Thursday, January 19

A House for Mr. Ghost; Part 6: Remains of the day

Chapter 1

There are some periods in life that we try hard to forget. It’s a huge task to erase a lengthy expanse of time when our memory commands so much of our daily existence. I enrolled to the university some years back, about 6 years ago. It’s the natural next step in many young lives around the world. There’s so much hope and eagerness in everyone’s imagination at that time, to experience a new world and to build towards the future. The university is an institution that foreruns everything else in creating an anticipated bright human future. So much for theory, now the reality, which sadly is not that cool.

What made me rethink of these hidden days, of lost glories you ask? I was walking the corridors of the concrete alleys that run around the faculty, something that I’ve been doing everyday, hoping in vain to discover something remotely different. Not the occasional crack in the wall or stray bug waiting for its prey, something truly monumental. I need it so much at this juncture, since this is my last semester here and I can’t figure out what I’ll be doing next. In a distant I spied a huge creature, all white, that brought back a surge of memories. In the next hours everything just bounced back into my head, of the early days. I traced the path and came near the enigmatic creature, as you can see in the picture. The elephant bones were one of my earliest collisions with destiny in my campus life. Events that will remain treasured forever in me even if it’s not as exciting as other campus stories or the fact that I try to forget it.

Being an Indian waiting for a place in university in this country is nerve wrecking. There’s this sick quota system that effectively eliminates more than 50% of the Indians out of the run for the limited seats. And even the successful students will not in most cases get courses they want. I don’t want to elaborate further, by now probably a lot of people would have known of the predicaments of the minorities in this country. Not forgetting also the ‘struggles’ inside the community itself to excel once enrolled. We have this sadist tradition that’s been going on for ages now, something called ragging. The first year students are terrorized out of their souls by seniors in the name of bonding or brotherhood or some shit. And I knew all this before the fateful days, learned the horror stories for others. I choose this particular university knowing well that it has the least Indian enrollment among all public uni’s. Figuring the crude math, less Indians means less trouble, so that I can do what I came for and achieve my dreams. So wrong was I, very very wrong.

In the first few weeks at campus I found out that my uni had some of the worst ragging cases in the country. I obliged the seniors, did all they wanted me to do, get trashed in the process and that traumatized me for months. I walked the graveyard, slept in the closet, had hot water poured on me while sleeping, you name it. I devised ways to escape them to no avail, so I started to irritate them, nag them that they finally did not want to see my face anymore. But some smart ass senior had this one great idea, to do that one last thing that would in their perspective ‘kill’ us. So there we were, the three of us roommates led to the biology faculty an hour after midnight. It was dark, all the lights turned off, I remembered the place well, and it was the stuffed animal museum. They left us there, took away the torch and simply left us to suffer. It scared the hell out of us; we sat at one corner trying to figure out how to escape from this. Shallow moonlight through the many windows made crude shadows of the animals. The birds and monkeys leapt to life on walls around the place. But at the end of the room was this huge white pile of some-animal too huge to even belong there. Curiosity took over; we walked, still close to each other tracing the corrugated light on the floor towards it, some kind of force pulling us to it. I dare say that if I was alone I would have simply ran away shouting. We reached it and to our surprise it was an elephant fossil. Its head reached to the ceiling and it just stood there majestically, unmoving, not afraid of anything. Was it life changing? Maybe, for the moment it was simply amazing. I returned almost weekly for months after that to look at it and simply admire it. It was something special, the whole concept of how something so huge is tamed and reduced to bones but yet still elegant and powerful.

Struggling through the Indian orientation period was hell, they made us skip classes and we lost precious weeks of introduction to the course. They always had these special stories of how elite they are, skipping classes yet being the most popular or scoring well in the studies. Nothing mattered to me, all I want to do is to study, do what I want to do. The many phone calls to home when my mother reminded me (and she still does) to study well, to think of the future. By the time the first semester passed, it was not good news at all, both for me socially nor my results. I was average at best in most subjects and I could not cope well in mathematics. That’s really not good if you’re a physics student. I lost confidences fast; mainly because of the sense I lost a lot of early experience. The other reason would be that I was the only Indian student in the whole course. History was unkind either; there were no Indian seniors in the course for years. I knew then I won’t get any coaching or advice, and everything seems to be lost. I managed to pull through somehow for the remaining semesters. I started to hate the other Indian students, mostly seniors, knowing well that they just wasted the golden opportunity given to them to earn a degree, something that a good part of the community did not have. We grouped according to the state we came from and that was xenophobia at best. Even though we studied together, there was this hidden war among us, clan wars, racial wars, hate of the authority. This was definitely not the most conducive environment to plan your future.

