Happy birthday, Sam!
When they say “opposites attract”, they don’t just mean it for people who are romantically involved with each other. It also holds good for “soul-sisters” which is just exactly what Sam and I are. Where I am all too-sweet and smiley most of the times to most people, Sam is sassy and sarcastic and real to everyone; she will tell you exactly how you made her feel without fear; I love and admire and also maybe a little bit jealous of this the most.
The day of the orientation is a strange day for all Environmental Science students, with all the students’ faces, eyes wide, lips unmoving, screaming one emotion: what is happening? Prabhakar sir conducts a small “ice-breaker” for us to get to know each other to get through the day. The seniors also talk with us and give us snacks, which is one of the many traditions of the department. After the general introduction — names, where we were from and what we hoped to become— there were two things that we all do in that ice-breaker session: one – stand in two concentric circles, place one of your hands on top of the person’s standing in front of you, look into their eyes, and talk.
Two – A skit. Sir told us two stories. One was about the eagle and the chickens and the other about the caterpillars who went on pilgrimage. And only half of those stories were told. We were supposed to complete it and enact it with no dialogues, as a team with a bunch of people we just met.
It was an awkward situation for all of us. I didn’t know anybody, nobody knew me, so I just slunk into a group which later, I remembered, was with Smriti, Indu, Passang and Sam and someone else— probably Jyothi.
We chose the caterpillar story and somehow, we did it. After the “act”, my seat was gone and I ended up sitting next to this long-haired girl that I hadn’t come across in the concentric circle introduction, but was in the skit group with me. She looked at me with huge eyes, put her hand to her chest and said, “Hi, I’m Samudyatha,” slowly and carefully, so I could get her name the first time — as I understood later. I smiled at her; her accent seemed like mine, laced with Kannada and I knew we’d fit. Everybody else I had talked to all day had accents that seemed different to me; more alien, more high-standard, more spontaneous, more…English-y and I kept thinking, maybe I’m the only one here. And my confidence levels were not too high that day.
Her number was the first that I put on my brand new Nokia 525 that day. I spelled her name right on the first try and her name, till date, doesn’t have “SJC” next to it. It’s not like I’d find another Samudyatha in my life. And definitely no one like her.
Sam and I have lots of mental lists: the “ugh” list, the “how-do-you-know-them” list, the “what-is-she-wearing-and-why-even” list and the famous “hate” list. Up until third year, I would point to someone and say, “I hate that person.” She would laugh and ask why. I would say that I don’t know; or I couldn’t remember. Sometimes, she would agree. Other times, I would agree with her choice of person of hatred, usually someone extraordinarily obnoxious. But if we were asked to write a list, we wouldn’t be able to. I don’t even know half the people’s names and I can’t remember the half that I do know. But if I ever face them again, on the planet or on my screen, my heart would just know.
Orange is her favourite colour, black coming a close second. She and Indu are favourite-colour buddies. They usually go on about how they don’t get clothes of their favourite colour when I try to slink into my desk and go unnoticed. This was true and untrue for me: I don’t like pink but I own a good amount of pink clothes, but I love blue and white, and clothes in these colours aren’t very hard to find and I make it a point not to buy them. Sam wore an orange and black short top over black pants for her first birthday in college. Hers was the first birthday we ever celebrated, complete with a small black forest cake from our omnipresent Surya bakery, and a tiny blue card that I made, with a black and orange cake at one corner. What a coincidence.
The second time I’d ever performed slam poetry was during Pratibha of 2016. The theme was “The World Through Your Eyes”, and I’d written about Bangalore, of course, and I’d written my poem in class a few minutes before and I’d shown it to her. She loved it. Stage fright isn’t all that new to me but when I did freeze up, just two lines into my poem, I looked at Sam sitting right in front of me, two rows deep, with Prince, Arun, Smriti and DJ; a familiar, reassuring face. But it was more than that; she prompted me my own poem, when the only copy was in my hands. Determined not to disappoint her, I gathered myself quickly, and performed without anymore frights.
During second year, our zoology practical labs were very easy. We studied the same things in theory also. It isn’t anything new; it happens all three years, but this particular year was different. Three hour labs were stretched to the point where all of us were asleep by 4. Including the teacher. We decided to take utmost advantage of it: Sam began learning photography. Prince used to carry his camera a lot back then, because of some or the other frequent events; either he was asked to cover it or he simply brought it on a whim. On Wednesday afternoons, during lab time, after our half hour lecture on the topic, and another half hour for our records, we were forced to stay at least till 3:30. Prince goes over the basics and she clicks whatever she fancies. Sometimes, I model for her. When I had received my first ever physical book for reviewing, I had taken it to college — to take pictures of it, of course — and she took it with me holding it, all smiles, my hair coming undone with that flimsy clip that I was wearing but not caring anyway. She still uses that picture for my caller id on her phone.
One particular Friday during February in our third year was very nasty for her. She’d come only in the second period and when I looked at her face, something was wrong. I felt like we had reached that level where we could gauge each other’s moods with just one look.
In zoology classes, the most unfortunate thing of us sitting in the first bench happened all the time, from the first year till the last. One day, sometime in the second year, Sam, Prince, DJ and I snagged the last bench in one of the “strict” (read as: fake-intimidating and spiteful) teacher’s class. When he didn’t find us in the first bench, he called us front, with a disapproving look on his face. Sam and I hated it. We couldn’t take another class but somehow, we had to survive the rest of the year and the next year. We bunked that teacher’s class the next week. Sometimes, even the goody good ones need a breather. Sam hardly ever bunked classes, but she never missed an opportunity. She and I bunked the same teacher’s class in third year; just that class, which we hardly ever did. Prince and DJ refused; being boys, they couldn’t afford to fall 0.1 % on their attendance. She just rolls her eyes and we walk down towards the quadrangle, to our adda.
After a few initial shocks, she has gotten used to mine and Indu’s bouts of fangirling. At some point, after I was introduced to Colleen Hoover by Indu and fallen in love with her books, it was Sam’s turn. She fell irrevocably in love with CoHo’s books and writing, especially the book Confess. Soon, she also joined our little “fangirling” sessions wherever Colleen Hoover was involved.
Whenever I’m stuck drawing, in my record or in any of the Christmas cards that I make every year, she draws them for me, without a second thought. She point-blank refuses to draw for Darshan, even when he flashes his “charming” smile. She was the first person that I thought of when the idea of keeping an arts and crafts stall during Nirvaan first, then later Meta. She and I made the perfect team: we shared ideas and did some of the crafts not-so-secretly in class.
Besides sharing love and passion towards saving the environment, there was a mutual love and penchant for the arts and crafts and cribbing about people and boring classes. Third year Tuesdays were the worst. After a whole morning of classes, without breaks, we had our dissertation lab right after lunch. That lab was all thinking and not much working because in the initial days, our group hadn’t gone sampling yet and all we had to do was sit and read up or get long lectures by Prabs about how we’re lagging behind.
She’s my tea-coffee partner; my advisory; I can burn food for her and she’d still eat it happily because I made it for her. She’s the one I go to when I’m really happy or really sad. There’s an open honesty about her that makes you want to trust her. The first month I met her, I barely knew her, but deep in my bones, I was right: she is more than a friend or a best friend even. She’s a sister to me.
This is the first year since the last three years that we haven’t celebrated her birthday together. She has this smartness to her, like a sniffer dog or a metal detector; she knows when we’re hiding something. It isn’t easy, the hiding, since we’re almost always together, but we make it work. One of my biggest dreams is to give her the perfect birthday, and I hope I can do that when we’re not studying together.