This Saturday I had a wonderful walk to remember at the fabulous campus nearby. I somehow had to slow down and I couldn’t think of a better way than to be in nature.
“Hey! Watch out for that fella behind you!”
The voice interrupts my consciousness, startling me. Just ten minutes earlier, I had settled on the sofa with my backpack beside me, notebook on the wide armrest, pen poised over paper, thinking beautiful thoughts.
I look up at the voice. A student passing by. Instinctively, I slide my bag close to me, get up, and quickly walk a few steps away before I warily turn to look at what he meant.
A monkey is calmly sitting on the backrest of the sofa–my sofa. So close! Looking at me fearlessly, as if to say, You are on our campus, missus! Even as I watch in shock, ten more monkeys join the first, one by one, as if they had choreographed the whole ‘act.’
Ten of them. These campus monkeys are aggressive and think nothing of snatching whatever they fancy. As I nervously try to decide whether I should head to the elevator at the dead end of the corridor or take the stairs, I see one monkey leisurely peeing all over the sofa. I have to get the hell out of dodge. Or dodge the hell away from those monkeys!
Still undecided over whether to take the elevator or the stairs, I decide the stairs are best and rush towards them when two monkeys streak past me and freak me out. I nervously tiptoe down the stairs and heave a sigh of relief when I reach the basement.
I am afraid of monkeys. I was once scratched by one and have had several close encounters of the worst kind with others. Shuddering, I make my way back to the charming open classroom where my old friends, the swarm of mosquitoes, welcome me rather gleefully.
Two puppies shyly sniff around before settling to stare at me from a distance. Every time I twitch, which was every few seconds, the pups look on high alert and make as if to take off. How sad that they would think I might hurt them! Or maybe they just expect me to play catch? I prefer to assume the latter.
A walk to remember
Anyway, I exit from there when the mosquitoes become unbearable. I walk down the pavilion pathway which is a beautiful stone pillar-lined walkway that goes across a pretty little bridge.
I think of it as picturesque, imagining the water running under it, glinting in the sunshine. In reality, there is no water under the bridge. It is dry, usually a receptacle for random waste flung in by people who think nobody will notice. Still, the foresty place always evokes dreamy thoughts.
The pathway leads to another part of campus to a coffee shop attached to the Center For Electronics Design And Technology. Today, being Saturday, and a holiday, it is locked. Sigh. I decide to warm the already rather warm bench outside until the local mosquitoes find me and check me out. I look up at the bright blue sky, and the fluffy little clouds probably having a good private laugh as the weather forecast predicts rain.
Blue skies as a backdrop for the crimson flame of the forest flowers
What fun these clouds will have, suddenly gathering and letting it flow! I will go with the flow and even have the last laugh. But before that, maybe I will walk to the other coffee place- the little red van — and enjoy a cup or two.
A few minutes later, I do exactly that. There I am, enjoying a biscuit from the forgotten pack I discovered in my bag. I am feeling quite pleased with myself, dipping the biscuit in the little glass of coffee, blissfully enjoying the gentle breeze. I notice the darkening of the skies, harkening the arrival of the rain any minute now, and feel relieved that I had thought to carry an umbrella. A super mosquito sips at my feet companionably, something I become aware of only when the sharp needle-like pain hits me.
I get up and walk again.
It always brings me so much joy to pass the Inorganic Chemistry Department on my way. It reminds me of my very first visit to this campus in 1993.
I was 30, and a regional manager in a telecom company. Was it really 30 years ago? Doesn’t seem that way, somehow. I recall being a little intimidated by the security procedures at the main gate. It took a full 30 minutes before they let me in, after reconfirming on their intercom that I indeed had an appointment with the department I was visiting. Then there was the security check, bag check, and so on before I could finally move on.
Then, fast forward ten years, my son joined this institute’s campus school as a first grader and was there until the 12th grade before moving to another city for the undergrad and masters course. During those five years, he visited this campus every year for his summer internship with one of the professors in the department he is now visiting.
As my mind wanders, I muse on how life has come full circle. This summer, as a Ph.D. student, he visits the campus four times a week. Amid much protesting, I accompany him simply because I want to. I find the two or three hours I spend here on campus, wandering around, so liberating.
During this time, I am forced to slow down and breathe. The freedom to roam around along the tree-lined paths, thinking, stopping to sit somewhere, and then walking again … to the coffee shop where they now greet me warmly and welcome me with a smile, all of it warms my soul.
I often buy a small bar of chocolate and find it charming to see the happiness on my son’s face when I give it to him after his class.
As I walk back toward the department, I decide to sit on a bench en route. Watch people passing by. What a feeling! The swaying branches seem to agree with me.
I lazily look at my toes with the chipping red nail polish, making the hundredth note to myself to wipe it off. Didn’t I mention to someone recently that I hated chipping nail polish? Sigh. The things we say and the things we do! Maybe I should write remove nail polish on my list?
As I also look at my 30-year-old beige salwar (bottom garment), I recall how it came to be and smile. One of the students passing me by at that moment gives me a tentative awkward look probably wondering if they know me. I get that a lot. I have come to the conclusion that it must be the beatific look on my bespectacled face that only coffee can inspire.
I become aware that this location’s super mosquito squad has now found me. I can almost hear them conspiratorially whisper fresh meat, fresh meat and I think, it is time to escape.
As I laugh at my own joke and gather my stuff, I look up to see a monkey lazily dangling from a branch, water bottle gripped in its mouth as if to say, Look ma no hands. I hear the revving of a motorbike. It is a guy in his 20s cruising. I notice he’s trying to impress a girl walking by the side of the road. He’s running his hands through his hair, hands off the handlebar. I watch this with my heart in my mouth, hoping he passes the girl fast enough to get a grip on the handlebar before crashing unceremoniously.
Ah, youth! I used to ride my scooter like that, perched a little farther back on the seat, arms stretched fully to hold the handlebar — but only because I had to take the pressure off my painful tailbone.
I look at my watch now and decide to head back to the math department. My son usually finishes his session around this time. I hang about, chatting with the security guard who usually paces up and down to escape the mosquitoes. I listen to his woes. Sometimes people only need a listening ear to feel better. I remember my snack pack and share it with him and we munch peacefully in silence.
Minutes later, I see my son emerge. I take a few steps forward to meet him at the little fish pond where we pause to watch the fish and the little turtles for a little while.
Then we head to the main gate, admiring the bright blue flowers on the way.
We amicably decide to walk home rather than look for transport. Our autorickshaws are notorious when it comes to short distances and demand atrocious fares. We have learned to laugh it off and get our 10K steps as we briskly walk home, chatting, laughing. In our book, that’s a win-win.
A walk to remember, indeed!
Thank you for reading ❤