All must have had the experience of bunking class in college at least once. It was a daring thing to do in the 1980’s, and perhaps still is for some.
MGM college, Manipal, has an attractive and inviting facade. A structure with a quaint old world charm. It stands on sprawling grounds, surrounded by stately Ashoka trees. The edifice peeps from behind the curtain of glistening greens and yellow lining its periphery. The shimmering sunlight plays hide and seek through the leaves of the grand gulmohars which sway playfully in the gentle summer breeze.
Students from the small town of Udupi, aspired to go to this elite college. At 8.00 am, one could see students alight from the bus and make their way up the tarred road into its stately gates. Some would alight from chauffeured cars, with silken tresses and stilettos. Waving out to each other, they would catch up with friends as they hurried to their class. Groups of boys and girls hanging out under the trees was a familiar sight. Laughter would suddenly emerge from such groups making heads turn. The air would be primed with cheer, fun and camaraderie. Those were the days!
Sitting for a Hindi lecture after lunch was the most challenging task of the day. The heavy meal would lull us into slumber mode. Added to it, the drone of our Hindi Sir, would make it immensely challenging to keep our heavy eyelids open. Yawns are infectious. A wide gaping mouth would trigger many more! Embarrassed, we would try to hide it behind our texts. But not before our sir would catch us in the act. With a smug look, he would shoot a question at us. Challenging our audacity to snooze when our desi skills were so pathetic!
One such Monday we made a plan. Sir had scheduled a grammar test. At the same time, our bio sir, had given a pile of notes to copy. Inundated with so many tasks, we had only one solution running in our minds.“Bunk Hindi lecture”.
Our college Principal was very strict. Hell would break loose if he came to know that we had bunked class. A letter would go to our parents reporting our despicable behavior. Back in those days, bunking was a shameful thing to do.
The bell rang and the lunch break was over. Instead of heading towards the class, we took a different route. Our entire personality changed. From being fearless girls who thrived on attention, we now wanted to become invisible. We slinked along the walls, darted around the corners and crouched below the windows as we stealthily made our way to the college library.
As we approached the library, I realized that I had not carried the library card. The librarian would not permit me to enter. So, my friend made a plan. She was the chirpy one among-st us. The plan was that she would engross the librarian in an enquiry, while I would slip through the divider unnoticed.
The four of us entered the library. I trailed behind. We heard the intonation of the librarian echoing in the silent space around. His piercing bespectacled eyes watched as we approached.
My friend opened her diary and pointed out a fancy reference book recommended by our professor. The impressed librarian got onto the job immediately and began thumbing through his catalogue. He turned and looked confidently towards one of the many tall cupboards stacked with books.
I seized the moment and sneaked through the divider. My heart thudded loudly. I felt it would certainly be audible to the lady, a meter away. My palms were sweating. But I dared not reach out for the hanky in the bag. Lest any unnecessary movement should attract the librarian’s attention. As I made way forward, my thoughts were a blur. I imagined that the Librarian would call out to me at any moment.“Hey you, where is your library card?”.
Before I knew it, I had turned round the bend and arrived into the hallowed hall. I stared into the mellow eyes of our Ex President staring at me from the frame above. I wiped the glistening beads of sweat off my brow. Mumbled a silent apology to the leader and whispered a thank you to the God above.
In the safety of the library hall, I gingerly tip-toed towards a table. Settled myself in the corner. Wiggled into the wall as much as I could, so that I would be shielded from prying eyes of the passersby through the window.
My friends walked in a little later triumphantly with the ‘Mission accomplished’ look, suppressing giggles. After all, they had the library card while I had broken the rules. With them seated at the table, I felt bolder. Like comrades in arms, we pulled out the sheet of notes and began writing.
One period stretched into two. There was more work to be completed. We continued writing. The second period stretched into the third. Finally, it was time to leave. We hurriedly packed our bags planning to make a dash before the dispersal bell. We wanted to avoid our classmates who would ask us awkward questions.
Triumphantly we emerged out of our hideout into broad daylight. And lo! We landed face to face with our Hindi Sir who was on his way into the library. So much for the trouble we took to evade trouble! Unforgettable.