A Second Coming - Guest Blog by Sunita (Jolly) Dash


1989 to 1993. Many of my batch mates call it the golden years of their life. Makes me wonder if my experience was as golden. As I rewind and recollect my REC days, many of my memories were certainly not very glittery.

I grew up spending most of my time with my brother and his friends and was a Tomboy at heart. I refused to have long hair, quit music lessons within a week, competed with boys to climb trees faster, and stayed outside for hours playing marbles. These were some of my ways of letting the world know that I was no less than any boy! I was strong and fiercely independent behind the demure nature and the so-called pretty face. But REC did not see this side of me.

As a child, I loved outdoors and tried my luck at all sports I could.  In school, I had a good stint as a track and field athlete and always dreamed of pursuing sports.  Back then, sports could only be an extracurricular activity, not a career choice.  Coming from a middle-class family with four siblings, the priority was always for safe choices and landing a sure shot job.

Medicine and Engineering were binary choices in all career discussions. Under the directive of my dad and his close advisors, I shifted focus to compete in the Joint Engineering Entrance (JEE) exam. An athlete’s competitive spirit in me kicked in. I managed to secure a decent rank of 52 amongst a large pool of qualified candidates. I knew the rank would secure me a seat in one of the premier engineering institutes.

The day before counselling, I boarded an overnight train with my dad and arrived at the famous AV Hall of REC, Rourkela. Sitting next to my dad, I glanced around.  I saw a bunch of nervous teens close to their dads and guardians, waiting for their turn to be called up to the dais to make their branch selections. The atmosphere was very tense, with the candidates sitting nervously in their seats waiting to be called up.

I also noticed something unusual. There was a sizable crowd that was gathering outside the AV hall.  Guys clad in t-shirt, jeans, and chappals, were standing outside, glancing around, and acting cool. Some of them were staring directly at me and the other gals and pointing at us to their friends, as if we were shiny objects. Suddenly, I felt naked in front of their piercing gazes.  There was this unsettling feeling in my stomach. My instinct told me to run away.  My strong, independent self said everything will be alright.

As my turn came to make my “instant” branch choice, I choose Electrical Engineering in Rourkela over some more relevant branches at other REC’s outside Odisha. Staying within Odisha meant closer to home as well as living amongst supposedly, friendly and my kinda people.
Boy, was I wrong! What an emotional roller coaster ride the next four years were!
In a college where girls were completely outnumbered by boys (twenty girls to three hundred boys), I knew going in, it would be an interesting dynamic. Across all four batches, the numbers were similar. Girls got the treatment that typical rare species get:
  • Boys could gaze at girls for hours without blinking.  Some took it to the next level and stared with their mouths wide open.
  • Some took the help of physical objects such as chalks to grab the girls’ attention while improving their marksmanship.
  • Some used their freedom of expression to catcall on the girls and use foul language.  Passing loose comments on girls was their birth right. They did it so commonly and so often that the girls became numb to it.
  • Senior boys could show up at the Ladies Hostel (LH) gate as a “visitor” and first year gals had to oblige them. The interactions were like a matrimonial screening process.


It was this hostile environment that perhaps led me to never let my guard down.  The more I tried to keep to myself, the more attention I got. A slew of visitors came to meet me at LH. I was regularly stopped in campus by senior boys and asked about my hobbies, my family, my interests, and what I liked in guys.  As a teenager (and a Tomboy at that), I didn’t know how to handle all this attention. For right or wrong, I formed this impression that all the boys were out to get me, rather than be my friend. And that’s it. I created this wall between me and the boys. I became this person that I truly was not. I went into a shell. I came across as quiet and aloof.

Only a few of my girl friends knew the real me: as a fun-loving, friendly girl who loved to have fun.
Many boys, on the other hand, tried hard to strike up a conversation, or become a friend without much success. Some others, did some pretty awful things. My bike was stolen and was broken into small pieces and thrown into the woods. Books and lab notes borrowed from me were returned with profane language written all over it, about me and my girl friends, linking me with college professors, and so on. College notice boards were “hacked” to put fake notices that I was spending late nights with Palestinian boys. I don’t know why they did it. I probably don’t want to know.

