The first thing I realized during my first week in college was that I was not as good as I had thought. Due to some issues between the board of studies and the Council of Architects, our college had started two months later than other colleges. Most of the people in my class had already been to some other college before shifting to this one. This meant that I was essentially at a disadvantage. They had already gotten used to certain terms and vocabulary which I had no inkling of. They knew how to handle tools that I had never even seen in my life. I had never been at any kind of disadvantage in my life before. This was a new feeling. And I can't say that I liked it. I felt that I needed to work more. I had to pull myself up to their level.
It was because of all this that I simply had to go for the NASA practice.
When our seniors took down the names of the people willing to participate in that activity, they had told us to stay back everyday after college. They were going to make us practice. And they had warned us that it would get ugly.
They had promised to teach us everything they knew about every tool that we would ever need. It was a huge thing. The first day of practice was the basics. It was an introduction to the various tools of the trade - about the work-surfaces that we would need and about the models that we would have to make. And most importantly, about the stuff that we would need to buy and carry with us for these sessions. Then we started.
The people who were going to take our practice and show us all the "tricks" were the second-year students. They would then check this work and see if we were fit to do NASA at all. Our first task was to prepare our work-surface, viz. the drafting board. We needed to clean it and back it with a new chart paper. Two of them, Pratik and Swapnil, showed it to us. The manner in which they went about handling all the materials was very uncanny. It was as if they didn't need to see what their hands were doing. Even their synchronization was perfect. There was no wasted movement. And all the while they were talking to us. We tried to grasp everything that they were showing us. The little cuts that were necessary, the kind of pressure that we needed to apply for the best possible results. Even the way we should handle things so as not to get cut. But it was all too much to take in at once.
They were done in about fifteen minutes. That was including all the instructions and the time they spent showing us stuff. We took fifteen minutes just to gather the stuff they had asked for and pick a board and a partner. This was when the real fun began. Since we didn't know each other that well, we couldn't really work fast at all. Then there was the fact that some of the people didn't really care about the little details that they had shown us, they just wanted to get it over with. Big mistake. Swapnil, Pratik and a few of their classmates were moving around among us and they had some inhuman standard of checking. They didn't tolerate even a single nick or a scratch. More than once they just tore the sheets off and told partners to start over. A few paper-tearing incidents later, people understood that there was no easy way of doing this. We had to raise our level or keep doing the same thing over and over.
By the end of the practice session, each of us had our own board. These were the boards we would use from now on for further practice. The second year students told us that they would be here everyday but there would also be other seniors and they were even more strict. From now on it would only get more difficult. There was no easy way here.