It was 1994.
Baba rode Ema’s Bajaj M50 wearing a sun straw hat and drove inside the house, parked the bike in our shumang, laughing heartily saying “Khulle khulle”. I was selected for Electronics Engineering and got the seat in PES Institute of Technology in Bangalore. I was not that happy, I wanted to go for Computer Science Engineering if I opt for Engineering line. Also I was trying to gulp the rejection of medical entrance exam. I wasn’t sure If I really wanted to go. I toyed with the idea of dropping one year and preparing for medical exam which was a common practice then. Baba and Ema wasn’t for it. There was no way I was going to have a drop year. Mostly Ema was against it, she spoke really positively showing me the possibility of moving forward and yet adding another possibility that I could always decide to write medical exam If I still wanted to after 1 year. Ema has this knack of putting all the different possibility and yet empowering me to make the choice. This was a pivotal moment of choosing path in life. I remain grateful for Baba and Ema’s intervention. If I took the gap year as I initially wanted, I am not sure where I will be now.
There were 6 students from Manipur who got selected in the same college. It was decided that I should go to Bangalore. Ema arranged for the tickets, bus tickets from Imphal to Guwahati, catch the train at night and reach Bangalore. It was estimated to be around 4 days journey. Baba will drop me to Bangalore.
We started for the journey. The other 3 students joined us with two fathers too. Two of the students went by flight, there could afford the flight tickets. Flight wasn’t an option for me, we couldn’t afford it. So we packed and started from Imphal in the bus. I don’t eat much in the bus as I have motion sickness. It was minimal food, water and avomin for me. Baba is really a good traveler. He would enjoy hotel food, pick up enjoyable conversations with strangers on the way. I really admire his traveling style enjoying the moments. I didn’t like the extreme turns of the Bus making my nausea worst. I was happy to land at Guwahati at night, we ran across the bridge carrying our luggage to catch the train.
Baba got settled in the train once we knew where we were sitting. He carefully put chains and lock to secure our suitcases. We enjoyed tea served in clay cups, aloo puri served on dried leaves, jhal muri as snacks, cucumber, the long variant which I haven’t seen in Manipur cut right in front of you sprinkled with salt and red chilly powder. Baba encouraged me to try and eat when the vendors will walk by selling. I was better in the train journey than the bus. I really enjoyed watching from the window of the train, beautiful fields with paddy, cows grazing, banana leaves grown abundantly. But the stations were another story, it was dirty, very dirty with the stench starting even before the train is parked. The train got delayed, not by minutes or hours, it got delayed by day. We were tired with days of traveling. We jumped out at Bangalore cantonment station thinking we have reached Bangalore.
We realise that we still need to go a long way. We got into a taxi and went straight to PESIT located at Banashankari. After bargaining the taxi driver agreed for 500 odd indian rupees which was really high then. We drove into this beautiful campus with two similar looking buildings. The cab drove down the slope and turning towards my right I saw beautiful mini forest with stones and tall trees. My tiredness disappeared and I could see a new beginning of my life.
We were seated out and the Principal of PESIT called us in. After he heard us about our allotment of seats, he said “Go back”. There was some confusion on the seat allotment, and start of college time. At this point, my father started shouting. He was really angry. Did I tell you about Baba’s temper. I am used to his temper but I bet the principal is not. He did seem a little shocked. My excitement of college life in this beautiful campus is melting as Baba’s anger is rising. I spoke up in meiteilon, told my father to calm down. I proposed that he step out for a bit and I will speak to the principal. I said in a low voice, nicest way to Baba for I dare not answer back to him. But at that moment I was scared of losing my seat!
The principal spoke English in South Indian accent. He had curly hair, slightly long in front, parted in two third which fell neatly on the forehead. He was dressed neatly, with the shirt fold intact from iron press, looked still fresh in the late afternoon, serious with his glasses and sounded very busy. He is talking in between instructing his staff in kannadika. There were two ladies on the desk working, and a guy who was walking around carrying files.
I tried to time my conversation trying to speak up in between his pause.
Sir, We have come all the way from Manipur and have had almost 5 days of journey. We came by bus from Manipur and then caught the train from Guwahati to Bangalore and reach today. Here are the papers for our seats with the name of college written and direction to report here in the college. We came here as per the instructions written here.
The Principal reread the papers, looked up at me.
You came from Manipur.
Where are you staying?
We don’t know Sir, We came directly from the railway station. We just reached. We have to find a hotel. We want to understand the timeline of the admission so that my father can plan to go back to Manipur after the admission.
His look changed. He instructed the office guy to get Coffee. He then picked up his phone and started talking with someone else in Kannadiga. He was briefing him about us and the situation. He mentioned the words “Manipur” “Tribal” “Admission”.
We just knew the address of the college and came directly. There was no phone call to the college to indicate that we were coming. We didn’t stop in the railway station to eat food or freshen up. The train was late and the goal was to meet the college official and finish the admission procedure at the earliest so that the elders could book the return ticket. Every day they stay back, they will need to spend money and money is limited. So when we arrived in the college with the focus mindset, limited funds and the principal blatantly told us to go back, it was an unexpected moment.
The Principal seem to have understood a bit of our situation. He instructed us to go and meet the founder Prof. M.R. Doreswamy the next day. He gave us his home address and timing. He called a taxi for us and instructed the taxi driver to take us to a nearby hotel. By then it was starting to get dark. We stayed in the hotel, had the best night sleep after a warm vegetarian thali served on banana leaves.
We went to meet Prof. M.R. Doreswamy early the next morning. He was very warm, spoke softly and kindly. He was patient and listened to what we have to say. He reviewed our papers, made some calls speaking in Kannadiga the local language using words “Manipur” “Tribal” “Admission”. We sipped the coffee offered as we waited. Finally he told us that admission is confirmed which was a sigh of relief for all of us. But it will take time for the college to open, and the girls hostel is not ready as yet. There is a gap of almost two months. We were happy with the news but now we have another decision we need to make.
Where will we stay for this two months? We are trying to calculate the cost of traveling back and forth.
He offered that he could arrange for us to stay in the boys hostel until the girls hostel is ready. It is the holiday time before the next semester is going to start so there are not many boys in the hostel and he can have some rooms allotted where we can securely stay. He was trying his best to give us alternatives and indicated that he will get the girls hostel ready as soon as possible. I felt the kindness and understanding of his words.
… to be continued.
That is 99 minutes of today’s writing. More tomorrow. Do drop a comment, would love to hear what you feel reading this. Happy New Year 2023!Monica Ingudam