The pandemic, along with all its other peculiarities, has left us all with some emptiness. From the freshers to the seniors, we’ve all missed out on a share of experiences. Encompassing the situation, we bring to you an exchange of letters between a fresher and a senior.
I hope you’ve been doing well. I’ve been meaning to write to you. We had planned to meet right after my end-semester exams. I was taken aback when I received your text about going into quarantine. The last few weeks have been perplexing. From the hurried vacating of our hostels to the menacing second-wave, it has been a whirlwind of emotions.
As a fresher, before I arrived in February, I had only seen Manipal through its photographs. Fuzzy images of the Student Plaza’s concentric circles, the sunlit evenings, the colossal grounds, and the dreamy roads would fleet through my mind as I attended my online courses. All covered up in my blanket, I would think to myself—when am I ever going to get rid of these zoom calls?
Around the first week of February, I heard a beep on my phone. To my absolute surprise, it was an email from MIT, which said that the freshers were called to the campus. The following two weeks were an anxious mix of excitement and anticipation. Hopping on my flight, I was engulfed by a sigh of relief. Yes, I would miss home, but the wait had been far too long. The first month at Manipal was a whirlwind. We went from writing end-semester exams to going under lockdown, and much to our chagrin, coming back home. And ah, missing out on some of the best events of the year. Revels, TechTatva, and so much more! You would always rave about how eventful your days were, especially around the time of these fests. I don’t know when we’ll get to walk around and explore the campus the way we had planned to. For now, though, this one month gave me a mini idea of what college is like, and I can’t wait to see more of it!
I mean, we’ve all had certain expectations from this year. We want it to be better than the last. We want life to return to normalcy, and we’re witnessing a transformation that screams the very opposite. With tens of thousands of unanswered questions that loom over our minds as we hunch over our laptops, we ask ourselves—what could have been? When I look around me, I’m bemused to see the way our lives have changed. From minor things like the death of handshakes to some much more significant impacts on the economy, COVID-19 is a continuing shock to the world.
While staying in has its positives, for many, the pandemic has led to deteriorating mental health. On many days, at 7 am, my alarm blares and I look at the screen, completely forlorn. The day passes by, and I’m left with this uneasy feeling right in my guts. The worst part is, I know so many peers who face this lack of control, of sorts. I remember you telling me about it too, and I hope it’s gotten better since.
I guess it’s a couple more months before our country completes its vaccination drives. It’s a confusing time, but all we can do is look forward to the next time we meet. Living our best years the way we ought to while hoping to see the world and all its people heal from their scars. I hope this letter reaches you soon enough. Can’t wait to hear from you!
It is so lovely to hear from you! I hope everything is well on your end. Although it seems like we’re brought back to square one, hurried back into the monotonous regime of online classes—It must have felt rejuvenating to get to experience most of what Manipal really is. The situation was handled to the very best of the authorities’ abilities. The incertitude of leaving home during a pandemic must have been a little difficult compared to my departure from the ‘nest’.
MS Teams could never compare to the Academic Blocks; Houseparty and Zoom calls never felt the same as sitting in Student Plaza and complaining about the heat. I’m glad you had a little taste of the exuberance of Manipal. Even for exams, coming back to campus felt like a respite from the self-created tenuous environment of my room, with assignments, projects, and the impending yet pointless fear of not landing a placement or internship. The hallowed portals of the university were a relief to my angsty 18-year self. I felt like I found my people, and I’m sure you’ll agree that the student community in Manipal is extremely congenial; everyone is amiable, the locals, staff, and fellow students alike. Even the smiling rickshaw drivers who overcharge you, grow on you inevitably.
The campus tours never suffice or count as ‘exploring’; one needs to be sweating through their clothes as they navigate their way in the labyrinth that it is, Academic Block 5. It’s a rite of passage, and I hope you experience it in the least embarrassing way possible. I imagine summer in Manipal is harsh compared to home, but the AC’s sweet relief after running late to class hits differently. Summer is incomplete without Revels, and it physically hurts that we are being denied the most collegiate experience for the last time. I can only hope that the world resumes its usual self so that you can enjoy it.
The whole fest is the cumulative sum of every single ‘coming-of-age’, college-esque media; it has been a witness to the youthfulness of the university town ever since it came into being. As far as the eye can see, Vibrant colours, especially the myriad of booths near Innovation Centre, are a welcomed change during this season. People donning club and college merchandise as they literally wear their hearts on their sleeves. The cacophony of overlapping conversations, excited screams, choruses of encouragement still ring in my ears. I can almost taste the many ice-cold golas I have devoured over the years and all the delicious food that I gorged down like a starved man at an all-you-can-eat buffet. The photographers occupied, capturing every moment and emotion of the place and people whilst juggling group pictures and candids’ requests, the talents busy finessing their skills, readying themselves to put their best foot forward, are all vivid images engraved into the hippocampus of my brain. The indescribable feeling of thousands of students’ hearts reverberating to the beat of the music performances by the most prominent names; during that moment, all is forgotten as the feeling of belonging washes over you as the crowd eases you to be free. Your contributions to the fest are inherent and driven by the desire to participate and make the best of your youth. The beautiful people you meet, the shows you experience, the smiles you create are all worth the all-nighters and months of effort put towards the event.
Revels, for me, renewed my affinity to the university and the student community. As I scroll further down the tiles of many social media pages to reminisce those days, I am filled with nothing but pure joy, acute nostalgia. I hope that soon crowds no longer create panic amongst people but create unity, that proximity is welcomed, and communities can celebrate once more. I cannot live through these memories in person but only revisit them mentally. I hope you do not have to imagine Revels through my experiences or the media but have the time of your life and tell me all about it!
Written by Suhani Kabra and Shirley Asangi for MTTN
Edited by Snehal Srivastava for MTTN
Featured Image by Aakanksha Mantri for MTTN
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