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We Blatantly Discriminate Against Students From Small Towns; This Is The Impact It Has On Them

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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’.

college

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.

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  1. Celest

    I agree about the discrimination which is face by small towners especially those from Bihar.But your point about the southern states,Yes North Indians might be made fun of,But the programs have to be in the local language.If I remember right,you wrote an articlee about Hindi and how we should communicate more in our mother tongue,Then when we South Indians or Maharashtrians or Bengalis or basically anyone non-Hindi does it,why does irk people ?

    I still remember in Hyderabad in my coaching institute Aakash,The reception there was from Andhra(One of the three reigions of Andhra Pradesh) and so did not know HIndi that well.A north Indian family came to get their son enrolled and they were not particularly good in either English or Telugu.Some how they managed to communicate and after that downstairs of the Institute,I heard the man say in some sort of dialect of Hindi , “Ye Madrasi log bhi na,Apni Matra Bhasha jante wante hain nahin,Thu hain inparr” !

    So apparently our Mother tongue should only be Hindi ? Now I know that not all people harbour this attitude but you’ve got to admit,When it comes to Hindi,MAny North Indians are chauvinistic in their attitude.

    Sorry If I’ve reeled off from the point of the article but I just wanted this point put across.

    1. Lata Jha

      No, I quite agree and empathise with what you said. Some of us do tend to have this parochial attitude when it comes to language. I, however, feel that language and customs are ultimately connected to the question of identity. Which we should be both proud and respectful of. I’m not saying Hindi should be the only or the dominant means of communication. But students’ identities should be respected. A North Indian group should be allowed to organise events in their language in their college. Similarly, South Indian students should be encouraged to showcase their culture and customs. There are colleges, for instance that today invite articles in English, Hindi as well as Urdu, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Bengali. So I think it all boils down to equal space and respect.

  2. Akshat Seth

    i’ll tell you something very interesting:
    Recently, a college in Patna- The Magadh Mahilla College, imposed a whimsical diktat on the female students; they would not be allowed to wear sleeveless dresses from now on. The students under various progressive student organizations, protested by organizing sit-in’s and remaining on the road in the chilly winter nights to protest this infringement of their personal space based on patriarchal mindsets. The administration had to give in at last.
    Contrast this with a plethora of examples from the south where in the name of ‘order’ ‘discipline’ and ‘safety’ a whole host of moral policing measures from reprimanding students old enough to vote for merely talking to a girl or a boy, to forcing girls to wear V-shaped Duppattas pinned on their back. Many of these are Engineering and management colleges and the the remarkable thing is that when time comes for placements and for the first time the gals and the guys are made to sit together and talk during interactive GD;s as confidence good inter-personal communication (irrespective of genders mind you) is a must for going professional, the poor chaps who were oppressed for their entire college lives turn pale and blank. This is not an assertion based on regional bias but a fact based on online articles in The Hindu. The poor chaps inadvertently give a poorer showing then any guy or a girl who might have been taught by the Dhoti clad Msterji in a non co-ed school in Bihar or Eastern UP.

    My point might seem like a digression from the main issue here, but I humbly want to submit that how misplaced are the perceptions based on who is ‘progressive’ and ‘sophisticated’. A well written article.

    Disclaimer- This is not to show that I have some issues with the southerners. Far from it. I have a lot of respect for them and I’ve been fortunate enough to have received unflinching kindness and assistance from them during times of dire crisis in the Southern heartland. They’re gentle, decent and take care to keep the train compartment toilets clean. My only submission is that as people sharing diversity, there are lots of things that we both can learn from each other and the notion of superiority is highly misplaced.

    1. Lata Jha

      Well said, Akshat. I’m glad youbrought the Magadh Mahila issue up. It’s heartening to see where we’re going.
      And I’m with you on the fact that a lot of South Indians are very inspiring people themselves. But notions of progressiveness need to be rethought.

  3. akshay agarwal

    its a good thing you added a disclaimer in between the post as the write-up suggested (to me at least, a guy who is from the north but has lived and studied in Bangalore all his life) that you generalised a couple of incidents into being so with every college in every southern city. Also the language issue is a complex one and my personal views are that there shouldn’t be restrictions on local language usage in college fests (even if the medium of instruction is english) as the local languages (especially of the south) are not given the importance they deserve and i’d like to say that to all the fests i have attended, hindi, english songs are played along with the local language!

    i think it comes down to choice and a bit of luck coz im sure there are few colleges who may be just the way you described and maybe i’m just lucky to have seen the better half of the issue here!

    1. Lata Jha

      I think so too, Akshay. I don’t think everyone’s as lucky as you or faces as little problem with the language issue at fests etc.
      Thanks for reading. 🙂

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