Chapter 2

I did not actually apply for a physics course. At the time when I finished high school computer studies was the entire fad, so I filled all the options with computer related courses. Fate has it, I landed this course in pure physics, the field that I loved for years and choose to ignore while applying. Maybe it’s the sign for the future. Being the only Indian also means extra attention. I had no chance of skipping class, for the obvious reasons. I was the marker for anything and everything. If I do miss the occasional class, they would worry for real. It did help me in some parts of the study. I found very good friends there of different races; some of them are still with me doing graduate studies. And Dev, currently my house owner, was my course mate. There is a real sense of relationship that you form here that’s missing or different from the ones you form while in school. The maturity of people and also the way of life, maybe because everyone dared to do anything and dared to be brave.

I brought my bike in the first semester itself, simply because the food in campus sucked big time and I had to get some Indian food. That’s something I won’t let go forever. And having a bike also means that I had a license to ride, anywhere. We raced the roads, strayed around the big city, went for supper(s) and yes, gave lifts to the girls. Everyone will have those moments, in my case very little moments. Those were the times before I turned myself into GP, I was just another dude enjoying my freedom away from home. Discovering beers and hangovers, girl friend(s) and heartbreaks, fights and broken bones, everything was in the game. We lived the game. From pure madness of tying curtains around our necks and becoming Superman on motorbikes at midnight to being model sophomores to the new students. We tried to stop the ragging culture, the small group of us but we failed, in the end we were isolated. So I was the bad senior, the dead man walking who did not want to continue the age old tradition. That’s a small sample of my campus life.

Choosing the correct subjects were tough, the CGPA system is notorious because one small mistake will leave a lasting mark when you graduate. It did not help being able to repeat subjects that we fail because simply sometimes the same subject wont exist the next semester. Learning the whole course in a language totally unsuitable for science is a bad experience. All the reference books are in English while the actually course is taught in the national language. Worst still are hyped up lecturers who have this huge faction among themselves. There are times when elective subjects from another department or faculty can simply kill your semester. Out of interest I registered for two subjects from the geology department. The exams were easy fill in the blank questions, but the results were not. Turned out that the lecturers there hated undergraduates from other faculties and that was not the first time it happened to me.

Lecturers tend to have general opinions of everything. Dicing with danger, in my final semester, I enrolled for elective subjects from the material science department. I took basic subjects such as paper technology, recycling and materials management just to get through easy. In the first day of class for one subject, we had this normal introduction session. Coming to me, again the only Indian in the class, the professor pointed to me and said this exact words "You, I now about you, you must be a vegetarian, am I right?" So that was the most unique first words that I’ve heard in a quarter century being alive, and you know what. I was wearing a dark green shirt. So I turned into a pseudo-vegetarian, thought it must be another of those signs. Vegetarian means good boy, good boy means good marks. Everyone respected me, the guys back at the hostel never knew and amazingly vegetarianism is social standard. And I had to avoid eating at the cafeteria for the rest of year. I'm a carnivore basically, but I’ve build this reputation that I don’t want to destroy.

The slow destruction of my final results happened that final year. As a third year student, we had this big task of conducting a research project and producing a thesis, not to mention to clear remaining credit units. And in the social scenes, third year Indian students have to organize a cultural night. I had this one chance of reconciling with the rest of the Indians in my year or loosing it forever. I chose the latter. I ignored them and focused in my research. After months of struggle I came out with this A grade thesis, an excellent piece of astrophysics and manage to salvage my grades. But the dreaded thing happened when my final results came out, most of my elective subjects bombed. It was too late, not wanting to continue another year I just stuck with the results. It was not that important anyway, the future is what we make of it. This is simply a stepping stone towards another part of my life.

