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“Just 2 minutes left now, and I still have to write an entire answer. Crap!” I told myself while my pen was road-running simultaneously on the exam answer paper.

Blatantly ignoring the burning pain in my wrist and forearm, I somehow sprinted through that final answer in the last 2 minutes. The moment I put the final full-stop of the final answer, the fat, smelly, and for some reason, very angry woman, who was manning the class, came and snatched my paper away with zero respect for us or the paper whatsoever.

I just had a moment’s time to catch a glimpse of my handwriting on the last few pages. I swear to God, the handwriting was worse than that of a doctor’s.

I couldn’t care less though, for that was my last examination. I was done for good! I never had to see my ‘noisy-and-faulty-fan-equipped’ exam centre, nor did I have to sit on benches which threatened to collapse if I moved my bum a bit too much. A guy somewhere behind me let out a “khatam ho gaya…” (followed by a few cuss words). Of course it wasn’t a very civil thing to do, but I could see where he was coming from, hence I didn’t pay much attention to his joyous yet obscene outburst.

I capped my pen and saw my dear friend Ria, who happened to sit right in front of me, turn around and look at me. We shared a ‘Yes-it-is-over’ look, which was followed by a wide grin by both of us.

Suddenly, even the scorching heat of 5 PM during the summer season was not bothering us anymore, like it did during the previous examinations. We could feel the breeze of freedom touch our skin. We could feel the scent of joy and relief fill up our lungs. We were completely in the zone. It was a good high, this.

Then something bad happened though. As Ria rejoiced in ecstasy, she almost squealed and said, “Finally, all exams done, Chirag! Forever! So, what now?”

She asked ‘So, what now?’ That phrase stuck in my head. Those 3 little words, they were like the strongest buzz killers. It felt like all the happiness was suddenly sucked out of me. I felt like Harry Potter being attacked by the Dementors. I didn’t feel joy anymore.

You might probably be wondering as to why I would feel bad about this particular question. Let me give you’ll a brief reason - We no longer represented a particular college. We no longer attended lectures and occupied the benches of a classroom. We no longer were ‘students’ – a tag which has been ubiquitous since the last 15 years. The college Identification cards around our necks were soon to be replaced by the corporate world’s dog-leash. Our student life was over that day. It was all gone. It definitely looked like a scary prospect.

Ria’s ‘So, what now?’ made its comeback in my chain of thoughts and teleported me into a deep state of thought, as it does very often.

I thought long and hard for an answer to her question, but I found none. This was a difficult question and a different situation because usually, there was always something waiting for us the next year. When we completed 9th grade, we knew that the 10th grade was waiting for us. When we finished school, we knew that college was the next thing for us. But, what now? I mean, what does a mountaineer do after he successfully completes the journey to the top of Mount Everest? All I’m trying to understand is what happens when a journey is over, or rather what happens AFTER you reach the destination? Our destination all this while has been to simply complete our studies. What comes next?

The junction where my contemporaries and I have reached now is that of confusion and delusion. It is that point of time where we leave our world of 15 years behind and hit ‘F5’ button on our keyboard of life.

I have to confess, I thought that I never missed my school and was also under the impression that I will never miss college too. That was perhaps the case because we were under the ridiculous assumption that college will last forever. I was always someone who was keen on wrapping up college at the earliest. ‘The sooner the better’, I used to say. I was also a firm believer of ‘Change is good’, but I now learn that I could not be any more wrong here. Change can suck at times. Therefore, the adage of ‘You never realize the worth of something until its gone’ could not be more relevant at this point of time. It suddenly hits us that it is all a part of the past now, and I am convinced that there will come a point of time when I will miss my school/college.

So now my message goes out to those who are younger than me academically. You have a genuine gift which you don’t realize – time. Enjoy it while it lasts, because trust me, the college identification card looks much better around your neck than a corporate dog-leash.

And as for my fellow batch mates, I know that we have lost something which we didn’t perhaps value much. But now, not much can be done about it. We have no choice but to look ahead and ask ourselves – ‘So, what now?’

So, what now?

by ChiragMadhrani

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