I’m an Arts student. I just love saying it to myself- Arts is such a wholesome word, dreamy but solid, if you know what I mean. If I do everything right, I’ll have an Arts degree by the end of this year, and whether it is the most ‘lucrative’ set of letters on my CV or not, I’m going to cherish it more than my engineering degree. On paper it is just a one-year course; to me, it also includes the nine years spent preparing for and getting through engineering, then working, before I was finally able to do what I’d always dreamt of. I might sound stark raving mad to the pragmatic, but I don’t think I’ve ever wanted anything more than an Arts degree.
Walking through the corridors of the Arts buildings, for me, is a phenomenal experience. Footfalls sound softly on the carpeted corridors of the brick blocks; the walls are lined with posters in various colours, advertising everything from lectures on the Arab Spring to a performance of Tchaikovsky. Bright images spring out at you from the bulletin boards, piquing your curiosity and making you wish you were intelligent (and wealthy) enough to be studying English, music and politics all at once. Take the wrong exit, and you find yourself in a narrow corridor amidst a set of music rooms- a strong baritone rings out from one of them, while fairy fingers flit on the keys of a piano within another. Stop and listen. Eavesdrop on the two musicians in turn. Elsewhere, through doors slightly ajar, stacks of paper and haphazardly piled books are visible. I’ve visited one of my professors atleast five times over the last three months, and on each of these occasions a copy of one particular hardbound book lay at exactly the same angle on a pile of paper on his table. Professors are human too. They procrastinate.
To celebrate being an Arts student, I borrowed a copy of RK Narayan’s novel The Bachelor of Arts from the library. It was written in 1937, but there are certain things that don’t change with the passage of time. I exulted everytime I identified with one of Chandran’s acts. His meticulous time table reminded me of my engineering years, when plans for revision would be drawn out carefully (in my head- I never went as far as coloured pens and paper), but atleast a third of the portion would inevitably be crammed into the last hour before the exam, relegated to the bus journey to college. I would fondly wish then that I was studying for an Arts exam instead, but Chandran’s experiences and my own tell me things aren’t exactly different here. I enjoy the frenzy of the weeks before a deadline, the confusion and the frustration of finding the right pieces to plug into the jigsaw puzzles that the essays are.
Perhaps I should have been born sometime in the fifties. Arts degrees were prized and women had begun going to college in India by then. I might even have been able to study Literature- though I can’t decide if it is a good idea to dissect books that I’d rather read for pleasure. My library copy of White Noise has plenty of notes pencilled in- commentaries on consumerism, postmodernism, the undercurrent of death running through the story. Understanding the finer points certainly helps one read the author’s mind better- but don’t I, without a pressing need to apply theory to everything I read, actually enjoy books instead of treating them as manuals and examples of particular frameworks? I’m just making a wild guess here- this is probably an untrue generalisation, but from the various notes I’ve seen in library books, students of literature do tend to apply theory sternly to what they read. I’d give much to possess such powers, but I also like re-reading random sentences because the words appeal to me or I find the descriptions fantastic or absurdly funny. If I made a career out of literature, would I enjoy books just as much?
I like the atmosphere of happy disorder that pervades my room. There are books all around, many unopened but not returned to the library for fear that I’ll need them exactly when I don’t have them handy, the morning that I wake up with a surge of ambition to write that elusive piece which will find me a sympathetic audience before I retire to the Himalayan cottage still to be hunted down.
I’m absurdly thrilled, but there are few things that equal the joy of seeing your childhood dreams lived out. Only five months remain before this course ends and I’ve never been away from home this long. However, I want these to be the longest months ever. I haven’t seen enough of England yet, and every new experience surpasses the previous. I’m a thirteen-year-old with a vivid imagination once again; chalk cliffs, blue skies and villages nestling in verdant valleys are my reality- now, if only the “real” world would wait.