There is work. Then there is backbreaking work that makes you regret being alive. Then there's architecture. When I first asked my dad how it would be, he said that there would be a lot of work. At that time I thought I'd have to do a lot of work anywhere I went. So what's different? But he didn't say anything else. After the first few weeks of college, I remembered those words again. But this time I could understand the true meaning of 'a lot of work'. There was hardly any time for us to even eat or sleep. There was always something or the other we had to do. The official college timing was from 7:30 in the morning till 2 in the afternoon. But that was more or less a joke. The average time we spent in college or working for college was generally 15-18 hrs. The work seemed endless. Before we could finish an assignment, ten new ones would be added to our to do list. As if this was less work, the work we had submitted would 'apparently' never be up to the mark. So we had to redo those assignments as well. Weekends were no longer days when we recuperated. They were times we attempted to whittle down this mountain of assignments. But to no avail. There was no such thing as a good night's sleep anymore. Just pushing in about 2-3 hours of rest was difficult. Eating was strictly on a 'need to' basis. And even that was preferred to be done while working. There was so much work that we didn't have enough time or energy to even complain about it.
In addition to all this, a few of us had NASA. To this day, I can't really point out why I did it till the end. The toll it took on us physically and mentally was like nothing I had ever experienced. Or for that matter, nothing like I even thought possible.
All throughout school and even in college, I always gave my all. I had always tried to push my limits. When we played handball, our coach used to make us run after a rigorous training session. He explained that this was to push the body even farther because true training begins after you are out of energy. But what I did in college was way beyond any of that.
I still remember the first time I had stayed awake for two solid days. There really are no words to describe that feeling. Everything was somehow sharper. All my senses were on overload. I could literally feel the adrenaline in my system. My body really couldn't handle that much. But still I worked.
I know now that I could never have done something like that alone. It was only possible because of my friends. After all, we were sailing in the same boat. Even the seniors working with us in NASA weren't immune to this: it was just that they had become a little accustomed to it during their previous years. There were even those that slept once in two days. Even after all this, the faculty would never cut us any slack. They still expected us to finish things on time and be present for the lectures.
Any sane person would ask what we could have possibly hoped to achieve by going through this torture. What did we gain by wrecking our bodies? By putting our mental stability on the line? What did all of this mean?!
At first, I would probably have been the one to ask this question. But after going through all of that, I realize that there really was something to it after all. It wasn't the work (that could have been taken care of by being smart and managing my time better). It wasn't showing off (there were other, safer, ways of doing it). It wasn't even the pressure of trying to outdo our seniors. What I did gain in the end wasn't something tangible. But for the first time in my life, I could clearly 'see' the extent of myself. I could understand myself much better. I had never seen myself in such a dire situation before. It was enlightening. The things we are capable of doing! Seeing yourself pushed to the very brink of meltdown literally opens your eyes! And that is exactly what I needed to start finding myself.
It's funny to see how our priorities shift when we go through this kind of pseudo-hell. The first thing we think about is sleeping. EVERYTHING ELSE can wait! Food, hygiene, friends, family -- it does not matter! The things we say in this instance are probably the closest to the truth we are ever going to get. Even the way we behave is altered. There simply isn't enough energy to put up an act or lie. We can literally see a person for who they are. No wonder people who worked together in this condition ended up becoming the best of friends or the worst of enemies.