards the gate. And the enemy outside chose that very moment to finally break into the castle.

It was pandemonium, or a near stampede. Nobody knew where he or she was going. The volunteers could do nothing at all. And she found herself back at the grounds.

By then the show was over, thanks to the rain. But the stalls stood tall, and the crowd hung around hopefully. She walked towards the small back-gate and found it miraculously open, without any trace of a fake pass-holder. And so she was finally out of it.

Her father was waiting for her at the bus stand.

“You must be disappointed?” He asked.

She thought for a while.

“I am disappointed, but not really sorry.” She replied at length, “At least, I won’t regret missing the fest for the rest of my life. I am glad I came.”

* The lines are a sketchy translation of a popular Bengali number.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Footsteps

The Flow

Tomorrow night