Apparently, suffering indescribable torments before being admitted to the dept. wasn't good enough. Either that or somebody conveniently assumed I was a masochist.
Still reeling from the fact that I was to face 10 papers for the mid term exams in a month's time (I was already a month behind, remember ?) I shakily made my way for my first class which happened to be in the lab; Anth - 110: Biological Anthropology (Practical I). It may not sound like much, but in my condition that was probably the best place to begin. For one thing, I didn't really have to speak to any one (not that that stopped a few, mind you). For another, and I'm not being morbid, there were skulls all over the place. I quietly took my place in a suitable corner.
A big chap with a tentatively curious yet friendly expression on his face stepped up and introduced himself as Gaurav. We chatted for a bit before in walked a lean, unshaven, dishevelled looking fellow in spectacles who from first appearances, seemed to have spilt half his lunch on his t-shirt. Now, over the years I've had people introduce themselves to me in a variety of ways, some polite and some not so. This fellow obviously believed that the accepted ways were for the birds because... and you have to picture this... he steps up, looks at me, looks at Gaurav, points at me and waves his hand in that classical way to ask who I was. I wasn't amused at all, but that was how I first met Shreyas. Talk about contrasts.
There were others there seated in the lab already, but I was interrupted from looking around by the arrival of the professor.
The class was all about the detailed study of the human skeletal system and my partner for the class (well, he was a person at some point in the last century anyway) was skull 16, who I named George. The Harrison of the same first name had recently passed away and I had been listening to 'Here comes the sun...', so. In the same vein, the chap with the prominent hip bones dangling in the glass case became Elvis the pelvis. Not exactly hilarious, I know but at the time, I needed all the distraction I could get. Why ? Let me explain... a guy who has just been put through the emotional wringer and a touch apprehensive to boot, does not need the professor to begin by, and I quote "Norma Verticalis. Make sure you all can see the Saggital suture, the lambda, the bregma, the parietal bones, the occipital bone... "
I lost him after the 'make sure you all can see...' and for all I knew, he could have been speaking a foreign language. Day 1 went by rather quickly after that and I went home thinking that there was a lot of catching up to do. By the end of the week, I began to wonder whether I was even in the right race, forget catching up... the feeling 'all at sea' seemed apt enough. My classmates were nice but the stuff I was learning, or for accuracy's sake, staring stupidly at, was going way over my head. Remember, anthro was a totally new subject for me. One does not coolly jump from schizophrenia to debating the emic versus etic perspective.
I was reeling... and after the Hominid Evolution class, beginning to panic... and wondering whether I had made the right decision. I needed a sign to tell me that everything was fine, that it would all work out, that there was hope.
On Friday afternoon, in the last class Shreyas leans over and in an offhand way asks "Did you know Rhesus are Old - World monkeys ?"
Black gloom descended.
Next: Of frying pans and fires