Of chaand raat and cadet college
Back in the olden days of khaki uniforms, polished oxfords, and parade counts, Thursdays were of more significance to us than Fridays – the only allocated off-day in the cadet college system. Fridays brought on a slight unpleasant taste in the back of the mouth at another task-filled week to start soon, but Thursdays were all about half-a-day of classes, movie nights, special dinners, and a crisp new copy of SHOUT.
It's not an overstatement nor exaggeration when I say that brawls have broken out over the claim of a copy of SHOUT. Whoever managed to lay claim to it had to meticulously remember the number of people who called dibs after. The magazine was taken apart (not torn, we're not barbarians) like puzzle pieces so that several people could read them at once. SHOUT got us through many boring classes, too-short rest hours, and just life. A copy of SHOUT lasted us the entire week.
Some stretched out the utility of the magazine, the tales outlived the physical copies. The very first piece of content from SHOUT I'd come across was from the diary of a friend, who loved the story titled "Interval" so much that she copied the story in her notebook, because some stories are worth keeping forever. Some kept fat stacks of old copies of SHOUT atop their lockers or under their beds, hoarding them like a dragon hoards riches, either to reread and revisit or to use for scrapbooking projects.
SHOUT was a window to a world both foreign and known to us, some issues we couldn't relate to, and some were our own words etched out by someone else. In a life with very limited and controlled access to the internet and all things technology, SHOUT kept us updated about new music and show releases, songs worth listening to, and everything else we were missing out on.
When my first write-up was published, I didn't know about it. I had sent in a piece several weeks ago and forgotten about it, but my classmates spotted it and practically stampeded on me the day after, because they have been my draft-readers for a long time before this. It felt like a win for us all. Some of these stories originated during the morning PT, during lethargic afternoon prep times, or while leaving the ground after games – they were as much of my surroundings as they were of me.
The discontinuation of SHOUT feels like the loss of a part of my teen years I wasn't aware I was holding on to; it felt natural to know SHOUT was going out to the world, and reaching the paperstands of a home I left behind, to our successors who were fighting over the magazine just like we had and I took a complacent kind of comfort in knowing that history was, in fact, repeating itself.
There is a long and formal tradition of bidding farewell to officials and cadets, and while SHOUT isn't going to get that, it will for sure be missed.
Old friend, you will be kept alive in jotted snippets and paper clippings.
Upoma Aziz is a slouching, crouching, grouchy, and nostalgic goblin with a hoarding issue. Hold a virtual intervention for her to declutter her desk and her mind at [email protected]