‘College is a refuge from hasty judgment.’ Robert Frost had said. But if you ask me Colleges, at times, need refuge from hasty judgments themselves. The not so young and naïve me always imagined my engineering college to be like some old castle in Dehradun; a shadow of Hogwarts would have done, but it needed to be a huge, old, artistic, bricked palace on endless verdant ground. Later I decided to settle for a remote huge campus by a peaceful lake or river, away from the busy world. To be reasonable, God was generous, very generous but in a quirky way.
My engineering college was in a huge campus that is 50+ years old. For people who have studied outside Mumbai, this might seem weird, but in Mumbai colleges hardly have grounds, campus is asking for way too much. But this one was different. There were no castles in my campus but huge green fields and canopied roads connecting the various ends of the mini forest in the heart of a concrete jungle. I called it a mini forest because the day I went there for my admission, it was early monsoon and the grass grew like wild bunch everywhere, trees stood like their shape and size had never been restricted and the dull roads were strewn with fallen leaves, stuck to the ground, refusing to move. Every car that came in seemed to stir the calm of the quaint place. And guess what, it was situated in Juhu – a place where half the Bollywood stars reside (should not have been quiet!). I got another wish fulfilled too – water body close to campus, though not peaceful. My college was right next to Juhu Beach.
After college started, for months I didn’t like the place at all but one winter morning changed something. Reaching early morning was a ritual for me, but that day my friends and I decided to walk to our college from Santacruz station as we had broken our own record of being early birds. It was 7:30 in the morning. The mist (mostly of dust) was slowly rising but the sleepy lanes of Juhu were anything but dull. While we walked through a shortcut we had heard about, it echoed with hypnotic chants and chiming bells from a nearby temple. Hidden in a corner, it was beautiful and peaceful and big. We went in without a second thought but little did we know this temple would become our must stop place for the next four years. I still remember there was a peculiar tree right in front of the temple, almost dead but every morning it was a sanctuary for hundreds of crows – weird 1 (a puzzle I couldn’t solve).
After reaching college that day, I still had an hour before the first lecture and decided to explore my campus. There was an old, half burnt building in our campus that people hardly visited, but I decided to go there that day only to find out that it was an old auditorium which was burnt down by an ill fate short circuit some years back. From there I headed to the University library, which is apparently one of the oldest college libraries of the city. I loved that place. The smell of books, the quiet hall flanked by lines and lines of books and a small pond next to it with lotuses – Library was my happy corner in the campus. But that day I met a chatty home science final year student there.
Final year meant infinite hours of campus expeditions and hostel stories, and she was more than willing to share them with me. She started with how our campus was a Bollywood favorite earlier (Dil and Kya Kehena were shot here) and how only the auditorium was the most prominent building of the campus. I took the opportunity and asked her more about the auditorium. She confirmed the story about the auditorium but also added that a lot of people consider the place haunted. Being a glutton for paranormal I asked her if she knew more crazy stuff about the campus. She told me there was a door in the hostel that was never opened. And there had been an “incident” in the hostel in the past which resulted in muffled noises in the corridors of the hostel, though it has stopped now. Couple of years later I also found an article that got me really intrigued. I tried confirming the stories from my classmates but other that the door part they never confirmed a thing.
Irrespective of the authenticity of the stories, from that day I kept going to college early every day for almost a year. Early morning walk, a visit to the “Khandar”(auditorium), and then library in hope of meeting that girl again. (Yes, I never asked her name and finding a student in a crowd 5000 was nearly impossible. I never met her again. Over the four years, the place grew on me. Friends, festivals, crazy stuff like picking mangoes and running away, hours of exams prep in library, IVs and many more memories. I started liking it. But no other day could match the significance of that winter morning. The memories made the campus an important part of my life, but that winter morning had made it interesting for the first time.
The pond near Library
P.S. - The link to the article http://www.prepsure.com/news/4-most-haunted-college-campuses-in-india/ .
'This post is my entry for 'My College Diary' contest held by travel blog My Yatra Diary in collaboration with Collegedunia.com' I would like to tag - Manjulika, Roshan and Ragini for this contest! :D