I had failed in Mathematics and Science throughout my tenth grade. I had to take a re-examination in my ninth grade for both the subjects to attend classes in the tenth grade. I hadn’t done too badly in English and the Social Sciences; however it was never a consideration in my indoctrinated school ambience anyway. At the age of around fifteen, all my school teachers and Science topper friends had already delivered their unsolicited judgment about the uselessness of my future. I was not even a human, yet. I was only a hopeless creature who failed in Maths. My interest in reading and knack in writing amused none. No matter how passionately I tried public speaking, the graduation speech of tenth grade was still delivered by the Science topper.
I remember the day when I had first entered the campus of my high school. It was much before my tenth grade got over. I used to pester the receptionist with queries about the procedure to enrol into an ‘Arts course’. Unlike, most other places this campus refused to assure me a seat and declared without hesitation that ‘Arts’, too, was a very important stream and merit would certainly play an important part of the admission process. I was nervous because my schooling had indoctrinated me to believe that I was redundant without merit. However, in less than a few months, Christ Junior College changed me and my life forever.
For the first time, I attended an interview that chose to notice my passion for the Social Sciences and my admission was granted upon a promise to excel in what I was naturally interested in. My professor who took the interview had asked me to recite a self-composed poem. No teacher or friend had ever done what he did; he at once asked me to start preparing for all the events that Christ Junior College organises throughout the year.
From the very first lecture, the Christite classrooms echoed with debates. Our Father principal had himself taught us the period of Renaissance and Reformation. The campus had debates, Model United Nations, writing competitions, Ethnic Days and so many other colourful activities throughout the year. In less than two years, I had probably read more than a hundred books and gathered more knowledge than I ever could, in over fifteen years. The library was the universe of my dreams and reading was part of our routine.
My debates’ assertions grew stronger, as I developed confidence as a speaker, and much more importantly, as a human being. I found myself and surprisingly met a fascinating woman who had a lot of ideas to share. Christ had given me a stage, countless opportunities and the confidence that my principles and opinions could make a difference. Yes, Christ demanded excellence and didn’t negotiate when it came to standards. Mediocrity was unacceptable.
Christ timings were long, and I enjoyed those hours as the best of memories of my life. One such memory was a session in the ‘Excellence Forum’ of the Social Science Department. We were asked to research on any topic that intrigued us beyond the limited boundaries of textbooks. I had chosen ‘Sociology of Secret Societies.’ Presentation on such a topic in a Catholic Institution could have been risky, especially because I had gone overboard in my passionate debate with Father Principle and my class teacher on the topic. By the end of it, I was unsure about the response that I would get. Both, Father Principal and my class teacher congratulated and blessed me for my spirit and encouraged me to continue reading. I was almost in tears.
I was the Runner Up of a National Level debate called Debating Matters India organised by British Council. The sheer thrill of speaking in front of hundreds and thousands of people, the adrenaline rush of collecting my trophy from the stage as the entire college erupted in cheering me were the memories that instilled the stamina of hard work and principles of honesty and integrity.
When I used to stand up on the stage to speak, and my voice echoed throughout the campus, only I could feel the rise of pride, dignity, ambitions, hopes and desires that compelled me to work harder and harder each time. Christ Junior College had transformed me from a timid teenager to a confident and curious adult.
Those very ‘Security guards’ who are accused of enforcing the dress code, were my ‘Security uncles’ and I had formed some of the best bonds with them. It is a very snobbish class hierarchy to feel that ‘watchmen’ cannot enforce the dress code. I really would not mind wearing some dull clothes to an educational institute (or a uniform) when I had such fantastic intellectual arousal every single day. Festivities and Ethnic Days gave me enough opportunities to wear fancy clothes. My friends wore the shortest of skirts for Model United Nations and no one ever complained at Christ. All we needed to do was keep in mind the sanctity of the learning atmosphere. I did not complain.
