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End of an Era

April 29, 2015 / by / 0 Comment

“Please stand back from the doors”

It’s that crucial moment of the day again when I have to decide whether I’ll put everything at stake and run through the mtr doors when I hear the dood- dood- dood….

It’s 9.23 a.m. and as usual, I’m late for class. If I run through the doors I’ll make it to the HKU MTR station by 9.26 which leaves me 4 minutes for my early morning cardio to K.K. Leung.

Big decision.

I go to Starbucks to get my usual, Java Chip grande, extra whipped cream, extra java chip. In line, I bump into an extremely sleepy Dittie Wong- friend and constant class whining companion since my first year. She gives me a hug and starts talking about the course load for one of her HR courses. A lovely early morning echo of the first day of university when we were talking about our fabulous accounting professor. Dittie has always been there to help me finish homework, to get late night dinner on campus, to discover secret study spots in the library and to delete my Facebook when it’s most crucial for me to keep in touch.

She collects her drink and runs to class, something I should probably be doing too.

Manish Punjabi is in line waiting. Forget class, I’m learning so much more in Starbucks. We do our usual hello’s in Spanish and talk about the salsa lesson we might go for this Thursday. He grabs a table and we chat about jobs, Latin America and Buddhism. The usual array of subjects one talks about early in the morning. Just as we start to talk about the Spanish guy we met in Azure two years ago (who is back in Hong Kong), Megan Gardner takes the cue and walks in. She sits down in the one empty spot (Starbucks seats fill up pretty soon, unlike the already empty “express shelves.”) As usual, she’s doing something interesting with her life. I met Megan on the soccer pitch three years ago, so there is talk about why we both don’t show up for soccer practice anymore. She’s always doing something interesting- teaching children, playing netball, pulling a tendon and still dancing, doggie paddling me to the floating terrace things in the midde of repulse bay on my birthday.

It’s 10 a.m. now, really no point going to that class anymore ( I mean…how tardy will I look if I show up half an hour late?)

I say goodbye because the two of them have decided to slowly walk to Centennial. No thanks, I’ve already had my early morning cardio run down from Lung Wah.

The sun is actually out today, I half expect to find Waliyah sitting out in Happy Park for her dose of Vitamin D. Then I realise it’s too early in the morning. I sit like a complete loner, meditating in the sun and saying “Om.” Happy park is a beautiful place which somehow manages to find peace in between the bustle of everyday. Jayson comes by, in an attempt to save me from the “she’s so weird” glances I’m getting from passerby’s. I’m probably not going to make it to my 11.30 class now that he’s here. Too much to catch up on, there’s talk about third culture, relationships, professors and lots of food breaks in between. Jasmine comes by with her chocolate-banana cake. Quite coveted, but she’s headstrong on not sharing. We continue our conversation, Kay Chung spots us like an eagle from the other side of Happy Park (no really, Happy park is huge.) She asks for chocolate-banana cake. Jasmine agrees (we’ve been asking her for half an hour now.) I eat the cake and bounce, kay bye thanks for your friendship.

Amanda is walks by me in her gym clothes. Friend, group mate and classmate whose ability to be everywhere always awes me. She knows the professor marks you down if you’re late so she tells me to run. I know I’ll catch up with her after class anyway, like we do everyday, so I take my leave.

The Knowles Building houses the Faculty of Architecture and the Vice Chancellor’s office. My class is on the first floor, “The Oval.” Some of the classes are curvy, the tables are ovals, the bathrooms are rectangles. It’s a business class, so time for me to catch up on my daily news. We’re having a meeting after, Melody is on top of everything as usual. Very well-versed in marketing, we receive our daily dose of civilised arguments about using “ a line of best fit analysis” (made up on the spot to find a justifiable reason for all the group decisions we’ve made till now.) When I’ve tuned out of the conversation I see Noman is one step ahead of me. He’s with his phone. We decide to order from goods online and maybe finish the case analysis we have due in a day. HKU has really taught us to work well under pressure.

After the meeting I visit the faculty of Architecture to quickly say hi to Nafeesa and Hafsa. Two of the most wonderful and creative people at HKU, who have put up with weeks of me sitting with them in their studio and “observing their creative process.” It’s already 1 p.m. time to do the “HKU walking route” to Delifrance. Lunch with the beautiful skinned, beautiful minded Livia Yap and Yu Ann Tan. Inspiring, independent and extremely mature women, the two of them have always been peer role models. We talk about the week’s current affairs, interesting news about a new disorder Ann learnt about, weekend plans, and who hurt who in rugby that week. It feels like Sunday brunch since we’re sitting outside Delifrance with the lush, green hills staring down at us and the mini bamboo forest thing on our side. But it’s only Wednesday and it’s time to get studying at Chi Wah. We spot Vedika from a mile away because she’s always impeccably dressed and organized – a true reflection of her mind. We make our way up to the C2hi Wah Learning Commons, more of a social gathering area than a study spot. I conveniently choose the bean bags next to the fish tank, and the rest go to their usual study spots.

Zareen comes and sits next to me, a usual practice. She’s studying for her medicine exam and I don’t want to start a conversation because it will stretch my mind to the extent of its analytical thinking. I need to use that brain power in rote learning for my international marketing exam. We stay silent for a while untill we bring up the unrealistic standards of beauty imposed on women and the symptoms of elephentiasis. There goes my international marketing and starts my brain gym.

It’s 4 p.m., time to go to class in K.K.Leung. I meet Htet on the way out of Chi Wah, that’s unusual, we usually bump into each other when the security guard comes around with his speaker saying, “ The Chi Wah Learning Commons is closing in 15 minutes.” A brief discussion of our Thursday plans and studying follows. She gives me a hug to tell me that I’ll get through my exams and she’ll miss me when I’m gone. Wonderful person but I have to run – it’s 4.15 and I’m going to miss one more class if I don’t run.

