Of late, I've worried myself quite a bit. I'm now in the last four months of my stay at IIT, this place where I've spent suck a large chunk of my life. Yet, try as I might, I haven't been able to scare up so much as a hint of nostalgia for my years here. I got a trifle emotional when some of my friends left last year, but IIT itself, events like the last 'Surbahar' or the last 'MI' passed by and left me quite cold. But last night, my nostalgia finally rose from a rather unlikely source.
I had a keen interest in western music when I first came here, it seemed so much cooler than my Karnatic swaras. So I attended the semester's first meeting of our western music club, 'Staccato,' determined to be pleased. I listened mouth agape as they discussed Iron Maiden and guitar riffs, using a profusion of four lettered words, and returned that night with a firm crush on the club convener.It's funny how many decisions I made that year, just because I liked a boy.
I determined to sing in 'Unplugged', the first major Staccato event of the year, and to become the best club member I could be. As a freshman, I was selected to be a backup singer for a Corrs' song and I was humbly proud. The night before the event was spent doing publi: painting a giant cutout that advertised IITB Unplugged in giant blue-black letters. I smeared my jeans with paint, giggled whenever my convener spoke and so, blissfully spent my first nightout at IIT.
The big night came. I'd been thinking of it all day, scarcely listening to a word that was spoken in class. The stage was a pool of light, before which the seats of the theatre rose. When my turn came, I went down there and tried to peer beyond the harsh light and recognize the shadowy forms of my friends. They were all there, to cheer me on. I don't remember much of that performance; I know I stumbled through my part, forgetting half of my carefully figured harmonies, with a curious sense of unreality. I remember trembling so much, my earrings kept hitting my cheeks.
Performance done, I accepted the kind comments of my friends rather numbly and sat there watching as the next band took the stage. My friends left soon, they had only come to see me, but I sat there in the darkness, watching people make music below me, in a circle of light. I sat there till the final piece ended and the slightly-off-key voice of the final singer faded. I watched the floodlights come on, banishing the shadows from where I was seated, causing me to blink in confusion. We posed together for a photograph, about twenty of us, standing in two rows. Then we carried the instruments back into the music room and called out our goodbyes.
Last night, I sang at 'Unplugged' for the final time. Since that first year, I haven't been much of a member of Staccato. I'd discovered in the interval that Indian music suited me better, and that writing was even more fun than music. But when some wonderfully talented juniors asked me to perform with them, I agreed, without much thought of last times or nostalgia. We did one song, rather rough around the edges. I sang the lead this time. Then I sat back in the shadows again and watched other people playing in that circle of light. It was a pleasant night and I thought back to my first Unplugged without much sentiment. But then quite suddenly, something inside me seemed to shift. For a second, the people sitting there last night seemed inexpressibly dear to me, as if they were a part of something I didn't quite want to let go of yet.
Perhaps I've just been numb all these months, but last night was a little like an awakening. Five years is the longest I've ever spent in a single place and as they come to a close, I'm finding myself quite restless. But I can't just walk out of here, without any parting words. These five years have been among the best in my life.
So now, I'm only just beginning to say goodbye.