Finishing the course was a struggle, especially if you’re not ready. There’s this whole culture shock thing, and even if you managed to get out of yours, the bubbles of conflict around you will swallow you. There is no solitary existence in the campus years and afterward. The end of the first part of the young youthful life also means that we need to source for a job. I wanted badly to do my graduate studies, but it’s a dog eat dog world out there. Everyone wants to work first, get some money and then ponder the next step. Mostly will end up doing their MBA which honestly is not an intellectual choice at all, it simply has no merit other than a small pay raise later. Not wanting to be stuck in the rat race of office jobs, I sent in my applications for a research stint in astrophysics. There is a story to this also, at the time of my enrollment; my university was famous for amazingly unique reasons. They created the famous ‘cili-bangi’ a type of chili plant resilient to diseases and to another far extreme, we had a famous lady professor in the physics department who because the UN space science director. There were plans for the nation’s first micro-satellite even before I enrolled. You will always have this feeling when you read the papers of some stuff so huge that you’re very sure wont be a part of. I had that moment, and in the years to come I actually managed to be a part of the satellite dream. Science gave me this wonderful chance to explore the world, the inner-self and also everyone else. And here I am.

Chapter 3

What happens to the elephant bones now? I think it did not matter anymore to them, they moved it out of the museum to the corridor where I found it. It shows that even the great can be humbled and if everything does have its opposite, so the humble me will strive great. Maybe I’ll never know what the future really wanted me to do. I choose this one path and here I am.

After the degree in physics, I had a few job offers, mostly unsuccessful. Can you believe that there was a chance then, a good chance, that I would have been a physics teacher now? I could not comprehend the implications then; maybe I would have been happy with an average life. Teaching is a huge responsibility, but it limits the self to a monotonous life. I did not go to that interview; I came back to where it all started, minus the old faces of course. Not all of them, but mostly the ones I never cared for, since now it’s a new beginning. I don’t know if after suffering so much we can make another mistake, knowing well it’ll be hard to correct. The masters’ course was a dream, but yet again it did not go well. I'm still here, in my 7th and final semester, staring blank into the future. I awe at the people who have their whole future lined up so clearly, those who can plan and execute their every move so majestically that each step seems godly, those creatures who never knew hardship. And also, I respect the ones who after scaling momentous hurdles managed to build a great life.

There are reasons why we are unique, why our awareness are different and why we do things differently. It’s the way we can tread the widest amount of space at any one time, exploring diversity. There are some moments that I feel lucky not to have followed other paths that would not have let me meet these amazing people on the net, in life and the passions that I discovered on the way. But then again, any path would have built towards that one goal in the future, a goal that we would not know till the end.

So where did this Ghost Particle come from? One part of your guess is true; it does have something to do with my field of interest. Particles of unknown nature that might exist, that might bend the laws of physics. As a whole, it’s a hidden ‘creature’ so to follow its nature I slowly morphed into a solitary being. The other idea is to live a modern color less life, a western freedom if you want to explain it. The reasons are simple, I did not want to identify with my community that wasted their years singing and dancing but never thought once of their studies. They never understood the real meaning of culture. Maybe it’s a small bunch of renegades, but they continue to kill dreams. There are salvations nowadays, there are more students who spend times in the library studying and achieving their dreams. It’s a complex matter that I find hard to understand let alone explain. I’ve seen people waste their lives for reasons so rubbish, and along the way I myself sank into the same patterns. There are signs that made me aware of the mistakes I made but I had not the will to change. So Ghost Particle is an existence to change it all. Impossible as it seems, the future if never late to be influenced and changed.

The moral of the story? The grass is always green on the other side; there will always be the best of something somewhere else. And then there’s the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. You might think the best is elsewhere, but the moment you charge to seek it, it breaks down. Information and reality are two sides of the same coin. That’s my principle. Go out to create something new, an amazing reality no one ever dreamed of and then live in it, because it’s the path to the great future.


