By Beena Lal:
If someone asks me what the best time in my life was, without even thinking twice, I would say my college days in a women’s college in Trivandrum back in 1990. I’ve never experienced such a free life before or after that. I don’t remember a security guard standing at the gates. We used to go out and come in whenever we liked. We would go out, do a circle around the college, visit santha glass house, look at the new earrings and walk back.
If a friend from another stream was able to get out of her class and come to our class, we used to jump out of the class through the back door, go to the canteen and sit there for hours. We had very little money to spend but it was enough to buy us vada and tea.
No professor questioned us, no letters went to parents. They treated us like adults and gave us the full freedom to decide what’s good or bad for us. I didn’t attend a single class of Hindi, my second language, but was still able to write the exam. No extra fine was imposed on me, neither were my parents summoned. It was the most wonderful times of my life.
I used to wonder if my son would ever be able to say the same thing about his college life. The answer is NO. As soon as I entered the Christ University campus during his admissions, I was told by a mother that if you wear jeans, the chances of your kid getting admission is almost nil.
The boys were supposed to wear full sleeves and pants and girls were told not to wear tights, leggings or even churi bottoms, anything which might be a little tight. Such an atmosphere can make one feel suffocated.
These are the times these kids can express themselves and feel free. But no. I had to go twice to sit in front of the counsellor as well as the Vice Principal because of shortage in attendance. I’ve seen parents coming all the way from Guwahati and Punjab. All of them were shaking their heads at their plight, waiting for their turn to go inside the room and listen to the speeches of how irresponsible our kids are. Travelling a total of 7 hours to attend this half-an-hour ritual.
At the beginning of the college year, I was summoned to be told that my son is in the company of ‘bad kids’ and I had better ask him to leave that company. I told them clearly that I will not do any such thing, I know those kids and I know my son too. Her response was that all parents trust what the children say and then suffer. My question is – if we don’t trust our kids who else would? If they think one kid is bad for whatever reason they think, isn’t it their responsibility to talk to the child and help them get out of the situation? But that would be a hard job, it is easier to leave them alone and brand them as ‘bad’. Well, if the student isn’t attending classes and fails in examinations, they pay for their ignorance. That’s his punishment which will teach him a lesson. Let them make mistakes and learn from them. Treat them with respect and don’t trample their pride. Let them say that their college days were the most unforgettable times in their lives for all the right reasons.
UPDATE: The year in the title has been changed from 1985 to 1990 after the writer clarified that she had earlier given a rough time frame and 1990 is when she went to college.