Cambridge- what does the name of the city evoke in you? An image of a historic city full of grandeur and heritage, one of mankind's oldest seats of learning perhaps. Bengalis being typically globally nostalgic, the name should give us goose bumps.
Yet, as I got down on the platform and walked towards the taxis, I somehow felt an acute sense of de ja vu. Hills Road, Glisson Road, Gonville Place- I was reading all the road signs from inside the taxi- names of streets that were frantically tormenting my brain because of their familiarity.
As I walked through Lion Yard, crossing the marketplace onto Trinity Lane , it hit me. Five years ago, around the same time of the year I had been here before. I had walked these very narrow lanes of the historic city centre, thronged with shops on both sides, bustling with life, activity and spontaneity. There was Sidney Sussex College , then King's and of course, Trinity. How could I have forgotten?
The Great Gate was still there, towering over the mere mortals, bearing a statue of Henry VIII, the founder of Cambridge University 's largest college. A side door was open, which meant visitors were welcome.
As a timid 17 year old A-level student, I had been called for an interview to read History at Trinity. Back then I was oblivious to the weight of history that I now felt as I retraced my steps and stepped onto the Great Court . There was the King's Court, the fountain at the centre, the lush green yards and the clock tower- just like they were half a decade, half a century, or nearly half a millennia ago.
I walked past Nevile's Court where I had completely messed up my interview. Although I cried a lot after getting the rejection letter, in my heart of hearts I knew I didn't deserve a place to study at this esteemed institution.
Last time I was here, I seem to remember, there was a little cottage located amidst a garden adorned with beautifully bloomed early spring flowers. On the wooden (and ancient) plaque it was written in cursive- 'The Master's Lodge'. I used to have sleepless nights back then, dreaming of one day becoming the Master myself. Our very own Amartya Sen held the post then, perhaps one of the most prestigious positions you could hope to attain in your lifetime.
I somehow couldn't find my way to the Lodge this time. I swear I remembered the way. Perhaps time does indeed fade past memories, even if they are some of your most cherished ones.
In these 5 years, my life has come a full circle. I got an offer from St Edmund's College, Cambridge to study for an M.Phil but couldn't afford it, as a result of which my dream of studying in Cambridge got shattered once again.
By the stroke of luck I have been reunited with this city once again, this time through my employer deciding to place me here. As I strolled along the banks of the river Cam , I told myself not to be held hostage to past memories, especially unhappy ones.
But I wouldn't call this a melancholy experience- it was simply a surreal one, one that I would happily go through all over again.