“So you are a movie buff?”
I woke up early that day, too excited to sleep in. After all the fresher’s party of your college is supposed to be a memorable experience. I kicked my roomies out of their beds, disappointed on their lack of enthusiasm for the eventful day. Nevertheless, I got ready , careful to comply with the dress code the seniors had made us memorise: White shirt, black trousers with black formal shoes. Convinced that I looked decent enough, I hailed my roomies (who were the only friends I had managed to make within a fortnight of joining college) and we joined scores of other freshmen who were lining up to make their way to the designated venue : the auditorium.
Walking down the heavily canopied road, I observed the other people, some as excited as I was, others just looking as if this was just another boring day of college.
“I won’t let any opportunites go by today”, remarked Kartik, his eyes gleaming with anticipation. My roommate no.1 had created an impression that all he cared about in college was to get a girlfriend. “We’ll see”, I said as we approached the dirt track which led to the first year girls hostel. My other roomie, Prakhar made no comment, just looking down at the road .He seemed to be scared stiff by the fact that we were going to be outnumbered today by the population of the second year and third year seniors and he had spent the last night cramming up the format of the introduction we were supposed to deliver whenever asked by a senior.
“Chill bro, no one’s going to kill you over forgetting a line of your intro”, Kartik patted his back. Over-worrying was not one of his characteristc, though I knew he hadn’t memorised the format and was relying on his wits to impress the seniors.
The girls came down the dirt track, huddled together as if expecting an attack from us. Unfortunately for Kartik, they were wearing everday clothing and everyone had their hair tied into identical braids, making them look like they were all related in some way.
We all reached the auditorium and took our seats, the girls occupying the front seats, leaving the first row unoccupied for the faculty members and the boys all sat in the subsequent rows, waiting for the event to begin. The interiors were ornate, balloons and streamers covering all the dull painted walls. The stage was curtained .A decent sound system was set up and a man was adjusting the volume and quality of the output with a plethora of wires connected to the microphones and other instruments.
The lights went down, and the curtains opened. A second year senior welcomed everyone to the event and announced the schedule of the program. The event began with a dance performance by the girls of our department, earning lots of whistles and claps from us. Overall the show went on smoothly, lots of singing, dancing, instrumental solos and skits. The seniors had really put their heart into making this a scintillating event, but one thing was odd: save from the presentors and a few others, there weren’t much seniors to be seen inside. We became wilder progressively , sometimes even standing on our chairs to cheer the performers and towards the end even Prakhar had lost all his fear and was literally hooting for the college band.
The event was supposed to end with the first years all going up to the stage and speak a brief introduction about themselves. We had to go out the back door and reach the back stage from outside the auditorium. The students were called branch-wise and they started to spill out from the back doors . We decided to move outside and get some air. Pushing our way through the crowd at the back door, we managed to get outside, and immediately the mystery of the missing seniors was put to an end.
The space behind the auditorium was filled with a horde of seemingly angry and burly seniors, grouped in twos or threes , each group talking to first years, some of them alone, others in groups. I was immediately called out by a couple of third years and I was separated from my friends, them having received their summons by another group of rowdy looking second years. Alone, I started to feel a bit scared about what was coming. I walked up to the third years, one of them sitting on his bike, the second one standing beside him, both of them looking as if they had caught a 20-pound trout after a hard day at fishing.
“Name?”, asked the one sitting on the bike, a new Pulsar 220.
“Sir…. Ameya Sinha”, I mumbled.
“Oh.. so you want to be called ‘sir’?” demanded the other one, looking formidable.
“No sir… I was addressing you, sir.” My cheeks reddened and I was starting to feel stupid.
“Where are you from?” they fired the next question. I told them. They demanded if there was anyone else from there whom I knew. I shook my head.
“What are your hobbies? ”, they asked. My answer was almost immediate: “Watching hollywood movies.” Well, I did watch a lot of movies. I already had gained reputation as the “movie guy” back at the hostel .
“Oh.. Another movie buff. I know exactly how to deal with you.”, the standing one said, an evil smile lurking on his face. “We will ask you a couple of questions related to your hobby, and if you are right, you will get a treat or else…” he left his sentence incomplete, leaving the rest to my imagination.
“Give the name of a Christopher Nolan movie”, he asked as if he had come prepared with a list of questions to be asked.
“The Dark Knight”, I replied, this being one of my favourite movies. He looked surprised as if he had not expected me to having heard of the great movie director. But he had plenty more questions up his sleeve. “What is his brother’s name?” .This was turning into a quiz about Chris Nolan.
“Sir… Jonathan Nolan.. If I remember right ..”
He was getting angry, I could see from the way he glared at me . The next question was such, I doubted if he himself knew the answer: “Which movie won the Oscar for best picture in 1999?”. I was dumbfounded. How the hell would I know about the Oscars of 1999? “Who was the director of cinematography in Avatar?” ,he demanded next, without waiting for an answer. Of course I did not know. His smile was replacing the scowl that had appeared on his face when I had answered his first two questions.
“What….And you call yourself a movie buff?”, the one sitting on the bike smirked. He rose from his bike and came towards me. I backed a little, feeling scared about what was about to follow.
Just then another senior, probably their classmate came shouting “ Chief Proctor coming…Get the hell out of here!”. Without another word, the two of them mounted the bike and rode away. But before they left, my quizzer looked at me and smiled. And it wasn’t a cunning one, a genuine ,warm smile. I stood there, half bewildered at all that had happened and the other half mentally thanking the faculty member for his timely appearance.
What I realised later was that this experience was not supposed to scare us away from the seniors. On the contrary ,it would lead to forming of bonds between seniors and juniors, something that we would treasure for the rest of our college and possibly, professional lives.
Contrary to what I expected, negativity never emanated from this exchange. I never confronted them again, though we catch sight of each other occasionally in the college corridors, and whenever we do…we just smile at each other, a token of recognition, an ode to memories made for life.