Dream To XL – InsideIIM Short Stories
Trust in dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity – Khalil Gibran
“Hey! are you coming or not?”, a voice made him gaze up from the stony path that he was strolling upon. He then turned around to find the source of the voice. It had a weird yet, a serene tone that brought composure to his inner turmoils. He saw a few guys standing in black hoodies that had a familiar design on their front. It was kind of a white cross sign and behind it were two keys like structures crossing each other.
That caught his attention. His intention was to find the face of the voice and see if it was a familiar one but, the logo had his eyes glued to it. It had brought a smile on his insensate face. It surely was a freezing night. That realization struck him only after his cold hands touched his forehead so as to block the blinding light emanating from the street lamp above. He wasn’t wearing any warm clothes.
Just then, the hooded figures came closer, four of them, their faces lit under the strange sepia tint from the skies. He recognised……no one! But still, he felt that they were familiar strangers, smiling softly. “You are coming with us, right?”, asked the same voice, a guy among them, as he receded his hood. He voluntarily shook his head in approval. “Here, it’s getting cold tonight”, he was given a similar hoodie jacket. It appeared like he had submitted to everything and was ready to go wherever they took him. He wore the hoodie and saw that similar structures were drawn on the front and the image was clearer. He touched it. There were 4 letters printed in bold with blue and green as primary colours and a green pointer on the alphabet ‘I’. There was a number, representing a year – 1949. Beneath that, it read “Excellence & Integrity”. There was a spark in his eyes. Chills were sent down his spine and this time, the cold weather wasn’t to be blamed. He looked up and saw the faces of those strangers. They were smiling. He realised that they were welcoming him into their world. He could feel the warmth and so he went along.
They reached a huge gate above which was a banner that proudly presented to the world – a larger version of the structures printed on their jackets. He walked inside. What an aura! So magnificent and serene. He felt as if he was getting smarter with every breath of fresh air that engulfed the campus. It was dripping excitement as people were making busy strides. They had this immeasurable energy radiating from them as they hurried across the buildings with their backpacks. Some were seen wearing neat corporate suits and running towards a building which looked old, not by appearance though. He could read on its entrance- ‘Sir Jehangir Ghandy’.
He moved further into this beautiful green territory and was awestruck by the architecture. More strangers popped up. He had reached one of the food joints. He couldn’t look for a banner that announced the identity of the place but heard someone say, ‘Bishu Da’. The only talks of the show over countless cups of coffee seemed to be about the deadlines to meet, the classes to attend, the committees to run, the much-awaited annual sports-meet coming up which seemed to raise everyone’s adrenaline level, get time to socialize, get some hard-earned sleep and all these while trying to keep the grades as decent as possible.
Somehow, he didn’t experience that he was a stranger in this wonderful world. Though he couldn’t name anyone he saw, yet he knew them. This was it, he felt as if he belonged there! There was a tap on his shoulder, “Let’s go, we are late for the assignment-meeting”. By then, he had stopped questioning the provenance of such words. They came in front of a building which seemed to be newly constructed, ‘Fr. McGrath Residence’, it said. Inside, it was more or less a similar scenario like in most of the hostels at b-schools. People thronged in rooms partying, debating and arguing to reach the best solution for case studies. Some could be seen in small groups with their eyes glued to their laptop screens. Everything was exactly the way he had imagined.
He heard someone say, “Dude, hurry up! It’s time for the class.” Perplexed, he tried to look at his watch. He wasn’t wearing one. Wasn’t it supposed to be late and dark outside? But, there was a yellowish brown monochromic tint in the sky. Not interested in unravelling this mystery, he followed everyone. He found himself in a room where everyone was seated in a horseshoe structure. Time didn’t fly here, it flowed like a river, longing to meet the sea of experiences. The professors did not only impart knowledge but also valuable life lessons if one was curious enough to comprehend them from all the business jargons and theories.
He had never felt so complete in his life and was ready to move onto the next stage of this surreal event. His excitement came to an unanticipated halt, as he felt the ground beneath him shaking with the utmost vigour. An earthquake? It couldn’t be, everything seemed to be in its place around him, nothing was falling apart, no sign of chaos in the surroundings. Everyone else continued to do what they had been doing. It was him, who couldn’t keep his legs stable. Failing to stand, he tried to grab something for support. Hesitant, he couldn’t touch or grab anything. It was as if the world around him was nothing but a mere hologram of all the good things that he yearned for. The rumbling noises grew by the second, louder and louder. The ground refused to soothe. Soon, he could hear a shrill melody.
He gasped and woke up! He was sitting at his desk. The earthquake and the loud noises were nothing but his phone’s vibrations and ringtone. A familiar name was flashing on the screen. Suddenly, he realised that the stranger who handed him the hoodie was his best pal who was now calling him. He turned to look outside his room’s window. The monochromic tinted sky had changed to a clear sheet of blue, but the shivers he felt a few moments back still accompanied him. It was a dream but he was still cold.
He wanted to go back. Everything had ended abruptly. Would picking up the phone help him do so? He was willing to try anything. A voice asked from the other side of the call, “How’s your percentile? Did you make it further?”. His gaze went to a laptop screen in front of him. A few lines were drawn which joined to make a few tables and on top of them was written ‘XAT 2018’. One section caught his eye- the ‘overall percentile’, that flashed ‘77.89’. It was at that moment as if these numbers threw a lightning bolt on his head to bring him back to the harsh reality where his best pal had made it to the further rounds and he couldn’t. He hated those numbers. He wished for them to be displayed in the reverse order. But sadly, nothing could change them.
Few months had progressed. Today, he went to meet his best friend and wish him all the luck. He had earned the right to go to the b-school where our guy couldn’t. The majestic and proud gate remained open for the incoming batch.
He could see people coming with luggage in their hands and dreams in their eyes in hopes of fond memories to cherish after two years. Our guy was standing outside the gate, looking in awe. The structures, the buildings, the people, everything held immense similarity as in his dream a few months back. The only difference being, he couldn’t go inside and relive the dream. “It’s not happening, at least not for now”, he thought. Somehow, he wasn’t sad. Rather, a new wave of positivity filled up his soul as he turned back for one last time before he went back to his drawing board. The gates were still open. He closed his eyes and smiled, “I know that life is waiting for me inside. Don’t worry, I will be there soon”. With a new hope filled in his heart, maybe he will be on the other side of the gate next year.
To all the XL Lovers. All the best for XAT 2019!