The four years at college marked many such incidents and made me this person who, unfortunately, doubted all including some genuine friendships. I never attempted to connect with most guys. Though I should mention, there were a handful who helped me get through this emotional roller coaster.

I wish I had known how to ride the attention wave and had enjoyed my golden days in college, more than I managed to. But, those experiences made me a stronger person that understood how to deal with the real world, at a very young age.

When the more mature and experienced me – a mother of two teenage boys – looks back, I see a completely different picture. I see a bunch of teenage boys that were put in a closed, alien environment, while still coping with physical and psychological changes in an interesting phase of their lives. Perhaps, many did not know how to channel their energies. Anyway, social norms, back then, did not allow for boys and girls to have a healthy, friendly relationship. Any boy trying to connect with a girl was perceived as having ulterior motives!

In the process, I – I am sure this happened to other girls – missed out the beauty and focused on the beastly characteristics of guys.

Fast-forward twenty five years, to the Reunion in December 2018. I see an opportunity to know my fellow batch mates a little better, connect with them a little further, take the friendships a little farther. I am looking forward to spending time and rekindling the famed REC spirit and writing the next chapter of my REC experiences. I am confident this story will have a happier ending.

22 comments:

  1. Thanks Brags for publishing it in the blog.. had to get it out of the system so have space for some great times at the reunion and otherwise in life.. by the way, it was not all bad memories .. hv some good and fun ones too in last 25 years..more to come in souvenir ��

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    1. Well written Jolly!! (And you don’t need to thank me).

      I am happy that you didn’t shut yourself off when we all reconnected in 2014. I didn’t know then that you had walked in with this kind of baggage about the college.

      Your last few paragraphs resonated with me the most. One, it requires broad mindedness and clarity of thought to let bygones be bygones. But it’s also about giving ourselves another chance for to connect — which should really be the theme for the Reunion.

      The last time we were in college, we were all teenagers with a somewhat limited worldview. Hopefully now, we have all grown up, think deeper and more broadly about things than before. It should be fun!

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    2. Thanks Brags for editing, polishing the piece. With time, I have come to view the incidents happened in college from different lens. Realized every situation has two sides just like a coin. Seeing the other point of view helped me to come to terms and let bygones be bygones.
      The re-connection in 2014 and times after have been golden years of REC days that I missed from 1989-1993. Have found few friends for life (Now you are stuck).

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  2. So well written!!

    I read it again and again and wonder how could one be so accurate in portraying each and all moments memories and emotions.

    One thing you left out - how come you achieved such height of literary neatness.

    Wish your tom-boyish spirit prevail for ever for good and becomes a vivid inspiration for all around you.

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    1. Awwww Satya. Thanks!
      These moments, memories and emotions consumed a better part of my REC days. So accuracy comes from there :-) Now coming to literary neatness, Brags and Souvenir team can do wonders to simple writing. Please pick up pen and write for the Souvenir. Have heard you are quite a writer too.

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  3. So beautifully written!! Simple, no-nonsense, measured and straight from the heart. And such a cathartic piece of writing! You are better than most of the ‘so called writers’ of our batch, me included! Pls do try and find more time to write

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    1. Thanks Babes! this piece was dil se for sure, had kept close to heart and mind for longer than needed. It was very cathartic to be able to write in this forum and let folks see this side of me. Now, a lot of simple, no-nonsense, measured and straight from heart writing style I have learnt from our group of writers including you. So keep writing and inspiring.

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  4. And you wrote it in 2 hours. ๐Ÿ˜ some wonder how you remember those events...I don't wonder about that at all. You will have a great time at the reunion! Glad you felt like taking it out of the system....holding to see another one from you on LH. Of course that one would be a totally different tune ๐Ÿ˜

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    1. This was jotted down on my way from Shanghai to Delhi. So a little more than 2 hours :-) A lot of polishing credit goes to Brags. I think I was so consumed by this emotional roller coaster, gave way more attention than it deserved. Not any more. Phew! If I can manage to write one more, promise it will be a fun one on LH diaries.

