The tar on the street roads always appeared fresh. Like it had been rolled out last evening. It smelt new too, or perhaps I imagined too much. The reason could be that they were the roads inside the college campus. The campus stood protected like a fortress, if you think of it that way. High compound walls stood on most boundaries, secluding it well from rest of the town and creating a different world of sorts. On the boundaries that hadn't been walled, stood small hills. Pure absolute wilderness which were inhabited by tribes. So, coming back to the street roads, they always appeared fresh because there wasn't much traffic. Inside the campus. The professors cycled to work, some even walked. The students too followed suit. The college was located centrally inside the campus, the hostels where the students were put up were scattered all across. In between the college and the hostels, were located dozens of staff quarters where the professors lived. There were auditoriums, stadiums, activity centers, laboratories, libraries. And everything was connected by the streets. Always pitch black, always fresh, not a crevice in place. Not one puddle. They were almost as manicured as roads could be. And shrouded by trees on both sides, without a gap. Some flowering, some just plain yet verdant.
The monsoons created a bit of a hullabaloo though. Or rather the late summers. It got really hot, and it did because I remember once the mess in the hostel had closed for summer vacations and I had run out of pocket money to go out and eat, I made instant noodles after heating a glass of water in the sun. Anyway, on afternoons of days that had been that hot, the sky would give in and a storm would fill in the usual vacuum of our adolescent hearts. It would break a couple of boughs of trees. The next morning before we chased time on our cycles and ran to meet the cut off for attendance in class, we would find the streets covered with leaves. Probably the sweeping staff were understaffed or what. Or there was no sweeping staff. But the leaves would be every where on the streets. Yellowed and browned and drenched in overnight rain, the leaves of many many kinds of trees would just lay on the black tarry streets and soak again in the moist smell of the earth.
Seeing this untamed beauty of flora, unabashed, I would decide to bunk classes that day and stay on in my hostel room. At lunch time, I would give the sickly mess lunch a go and order kaju fried rice and garlic chicken from the shanty restaurant that fed me loyally for my entire time there. I would unwrap the food from the aluminum foil and eat, sitting at the window staring at the streets, the leaves, the hills and what not. I would assume, I had my entire life ahead of me. I was just twenty. That's a lot in years, but still very young, very naive. The decade of life that started then, aged me by two decades, if not less.
In the evenings I would stroll a bit, the earth would have dried up in the oppressive heat of the day. There would be couples taking walks, holding hands, chatting. There would be the cake seller who sold small cakes, muffins and brownies, and sweet breads, all home baked in a glass box fashioned like a shopping cart. He would ring this onerous bell, announcing his presence, softly though, but infrequently and without rhythm. It would be alarming at first, but I would miss the cake seller if he took an evening off.