[-] So ends another piece of history in the life of Mr. Ghost, who believes the future in its entire splendor still is a mystery and the past we can very well be selective to remember. But we’re humans in the end, so we can never run from it. The question is, will I ever become a true scientist and explorer of the unknowns and inspire a generation of others.
[-] Sorry that I have to put you guys through a long post, I could have split it and post for weeks each small part, but you wont get the whole idea then. Thanx for reading.


Demi Goddezz said...

plans lines up for future .. it struck me as to how we all plan plan and then plan again and then all of a sudden everything falls apart.. we pick those peices and then plan again and the cycle continues.. .. ragging . i remember those days too..:))relax yaar .. everything has its time...a good read !

karthik m said...

now i know the origin of ghost particles(that ID has always fascinated me)... this reminds me of my own first year days at medical college... gone through sarcastic saddistic ragging at its peak! our batch is so affected that we decided to stop doing the same to juniors and but its not an overstatement,a collective attitude of a single batch can determine the fate of an university!(this has been a well written post... anyway one question, have you any plans of turning into a professional writer?if do... pls pursue!)

Jason said...

intriguing. you are gifted. become a teacher if you want to and do not think about its responsibility because no one seems to do it. it only gets in your ways. moral value means nothing. it used to mean something, but now it lost its importance completely.

i don't think you will be able to ignore its value fully because i can't, although i am telling you to forget about it. your conscious will not allow it. but don't let it get in your way too much.

Nahuatl said...

Best in the series! :)

I don't think others are not doing right if they are involved in things other than studies.

Dude.. if you are happy in what you are doing and the state in which you are, then you are doing good. Maybe others also feel happiness and satisfaction in what they do. If they do, that is right.

Life is given to accomplish many things... but also to enjoy it and live happily.

Hope things get better with each post you write :P

Ghost Particle said...

[Demi...] True, plans are important because they keep us on track and get organized, but plans again are general causes for failure. Things that happen in random have a greater success significance. Thanx for the comment! :)

[Karthik] True, the universities nowadays need to have powerfull student voices like in the past. Money can buy everything nowadays including stundents. I hope one day ragging will stop. Thanx for the comment, I am planning to become a writer if not a novel then maybe a scientific writer.:)

[Jason] Thanx for the comment. True, moral has no value nowadays, everything you see is what you get, people are crude and raw. But the power to change is with us, our generation and generations to come. Being humans, we can never espace the conciousness. :)

[Nayan] Thanx bro, I know there are always up's and downs in life. We cannot judge others but we have the human rights to question whats right and wrong. I hope to write more soon. :)

senthil natarajan said...

nice read dude! reminds of college days, though we din have much ragging at our college.

sophie said...

u made me nostalgic gp

Technicolour Nightmare said...

I can't believe they would do that to you. But it is something to remember, and probably made you stronger.
And good on you for trying anyway!

Rising...... said...

Life is a stage man.. dont waste time thinking about the past if you cant get any good out of it. When I get sad, I always think of the happy days when I had been successful in the past, and that helps me bring my confidence up. That is how I have achieved what I have.. even if I am not the king of the world, I am the king of myself.
Take the bad things as learnd lessons, and tame yourself to be shielded from similar things that would happen in future, believe me, they happen in lots..All the best...

Fauzan said...

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More thoughtful comments on your post coming up :)

Anonymous said...

Okay lets put it this way...

there's hell and pple like you are overwhelmly (sp.) invited...

hahahha...just kidding..

anyway thanks for the comments and nice to know someone is a garfield fanatic..

Anonymous said...

I had to read this twice to....

How true, so how true...

Ps: hope you are well..

slimgabshy said...


You have given detail account of your campus life. I have to agree with the subjects mentioned in your post, especially on ragging.

I was a victim myself. It’s a vicious cycle. One batch will stop ragging and another batch will start it all over again. Normally the batch of juniors who does not experience ragging will have the tendency to perform ragging when they become seniors.

It’s a sadistic culture that seems so popular among the Indians. It’s a typical demonstration of animal nature of humans – the strong preying upon the weak. Perhaps this also the nature that assures our survival…….

susubala said...

Its true and that's a well planned future !


it rains around the world sleep welcomes the dream, and  enigmatic souls awaken along the eternal shores of destiny