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  5. Wonderfully written. Came to know real Sunita. Its amazing to know behind the facade of quietness and aloofness, there was this friendly, fun & sport loving, tom boyish girl.
    Considering the way you are participating in the reunion and your comments in WhatsApp reunion group, it is apparent that you have buried those greyish memories to background. Hope you continue with your true and lovely side forever.

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    1. Hazoor kahoon ya Singhji Kahoon.. big dilemma
      Thanks for reading the blog. To be honest I was not sure how folks are going to react to me reminding some of the dark memories. It was important to let it out so have space for new conversations and new memories to make at the reunion.

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  6. Hi Sunita,
    Simply to say "Excellent!!" would be an understatement.

    Well balanced with critique, fun, pain, empathy, good picturisation (closely reflecting your attire & looks), excellent co-relation to the real wolrd - virtual world,  and what not...

    This article depicts another facet of you as a person, another skill & a strength that is not known to many in this forum. 

    Keep sharpening your pencil, keep writing. Way to go....Good luck!

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    1. Thanks Murali for such beautiful words. I am glad you could see the emotions I went through those 4 years. I wish I was mature enough to ride the pressure and attention wave to my advantage. I felt this piece I had to write for myself since it bothered me the longest during and after REC days. Hopefully I was not unique in going through emotional turmoil and others will come forward with their stories and how they dealt.

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  8. Brilliantly written. Another interesting side of you emerging!!wish you will keep it up.

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    1. Thank you!
      Monk ji please to reveal identity :-)

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  9. Aptly portrayed.
    Our college life has a lot of bittersweet memories.
    Looking forward to seeing you all at the Reunion in December.

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    1. Thanks Sanjay. Yeah, bittersweet for sure. Bitter moments make us appreciate and cherish sweet memories. Both have a role in life. Absolutely looking forward to seeing you all after 25 years!

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  10. To add to your list of weird stuff that happened to you I got reminded of this one...see if it rings a bell. One day in our 3rd year I think one Prof fro. Comp. Sc. dept Who shall remain unnamed in this story called me and asked me if I could bring you along after lunch break to meet him as he had some work. I thought ok, he might have some genuine reason to meet you J ols. This prof. I respected and didn't see any reason to have any suspicion about his request. So after lunch break we went to our prof's room. He was there and there was another slightly older man seated in his room. Prof. Asked us to come in and then asked you something very basic like "so Sunita you are from Bhubaneswar, right?" To which you said yes. And then he asked another similar question like your branch and how your classes are coming along or something...as you answered I was standing by and trying to figure out what was going on! The elderly gentleman in the room was sitting just looking at you without saying anything. Then the prof asked us to leave. As we stepped out and started walking down the corridor we looked at each other and thought "what the f*@#&". By now it was clear to me that my prof was doing that gentleman a favor by arranging a would be marriage prospect for that man's son!!! Of course we both were furious but what could.any of us really do? Such was that time!!!Man...I wish I had said or done something.... 25 years later we can laugh about it though!

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    1. LOL! had completely forgotten about this episode Sunanda. Now you are bringing back more creepy memories. Was not he the same guy who came and visited me in LH as well. Introduced himself as so and so uncle. I think he was looking for an engineering bride for his Amreeka son. If my memory serving right, "Uncle" stalked many gals in pursuit of DILs. Future daughter in laws I mean. He was a regular visitor at LH and was quite infamous. Gals used to run and close doors when he was sighted at the LH gate as a visitor.

      Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if we had confronted head on these incidents instead of ignoring and letting people play with our emotions.

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  11. Lovely and very realistic smooth writings...waiting for more..

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    1. Thanks Sameer๐Ÿ™
      More ka pata nahin.. lekin Can’t wait to read what others have to share

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