Day three was my off day. A couple of my batchmates had their personal interviews but otherwise, I had nothing set for the day. A day of having nothing to do isn’t as fun when you’re removed from everything that normally kept you entertained.
In a way these five days serve as a glimpse into how life would be if you did get recommended in the end. Holiday or not, whether you like it or hate it, life goes on, as per schedule. No compromises or exceptions. As always I was awoken with a rush of patriotic songs on the speaker, and everyone got out of their beds and walked over to the bathrooms like clockwork. We had no distractions, no other jobs that required our attention. It had been just two days but we had already sunk into habit. I had a place in the room where my slippers would stay, in the perfect spot that my feet would go in the moment I stood out of bed assuming I stood up on the same side. Which we did. We all made our beds as soon as we got up. There were rumours that we were always being watched and anybody had the power to blacklist us. So we made the beds partially to escape the eyes of the hostel warden and to seem like well mannered officer-esque men in each other’s eyes. We were friends, but the competition was always on the play. The clothes I’m going to wear that day would already be on the hanger, picked out by me the previous night. It was my day off but when you need to be in formal wear to step out of your room, it didn’t hurt to just stay dressed always. An order crept into the way we did things be it buckling my belt or tying up my shoelaces. As opposed to the last minute rushes of my college life. I look into the mirror and the clean-shaven face with hair cut to the scalp somehow seemed respectful. My mom would be so proud. With no screens to bury my face into, I began taking notice of everything around me so much more.
#3 did yoga every morning, right by his bedside, since day one. Initially, others looked and murmured but now it was part of the routine, waking up to a pair of feet up in the air at the far end of the room. I could never do that. I used to go to the gym regularly when in college, so I had planned on carrying on with simple bodyweight workouts in the room through my stay there. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it because I would feel like there’s a spotlight on me, you know? #2 was my favourite. A civil engineering graduate all the way from up north, he reminded me of Mr.Bean. He didn’t look very bright and had trouble communicating in English, not that it ever got in the way of speaking his mind, he had a sense of wisdom to him. Like he was world-weary beyond his years. His humour was often simple and unexpected, and to be this far away from home in a place I didn’t speak the language would terrify me, but he walked everywhere like he owned the Earth and for that I always admired him.
I did two things every morning – breakfast and e-mail. I had begun to really look forward to the two times I got to phone home and check out my email. Again out of fear of being scrutinized by the guy manning the phone booth, I never attempted calling my friends even though I had around 6 phone numbers memorized in my head. I called my dad in the mornings, mom in the nights and only emailed my friends. Never have I been so excited about opening Gmail before. Although except two of my friends, nobody was used to the habit of checking emails anymore. I had expected this and asked those two to spread the word, to check their inboxes but in vain. Those emails are proving useful in helping me remember things now for these posts though.
I chose to stay in bed unless I had to go outside. #4 and #5 tried nagging me into playing table tennis but I chose to cling to my bed. I don’t do sports. Although I did do some other things later. #4 happened to be my senior in college. It was rather surprising how I hadn’t run into him once in the three years we were there. He was the one who slyly nominated himself in the group discussion from day one. He would continue to do so in the coming days as well. #5 was the hyper one. That one friend in every gang who always wants to make things happen, someday move to Vegas. I noticed he was low-key rather competitive but managed to keep a friendly face out loud. Common language and a more common attitude bound #4 and #5 together. After making me promise that I would play basketball with them later that evening, they left me alone and went upstairs to the game room. Spoiler alert: I wasn’t gonna play basketball anyway.
We also had our group photo session scheduled that day post lunch. People who had their group tasks were in white sportswear and those with interviews were in formals. The few of us who had only sleep on our schedules chose to be in plain shirts of different shades and stuck out like a sore thumb in the frame. But hey sore thumbs do hog all the attention. Not surprisingly enough, #4 and #5 managed to take centre seats and I sat nested between #3 and #6 to their left.
#6 was rather quiet and kept to himself mostly. He didn’t speak unless spoken to and didn’t even seem interested in hanging out unless everybody else also decided to. Even if one person wanted to back out, he readily offered his company. #7 was the fun one. The unintentional comic relief. He could absorb you into his stories with all the animated expressions and make you live them with him. He had just come back from his personal interview and was telling us the story. Turns out his interviewer had asked him what he would do if terrorists walked across our border in front of his eyes and in a sudden bout of patriotic fervour, he responded, “Sir, I have full faith that our army would fuck them over nicely and send them running back.” He froze realising he just swore in front of his interviewing officer but nothing had happened. The interviewer calmly took notes and proceeded to the next question, expressionless. We continued to make him recount the tale just to watch him narrate it in his own way. #8 was mostly uneventful. He was well mannered and didn’t shy away from any discussions and was happy to go along with anything anyone did. #9 was the information powerhouse. He was the one who prepped us for our interviews with current affairs and he would continue to marvel us in the coming days.
We spent the evening walking out, to the decathlon store for sandwiches and tea. It shortly began to drizzle and we returned immediately. Can’t perform group tasks with a stuffed nose. I rushed back to check up on my emails and phone calls. Day three was about brotherhood. About how long 24 hours can be when you aren’t scrolling on a glass pane all day. About sharing stories and becoming friends the old school way. We were going to need it for the next two days largely depended on how well we had bonded these past three days. In retrospection, the way our schedule was assigned – with interviews first, an off day, and the group tasks then – was a godsend that really allowed us to do this right. The people mattered. The trust you held between each other mattered. And I was lucky I was put in this particular batch of people.