It was a cool dark night in April and two friends were sitting on the Humanities and Social Science block rooftop.
The HSB rooftop is possibly one of the best places in IIT. Unlike Tiffanys, it offers no food and unlike Gurunath, it offers no entertainment. Yet, it is alluring in its own special way, even though it’s just a big, dangerous terrace, and I say dangerous for it has no parapets. At night, there aren’t any lights on the terrace, save the moonlight and if one were to take a casual stroll across its perimeter admiring the night sky, one would land up in the institute hospital.
Nevertheless, it is a wonderful place, which you can never quite leave once in. Such haunts are few and far between in IIT.
On this particular Monday night at eight PM, two friends were dangling their legs and enjoying the sweet breeze blowing from nowhere, perhaps caused by the combustion of certain members of the plant species. They gazed at the sky, looked around the dark terrace in delight, felt like the conquerors of the world, till one powered her laptop and suggested that they study Aristotle, for they had a HS3214 Aspects of Western Philosophy endsem on Wednesday and they had loads of slides to do.
One, however, was an armchair rebel. ‘Why must we do this?’ she enquired. ‘Why must we mug something as dreary and as ridiculous as Kantsian agnosticism? What is philosophy afterall and why am I made to study it? Philosophy and I exist on different planes of existence. We aren’t made for each other. There’s no love lost between me and philosophy. Why must I mug something which goes above my head?”
The other sagelike friend made no response. She opened the powerpoint presentation. ‘Aristotle’s theory of causation’, she read out. ‘Formal, Material, Efficient and Final.’
And thus she continued for another twenty minutes or so, as the night breeze swept across their faces. It was very still, in that quagmire of a terrace. It was truly, the best place to be in IIT.
‘Thirty slides over’ she announced after a while. ‘Only twenty three more to go.’
But the other wasn’t paying attention. ‘Look!’ she said, pointing at sky. ‘Look at the moon!’
And she turned around and looked. A jet of white light swished through the full moon which looked like a particularly delectable cheesecake. It was initially a tangent to the circular moon and then slowly began to submerge the moon. It was like a jet of milk was drowning the moon. It was like, as the foodie among the two later declared, vanilla icing on a cheese cake.
The two friends stared open mouthed at this astonishing spectacle. The white jet of light seemed to grow bigger and bigger in size and one friend tried to capture the wonder with her cell phone camera.
The other one laughed. ‘You needn’t have bothered’ she said. ‘It would look very ordinary in the picture. And perhaps there isn’t anything extraordinary about it. It’s just the white smoke of a jet plane passing over the moon.’
But still, the two friends continued to gaze at the peculiarly long spectacle. The terrace was still, like it was waiting for something miraculous to happen. It was like they weren’t at the centre of the IIT, but far far away from civilization, if there is any difference between the two.
And then, slowly and gradually, one friend sitting on the HSB terrace, realized that in reality, she knew nothing about the person sitting next to her, staring dreamily at the moon. ‘I know her name’, she thought, ‘her age, bloody hell, she is my best friend and yet I really don’t know her. Why is she sitting so silently?’, she wondered, ‘What is she thinking? What am I doing in this dark cold, God forsaken place with this person who I know absolutely nothing about and I never shall, no matter how long it takes? Who am I anyway? It is so dark here that all I can see is my long nose. Can I thus conclude that only my nose exists? I can anyway quite effectively convince myself that my intestines are merely a figment of my imagination, so perhaps I really don’t exist. What sort of a place is this and what the hell am I doing here?’
‘What would happen if I scream?’ she wondered. ‘Yes, she’d be shocked, it’d be unexpected. But no one else would hear me. Or perhaps they would. Perhaps someone would emerge out of the dark shadows and accuse me of ruining the silence of the night. They might ask me what I’m doing here, at this time, with a laptop and a scream. And then I’d have nothing to say.’
‘Why am I thinking all this?’ she wondered ‘Why doesn’t she say a word, why does she sit like a mute rock, watching the sky? Are thoughts buzzing through her head, like mine? But she isn’t anything like me. She’s calm, composed, an enigma. She is rational, thinks before doing anything and is very emotionally stable. Completely unlike the emotional, impulsive, hysterical me. What would it be like, to be her, just a day?’
And then slowly and gradually, the white vapour began to diffuse into the night sky till nothing was left, save the moon. In a few minutes, the clouds cleared and the night sky was the same well loved picture as the world knew it.
The other friend turned around and smiled, her eyes crinkling like they always did. ‘Shall we start on slide 31?’ she asked. ‘Only 23 more to go.’
Thus the two friends continued to dissect Nichomachean ethics as the night flew by. Two days later, they were asked to write on the Aristotelian Theory of Causation, for seven and a half marks. Neither of them wrote about the moon cake and the white jet of light.