Sayan Supratim Das | SIPA Class of 2018
This is not my first rendezvous with New York. The city and I have been close friends for years now. I suppose many around me in SIPA share this personal bond. New York, after all, is a friend of everyone who breathes ambition. And so when you meet your ‘imaginary’ old friend for the first time, the breathlessness of the reunion can overwhelm us, or perhaps distract us from one crucial element of life.
I write this on the first day of November. Today marks the 65th day of us being in SIPA since we began our engagement with the school on orientation. Nine weeks worth of classes have been consumed by our hungry minds. Outlines have been drafted, papers have been written, examinations have been passed (failed, possibly, in my case), projects have been announced, homework groups have been created and some broken. Friendships have been formed, a few affairs of the heart have begun, and a handful must have unfortunately ended. We have laughed; shared secrets, our hopes and joys. We have been homesick, alone and in groups. We have returned home in ways we expect undergraduates to, and then we have also taken the road back to our beds having rid ourselves of the burden of homework and assignments like responsible adults. We have felt liberated in this city, yet the city has overwhelmed us as well. We have attempted to teach others our cultures. In turn we have learnt about the world. Amidst all this we have also been found by a sense of loneliness, cynicism, exhaustion, fear and loathing.
All this in nine short weeks.
There is something about time. It sprints. And despite our best efforts, it remains out of our reach. Yet it leaves us with various gifts. The early morning smile when on our way to school, a random store on the street becomes familiar, as if it was always our own, signalling an acceptance of what was previously new is now old, regular almost. The coffee shop which now knows our preferences when we walk in with a wry early morning grin. The corners of the library which we have begun to call our own. The change in weather, subtle before, now somehow becomes sharper, informing us of the season which is awaited. A song which reminds us of someone, special perhaps, from years back, suddenly making the past our present for those brief moments while we struggle in the library with an economics question.
And then there is the guilt. Come to think of it, time is the greatest master, a cruel one at that. It feeds on misery, prolonging it, more in our memories than anything else. It reminds us of moments lost, of people forgotten, of relationships which no longer bind us, and of opportunities which should have been taken at the end of a long day when the exhausted soul rests on the bed. Either way, time remains our master. And we continue as hapless slaves.
Time can change our lives in an instant. Mine changed at seven in the morning on 9th March this year. As did yours and of those who began with us. Yet, during such occasions, the rivers and oceans continue to flow, the sun rises and sets just as is demanded, the moon glows in parts till it disappears, but time…decides. It decides to set us free, or bind us with each other here. It decides to teach us lessons inside a classroom, and some outside. It is cruel as well, deciding to afflict pain on us which tears us apart slowly, or perhaps, chops us instantly with the swiftness of a gazelle. It will present us with nights when we will dance without abandon and a few with tears over undone problems and deadlines which we overlooked. It will give us unknown highs when currents of success will run through our spine, reminding us of the reason we are on this campus. Time will also give us occasions to walk through this institution and pinch ourselves. It will make us question how we are part of a legacy which is this strong. And yet, time is owned by no one. Before we know it, we will wear our blue gown and caps, hold our flags and march on to new beginnings.
Time. It is never our own, but it sings to us as if it was always ours. So what song is your time singing for you?