It was just another of those boring study sessions I had gotten into with my friends. With exams beginning six days later, we decided it was time we dusted the heavy books that we’d bought with much gusto at the beginning of the semester and flipped its pages. So I decided to bring down ‘A History of Communication Study’, while my friends decided to bring down ‘Advanced Calculus’ and ‘Artificial Intelligence’. Off we set to the school, looking for a bench to park ourselves in for the next five to six hours.

Going to the school to study around the exams was a substantial experience in itself. As somebody who loves being organized, I’d packed three highlighters, at least two pens of different colours, lecture pads, the iPod, a jacket (if we happen to stay till late in the night and it starts getting cold), a novel (in case the text books get really boring), a punching machine to punch the notes and folders to file these notes in, and finally, a sachet or two of cereal, in case sustenance became an issue in those dead hours of the night. Each of my friends armed thus with his or her essentials (packing which would have taken at least an hour, with each waiting at the doorstep of the other), this was just like any other study session, and we were off at 10 30pm to the school.

Half an hour later, after walking the lengths of each and every floor till we reached the sixth and found a vacant bench, we threw our bags and settled down. Of course, walking to the school itself and then to find a place made us greatly exhausted – two of us set off to get something hot to drink.

It was not until an hour after we’d left our rooms that we actually settled down to study. I plugged my iPod earphones in earnest and opened the third chapter of ‘A History of Communication Study,’ and brought out my stationery and neatly ordered them about – highlighters on the left, pens and the notebook on the right, water on the left, etc. Choosing a song that would match my mood to study and excel in the subject – something on the lines of a Baar baar haan from Lagaan or Jana Gana Mana from Aitha Ezhuthu or Unnal Mudiyum Thambi (!) – I was encouraged and enthused to unprecedented levels.

Studying, highlighting, note-taking and hot-drink-drinking were going on at extraordinary levels. Pages were turned in no time and information was getting registered in my mind at record levels. This was further boosted by my shocking realization that I could still remember vividly what I had studied six pages back. Adrenalin was pumping all over and I was finding it hard to restrain myself from jumping on to the table and explaining to anyone who cared (and even those who didn’t) the diffusion of innovation.

Of course, all good things have to come to an end, and half an hour later, I found myself staring at the same line in the tenth page of the chapter, wondering what on earth I was reading and how it made no sense. I’d re-read the line for probably the seventieth time and I still had no clue what the devil it meant. Frustrated, I pulled the earphones of my iPod – now sarcastically commenting on my state of affairs with a ‘Yeh kya hua, kaise hua, kab hua, kyun hua..’ – and looked at my friends who were just reaching the euphoric state of everything being interesting and going into their porous heads with ease, the state I was in about thirty minutes back.

I took to staring intently at the crescent moon instead. I admired the milky clouds that swept by, and smiled to myself at the beauty of the thin piece of moon that had chosen to show. Anything, absolutely anything was more interesting than studying now.

Just when I was lost in admiration of the night sky did I hear those familiar notes first. My ears pricked up instantly, and soon enough I found myself humming the tune, desperately trying to remember what song was playing. Another few seconds later, ‘Oh!’ I gushed. It was ‘Andru Vandhadhum Adhey Nila!’ I grinned, and unable to help myself, said ‘cha, cha, cha!’ to the tune. I couldn’t remember how many years it was since I’d heard that song.

Happy, I went back to the book, but the situation was worse than earlier – now I couldn’t move past the same line that I’d read seventy times because my mind kept trying to listen to the song. Anyway, a couple of minutes later, the song stopped and given that my excuse to be distracted was gone, I returned to the line to read it another twenty times. My mind still kept humming the song and anticipating if there would be anything else coming up next.

Soon enough, another song started playing. This time it was the sax that gave it away – it was ‘Unnai Ondru Kaeppen’. I was thrilled beyond words. Another of my favourites I hadn’t listened to in years! I was thoroughly excited by now. I shut the book and hummed the tune lightly – not out of fear that I was disturbing my friends, for now there were slowly coming out of the euphoric state, but for fear of disturbing that delicate ease that hung about the whole place now, with all those songs coming as a blast from the past.

