By Lata Jha:
After spending two years away from home in college in a different city, a couple of us friends sat together, reminiscing. The most interesting, unforgettable moment of the conversation for me came from a friend, an engineering student in Bangalore who told me what her super imaginative classmates there envisioned our school in Patna as. They, in fact drew a sketch for her on paper. A typical school in Bihar, in this case ours, would comprise a handful of students sitting under a tree being taught by an elderly masterji in a dhoti. We supposedly use slates to copy down what he writes on the blackboard. And since, Prakash Jha’s famous mall right opposite my school has been much in the news lately; they were kind enough to add a two storeyed structure with about five windows in front of the ‘school’.
She laughed as she recounted the incident, and I laughed with her. All I could say to her was she needn’t pay attention to people with such narrow and sad streams of imagination. And that is precisely what I tell every friend who goes through one ordeal after another in local colleges and hostels of different cities.
I study in Delhi, and I personally don’t claim first-hand experience of the same. In my two and a half years there, nobody in my college or circle has spoken critically or mockingly to me about my city or its people. But apparently, this is quite an issue for a lot of people who have to either teach or study alongside those from my state, or our neighbours from Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand. Not that we have ever considered ourselves as some sort of a gang, but I’m told that natives of these states are often clubbed together.
A lot of friends have spoken to me about attitudes in colleges of the southern states. They find it difficult to participate in fests since mostly only local language music is played. It’s difficult for them to get on boards or organising committees of competitions where entire plays and programmes are in the local language.
And why just banal, entertainment related stuff? A friend was openly mocked at for being from Bihar when she approached a professor for a letter of recommendation. There are even incidents of students not being awarded the marks they deserve in examinations. You can stuff earphones when there’s alien music blaring, but what do you do when discriminatory attitudes begin to impact your career and future? Placement interviews in or after the final year will not consider where you came from and what hostility you had to deal with, will they?
And let’s not restrict ourselves to a certain part of the country. Even a fairly cosmopolitan city like Pune has colleges where staff and administration speak only in the local dialect, and pull up students from certain states, regardless of whether they’ve done anything or not.
I’d like to make it clear that this does not happen everywhere in the regions I may have mentioned. And for all we know, it might be happening right under our noses in the national capital and other parts of north India as well.
My point is that a student goes to college with a lot of hopes and dreams. In harsh, unrelenting scenarios like these, he/she doesn’t bloom naturally, but grows and toughens up abruptly. Students begins to get unnecessarily disillusioned of the world. Since life is to become only progressively tougher for them, they could do without the cynicism and lack of faith.
College is a great learning experience for all of us. It pulls us away from our comfort zones and braces us for life and its eccentricities ahead. Not that the world is a bed of roses, but a person at eighteen doesn’t really need to see its most unforgiving side, and one that he/she doesn’t deserve at all. While some would be able to take it in their stride, others could fall apart completely.
Also, none of us really leave home out of choice. We have dreams and we seek to fulfil them. We might come from small towns, but we don’t carry with ourselves the burden of expectations from and constant judgement of others. We dream big and we aim high. It’s a battle we fight with ourselves of wanting to come back to our roots and having to strive ahead. But we don’t wear the stress on our sleeve. We don’t look for sympathy. We just look for the little space we can fit in. It’s a space where you can be yourself and respect yourself for it. It’s a space where you widen your horizons but know exactly when you need to come back to the shore. It’s also a space where you could do without untimely, unnecessary storms. There is already so much to weather, college is definitely one phase that could do with a little more sunshine.