Two years of rigorous studies followed by a competitive struggle, I managed to secure a seat in a reputed college within the city. The prospect of a radical change in lifestyle came along with the inhibitions of foraying into a new world full of unknown people and difficult challenges!

When the day to enter the new life zeroed in, it started to rain cats and dogs. Determined not to miss my first Math class, rather the first ever class of my college life, I set out in the rain signaling out to nature that I was going to embrace this new life with gusto, no matter the odds.

The rollercoaster roads in the campus with bumpers after every 10 meters, I found it difficult not to lose my way in the gigantic parking itself.Timidly, I entered the block which housed the first year students, the block which would be my home for the next year. Nervous but excited, thankfully I bumped into some familiar persons who guided me up to my classroom. But as soon as I reached the class those faces disappeared and I found myself amidst a sea of alien heads. But I told myself to relax, to make friends and to go ahead, be my usual self.

The initial days were loaded with heavy instructions about discipline and copious notes for various subjects. All was dry and sundry with teachers training us to work hard at studies and seniors advising us to attend all classes. However, we had started to gel-up, girls sharing their tiffin and boys sharing their jokes at lunch. Days went by and friendships thickened over notes, practicals, assignments and birthdays.

Just when we had started to think that this college was only for dull Jacks with no activities, the seniors came! They proudly announced the fresher’s night and the mood was set to a high. For most people the night would be an obscure memory but little did I know that, for me it was going to be the most remarkable event in my college history!

To choose the fresher of the year, they had organized a series of rounds and one by one I crossed them all, learning the ways of the world, exploring plethora of information and making my way to the first ever personal interview of my life. Candor and wit helped me sail through the grilling questions and I made it to the final three, made it to the final stage.

That day my experiences in the college began, experiences which would shape my life ahead.

All decked up, preparing for the talent round, a mix of anxiousness and enthusiasm I got ready for the final round. First event of the college, and I was about to make a grand debut. Well, at least I was supposed to and to some extent I even did. Did something that I would never forget in this lifetime, and even if I did, I would always have a few hundred people reminding me about it within seconds and a set of pictures I wish never existed.

D-day was here, the stage set, it was time! They announced my name, I climbed up the stairs, shared a quick smile with the emcee and walked towards my chair. Just as I was about to take my seat, the most dreadful thing happened, the ultimate stage faux pas, the terrible nightmare I would have to live with throughout my entire existence- I FELL!!!

Standstill. Numb. Dumbfounded. Blank. Disastrous disaster.

Waves of laughter erupted in the sea of unknown faces and I wished to disappear.Trying to gather courage from the depths of my belly, I stood up telling myself “Don’t worry, it happens. Come on.” But I realized that it does NOT happen I soon as I faced the crowd. The multitudes bore a mélange of expression, most jeering, some horrified and few full of pity. What could I do! What was done was done1 spilled milk I thought why sulk! I regained my composure, took my place and waited patiently for my turn of questioning. My mind believed that the worst was over.

But I was wrong, the judges for the evening had planned otherwise. As soon as I walked up the aisle to answer the judges they shot the first question, “Miss, what is the most embarrassing moment of your life?”

Deliberate? On purpose? Don’t they have a heart?

Tears had choked my gut and I had lost the power to mouth words. “What do I even say to that!” but by God’s grace my impulsive spirit got the better of me, mustered some confidence and I said “Sir, didn’t you witness it yourself just moments ago?” I also tried to fake a smile.

The crowd broke into a loud cheer but I could hardly make out whether they were still mocking at me or were they gracious enough to appreciate my presence of mind. Whatever it was, I was flushed with relief that I had at least found my lost voice back! My answer seemed to have neutralized the fall fiasco, because the judges and the audience started to see me as a normal participant again and not as “The Girl who Fell”.

Sailing through these turn of events I answered the following questions with ease, debated with the judges, performed the talent round and had the time of my life! Did I win the competition? No! I did not. But that night I did win my confidence. I did win a few hearts. On some level I won at life. The context might be different but there is dialogue in F.R.I.E.N.D.S where Rachel says “It’s not that common, it does not happen to everyone and it is a big deal!” and I dealt with a flabbergasting incident just fine.

Four years down the line since that eventful night, not a single day has passed without some random pun, some cruel joke intended at me with reference to that fateful day. But I have learnt to be sporty, sporty enough when it comes from friends and absolutely non-chalant when they are made by extraneous, irrelevant sources. In the course of these years of engineering, that day has helped me garner the strength to be spontaneous on stage, utterly in hold of myself when up there because at the back of my mind I know that I have already seen the worst.

Through these years I have managed to acquire the integrity to walk with my head held high, gone on to win various competitions, be part of coveted organizations, earn respect, love and a gazillion friends. That incident is now a memory. A memory with an ardent wish that the people who saw, people who know, people who share this memory remember me not as “The Girl who Fell” but as “The Girl who Rose after she Fell” which makes it a cherishable one at that.

P.S.: Sad are the people, who have no stories to tell because your college life must be a story in itself. Maybe tragic, maybe comic but definitely compelling. I found my little story, did you find yours?