There's exactly a week to go for our Convocation. The Undergraduate batch of 2017 will walk up the stage in our whites and gold (blouses stitched and ready, girls?), and walk on to the rest of our lives. This Loni chapter has finally ended.
I wrote this essay to be the preface in the yearbook my classmate Mazhar was making for our batch. When he approached me to write it, I remember agonising about how hard it would be. Each of our journeys of learning to be designers has been so diverse and personal, that I wondered how to put 180 individual experiences into one bit of text that everyone would relate to.
But we do have a common experience, one thats the reason and backdrop of all the others: Loni. This essay is the prose version of #somewhereinloni, and god bless whoever came up with this perfect hashtag that has become code for our lives, and is perhaps our legacy.
I’ve always thought that we lived in a village.
Of course, I can almost hear you thinking, of course we lived in a village- it was the bane of our collective existence. We constantly found new ways to crib and complain about this exact situation; why are you still unsure Sneha? Of course we lived in a village.
Geographically, Loni was as rural as we could get without feeling genuinely uncomfortable. People from S6 will understand what I mean- remember Rural Visit? A village is a clustered human settlement, with a small population and defined patterns of life. We had everything it takes to make the perfect theoretical, if not geographical, village- a single corner shop that stocked essentials erratically, a meeting point that though not under a tree, served chai and cigarettes, assorted wildlife ranging from dogs to buffaloes, and most importantly a great expanse of beautiful countryside- impeccable green lawns, sloping hills in the distance, leafy roads made for sunset strolls, and above all, our very own river. We met and mingled only with each other, apart from occasional trips to the big city when we felt too closed in. We ate the same food at the same highway dhabas, chosen after the same game of roulette that we all played every evening: “I don’t mind anywhere for dinner…except Paratha Place”. We walked everywhere, except for the privileged few with modes of transportation, who we begrudged as they sped past us on the way out. Our activities were governed by the weather: it was always too rainy, too hot or too cold to do something or the other, but each season brought some gorgeousness to our daily lives with the canopy of gulmohurs, unbelievable sunsets and icy cold walks to breakfast. The less said about summer, the better.
At night we stayed up listening to trains announcing their passage through the village, cutting through the silence that descended after 10pm when everyone had to go home. We brought each other supplies from the big city, helping out almost any one who needed something urgently (usually food). Planning an outing took at least 3 days, requiring almost professional organisational skills (eternal gratitude to Shabbir/Sameer/Shaukat for bringing us back from all the 5pm movies we had to go for). We all drank the same sasta alcohol at the same hole in the wall restaurants (can we even call Maushi’s a restaurant?), the level of shadiness of which I’ve always had a hard time describing to people. It’s just a Loni thing I guess, and I’m sure we’ll all find that in all the years to come, it’ll be almost impossible to get anybody to share our enthusiasm for anda maggi, MIT discount at Multispice, PreQuasar or even our ever expanding dog family. Let’s face it, nobody’s ever lived like we have.
We defined what Loni is, with our stories. It exists only in our collective memories. And the debt we owe to it is very real. This make believe village gave us the space (quite literally) to begin to grow into the designers we hope to be. Remember the unruly bunch we were in Foundation! That unruly bunch has come a long way together, and if I may say so myself- we’re a great batch. Without us, Loni would’ve just been a stop on the way to Solapur, and how lame is that? This book contains that village that we created together. I hope that as we come back to it over the years, and look at our beaming faces flanked by the palm trees that creep into every #somewhereinloni picture, it’ll all come rushing back to us. I also hope that when we’re adults, and we find ourselves out of milk powder or Fevicol or some such, and as we’re on our way to the store to buy it, we’ll remember that between the years 2012-2017, we could’ve knocked on any door in our village to borrow some, stopping at each for a bit of friendly faculty bashing before going back to our rooms- happy and hopeful.
Every time we’d return from a trip to the big city, and the air got colder as we passed the Grape Institute, and everything got a whole lot quieter, save for the wailing of trucks, it almost seemed as if we’d entered a new place altogether; that in the inky blackness that rushed by outside our rickshaw, there was an expanse that we could explore, a star studded sky we could be completely free under. And just as we’d settle into that daydream, lulled by the breeze, we’d take a sharp left, past our friends drinking chai at Kaka’s, through the tunnel, be summoned for ID’s, and we’d wake abruptly only to realise that this isn’t anywhere new, we’re just back to our village again.
The best part? No one else even knows it exists.