I would instead complain if I were confined within a college where classes happened once in a month, or the classes took place in a monotonous mechanical process without any variation in opinions. I would object to a college that denied students to sit in the class even if they chose only to sit for knowledge irrespective of attendance. I would object to a college that taught students dishonesty and made them believe that only marks (and later, money), could absolve them of all mistakes. I would object to a classroom that did not evolve my integrity and honesty. I would have reservations about a college that only made money with no social responsibility (Christ has a running organisation of handmade paper products created by poor women, and every class of the Junior College sponsors one unprivileged kid who writes to them regularly. It is also one of the cleanest and most Eco-friendly campuses I have ever seen). I would object to a college that would not give me the courage to think free and would, instead, leave me free without any discipline.
The campus, all the regular events and visits by eminent personalities and interactions were the gifts that Christ gave us to nurture ourselves and move closer to being our best. I was introduced to some very dynamic thoughts on homosexuality in this campus. Yes, we discussed gay rights in a Catholic college. Christ never distinguishes among students who wish to learn. Christ refuses to accept students without the thirst to excel. Christ demands commitment and excellence.
Christ is not for those who whine about working hard and definitely not for those who lack any passion to pursue. Christ gives us enough opportunities to elevate to a pedestal of excellence and emerge from that mediocrity, only if we intend to. Fortunately, a chappal with formal clothes cannot be allowed in an environment of intellectual niche.
It would be untrue to believe that I was never reprimanded as a student at Christ. In fact, every day, I was scolded by most of my Professors. But that was not humiliation; it was love, and that love had made me a part of the Christite family. I can say that with conviction because when my mother fell ill, and Father Principal had understood the genuinity of the situation, he had granted me a complete one week leave with attendance. When I returned, Father and my professors had personally enquired about my mother’s health. Christ cared for me, my professors had identified my skill and pushed me into, where they knew, I would excel. Not just I, my entire family was a part of the Christ family. That is why the college was so protective about my future. They had seen the promise of excellence in every individual. Yes, those who care for us, compel us often to do things for our own good. They force us to chase our dreams despite our fears. They encourage us to move ahead. They never hold us back. We understand them, much later.
When my mom forbids me to spend my unearned money on mindless partying, I sometimes, get irritated. Today I am a responsible woman with values only because I was imparted the knowledge of sensitivity. Education is not a popularity contest. Sometimes, certain impositions seem rude, but we need them. If a player is not bruised enough, he shall never be a champion and those who cannot bear the wounds, fall out.
If we continue to resist a fine institution with an honest intent of knowledge, how shall we ever learn? A youth that is so unperturbed by the constant political upheavals in the country or current affairs have become so vocal about the ‘atrocities by Christ University’. And what shall be the alternative? A college with rampant booze with parental money and no lectures and dreams? Those who speak of western college culture, often tend to forget the self-discipline and research intent of their students. The day Christ-like Universities turn indifferent to students, the last rays of hope of education in India shall diminish. We are collectively failing the honesty of Christ University.
I heard that ‘Moot Court’ exercises and debates are compulsory activities at Christ. So is their attendance. I hope we remember how important it is for future lawyers to participate in discourse and intercourse of ideas. Christ provides that realm of learning which continues to help us, students, forever. I don’t think that any excellent foreign university would ever want a student who is irregular in attending classes and is only concerned about the ‘prescribed University passing marks’ and has no training or education beyond the obvious textbook cramming that begins from the nursery.
I have travelled to almost five different cities and attended more than ten different schools. But Christ gave me a sense of self, of belongingness. I haven’t been to the campus for a while, yet, I am in contact with each faculty of mine and my security uncles who had also restricted my entry at times for coming late. They remember me. In spite of a difference of generations and opinions, they encourage me and still debate with me. Our relationship did not end with our lectures. It was a bond of mutual honour that I realised much later.
I did not moot even once in the five years of my Law School, and nobody cared to notice. Had I been at Christ, I would be ‘forced’ into a moot and who knows, like my debate trophies, I would win many Moots too! I can say this with conviction, because, on the eve when my father was apprehensive about sending me to Delhi alone for the first time, after qualifying for a national debate, the entire faculty stood by me. Father principle and my debate coordinator, personally, convinced my family about my safety. Father Principal had clearly stated, “If Ujjaini does not go for the debate, no one else in the team shall.”
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