I briefly bump into Charlie outside Chi Wah. Always doing fascinating things like Girls 20, she invites me to Zumba class in the evening. I know if I stay to talk the conversation is going to go to deep levels about constantly moving and what home is. She’s always in touch with her feelings, but right now I’m feeling tardy for being late to another class.

I power walk to the studio in K.K. Leung where I’m welcomed by Michelle and Jessica. Always the first one’s there and always the one’s to stay till the next morning with me. Through the semester we have stuck through 4 day all nighters, blade cuts, pop songs on full blast on the stereo system and of course, professor “discussion sessions.” The greet me in Cantonese, a language they’ve really helped me pick up the basics of. The others walk in, my two professors make contradictory crit reviews again, Michelle and Caca smile and then jump up after class to make sure it’s all okay. Energy never dies in the studio, though our brains do.

I take my daily break to the Global Lounge and bump and meet my constant support system. The red couches are the best place to calm down and chill ( also the air conditioning is on full blast, “go green HKU” seems to be ineffective.) Today, everyone is here. Waliyah, Nael, Vedant, Anisha, Manasi, Disha,Shruti, Sharjeel, Saif, Namita, A.B., Sherry, Aber, Sugandha, Karmanya, Abhishek Jain and Shayan Shah. Everyone pours out their problems and everyone is there to help. I don’t really know what I would do without these people to push me through every time I’ve been down in the dumps over the past three years. I briefly step out to the area behind Global Lounge where Tushar is waiting with cutting chai and advice. He’s been there for five years of up’s and down’s to lend a shoulder and talk about anything or everything under the sun. We’re done with our first cup and I need to walk up to Ebeneezers for our seconds. I meet Alina and Maira on the way, we talk about Plath…literature. We talk about Wednesday night plans, culture and of course, HKU workload. These two are so well rounded, it blows my mind.

While I wait for my order in Ebeneezers I sit with Naveed and Shayan. Close friends, guides, mentors, feedback boxes, meditation teachers and of course, finding-a-job helpers. The Ebeneezer’s staff has changed, I don’t recognize any of them but the service is faster. I chit chat and take my tea outside subway where I have to meet Angela. You have to know this girl, she is an entrepreneur at 20 and full of life. We see Johnny on campus (well, this is the first time) and his dressing sense puts everyone else’s shame. He comes to us with too many thoughts, good recipes and a constant stream of laughs. Johnny (as much of a bully as he can be) keeps us going.

It’s already 7.30 and I need to hit the gym where Prakhar and Kunaal, my new found strength trainers are going to push me to “go hard or go home.” In between snorts of laughter and screams of, “ I can’t do this anymore, can we please just skip biceps today” I get through a stressful hour and half of gymming. We get dinner with curly haired, wide-eyed Abhishek who is always there to be a crisis counsellor or order in food with.

In between dinner, I get a message from Suhani. Sporadic replies follow. Suhani is a blessing, always a phone call or text message away no matter which continent we’re on. I never have to use Google because she always has the answers to everything adding an extremely personal touch to them.

I’m on my way back to Lung Wah, walking down this hill after that workout is killing me. Sugandha catches up to me and I think back to the first time I chased her up a hill to McDonalds in 2012. We’ve been helping each other chase our dreams ever since. A head full of different thoughts with feet firmly on the ground, she engages me in interesting snippets of conversation till we reach the bottom of the hill. Magnus and Othmane are walking down. These two soon to be lawyers are always wonderful fuel to interesting conversations and great promoters of how awesome Hong Kong is. Sugandha joins them to walk down for dinner to Kennedy Town, I pass because well, my muscles are dying.

Slowly, I walk up to the Residential Colleges (oops, Jockey Club Student Village III). Jonathan and Martin are outside, as usual. These two always have something witty to add in to a conversation and I guess the amount of laughing that happens around them is a good workout for my face. Vivien runs out of the RC’s to get late dinner at one her favorite hot pot places. She doesn’t recognize us until she’s an arms length away. She’s usually equipped with philosophical conversations but today, her eyes are on the food.

When she leaves, I go into the RC’s. My student ID has been registered thrice but the gates still don’t open when I tap in. I saw m’gai to the nice guard, who taps me in. I take my shower and finish the day with my end of the day ritual. I head up to Waliyah’s room. Best friend, sister, mother, alarm clock, card finder, bank, organizer and favorite person in the world, we catch up on the day. She’s finished her FYP and I engage in the usual chit chat with her roommate whose gotten used to me. I think back to the first day of University when I met her, Shayan Idress and Shayan Shah together. I thank fate everyday for that day.

…..I wake up the next morning, as is routine I get off at the HKU MTR station. Then something hits me as I walk up the stairs. I hear “Please stand back from the doors” and sprint down the stairs. For a split second I hesitate about whether to get on to the train, but I run in just as the doors are dood-dood-dooding and closing. The train is pulls out away from HKU, an echo of the day I watched the heartthrob of my college life leave HKU. I realize how much has happened over the past three years – 35 new cities, lots of new friends, lots of different areas of knowledge, internships, secret spots on campus. I reflect on the things and people that have remained constant through this process.

It took me a lot of courage to jump on that train. Doors are always closing and opening, and believe me the rush of adrenaline you get when you squeeze through a closing door and get out in a completely different place with completely different people is so worth it.

Say goodbye to your comfort zone.

Say goodbye to Hong Kong tai hoc.

“I want this life, chico, and everything that comes with it.” – Al Pachino, Scarface.

- By Kanika Bali




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