I was fully tuned in now, grinning from ear to ear, as the mystery computer played ‘Kadhalin Deepam Ondru’ and then ‘Pudhu Vellai Mazhai’ and ‘En Mael Vizhunda Mazhai Thuliye’, and better still, Jayachandran’s version of ‘Deivam Thanda Poove’. I was reveling in ecstasy. Who was this unknown person, playing songs as if lifted from the top of my head or from my favourited playlist?

As more and more lilting melodies (‘Karpoora Bommai Ondru’, ‘Oliyile Therivadhu Devadhaiya’ and ‘Yedhedho Ennam’), quintessentially Ilaiyaraja’s (‘Koo Koo Endru Kuyil Koovadho’, ‘Vanitha Mani’ and ‘Rum Bum Bum’) and the lesser-known yet incredibly favourite Rahman’s (‘Pyaar Yeh’, ‘Dheemi Dheemi’ and ‘Kollaiyile Thennai Vetthu’) started playing, my excitement rose to feverish levels. I couldn’t believe my ears, and couldn’t stop wondering who this was.

I couldn’t resist the temptation to look for this person anymore. This person, who seemed to be made of the stuff of my dreams. The man God had probably made for me to discover in such unusual circumstances.
‘I’m going to look for the person playing these songs,’ I announced to my friends.

‘What songs?’ my friend asked, puzzled.

‘Can’t you hear them?’ I asked, equally nonplussed. Couldn’t they hear a thing? Or worse, had I peaked at levels of boredom and started imagining things?

‘Those Indian songs… Tamil…’I muttered incoherently.

‘Oh, those buggers playing those random songs?’ my friend said. ‘Senseless people. Can’t they see others are studying?’

I half opened my mouth to defend my unknown prince, but knew better and decided to keep quiet. ‘I’m going to look for him.’

‘Him?’ my friend asked, amused, an eyebrow raised. ‘And how do you know it’s a he?’

I hmph-ed and walked off, and took the stairs to the fifth floor. The songs were definitely clearer now, but still far. It was ‘Sambo Sambo’ playing now.

I went down again, as the song changed to the disco theme in Punnagai Mannan, followed by the love theme. My mind was abuzz with possibilities. Maybe a post-grad guy from India, with a brilliant ear for music. My kind of music. Or a senior who, till then, I had rudely dismissed as a dolt. Or a batchmate who I had unceremoniously chosen to ignore and keep away from my busy mind. Somebody I had possibly known and avoided, or someone new to know, befriend, and… I checked my mind, trying to be practical, and walked down to the third floor, the fourth floor disappointing me.

The third floor was buzzing with activity – there seemed to be the entire cohort of some discipline sitting down for some mass studying. The song was definitely louder, but I couldn’t stop an Indian face. Frustrated, I moved on.

I stopped short at the end of the stairs. It was here. The person playing the songs was here. The song now playing was ‘Nee Our Kadhal Sangeetham’. I walked on as if in a trance, ignoring the angry mutterings of the students around, cursing the weirdo playing these songs in an unknown (to them) language without any consideration at such a loud volume.

I walked along the innumerable rows of benches, and found that he was probably sitting in the area to the left of the long path I had walked. I turned left, as if drawn by some invisible hand. I took a deep breath as I walked towards the last bench, partly hidden from my view because of the giant vending machine.

I walked straight there, and stopped. The song had changed to something fast-paced – by now I could hardly realize what was happening – and my heart was hammering against my chest. I had no idea why I was this tense, or who I expected to find there. I walked the few steps left to see the person’s face.
‘Hi, Meera!’

Unable to control myself, I gasped. I felt weak at my knees, and could have slumped to the ground.

Of course, I composed myself, and said ‘Hey, Gayathri,’ to the girl in my team in my Marketing elective, and walked back, utterly defeated, and seething with rage thinking of the studying of ‘A History of Communication Study’ that I had to get back to.