By Saptaparno Ghosh:
I blame the tabloids. They have made the otherwise shambled structures of North Campus look so cool that pursuing higher studies from there is a customary obligation.
I got a pretty decent percentage in the class XII boards. My relatives were content with the result but it was not enough to make it to North Campus. Fortunately, destiny played its game and my name was in the sixth cut off list for SGTB Khalsa College, located in the campus. My friends and relatives felt it was top priority to enlighten me with stereotypical notions about the college. Going by their description, SGTB Khalsa seemed like a typical campus from a film in which Diljit Dosanjh has acted. I don’t blame them. I observed things which seemed similar on my first visit. Whoever I spoke to had a turban and spoke Punjabi. From everyone in the administration to the volunteers.
On the very first day, a security guard stopped me at the gate asking me for my college ID. I tried explaining to him that I did not have it since it was my first day. But it fell on deaf ears. We got into an argument but a guy wearing a white shirt and blue jeans intervened and got things sorted. He introduced himself and tried to be a little too friendly. Some may call me an introvert, but a stranger being over friendly and helpful is a valid reason for suspicion, especially when he tries to exchange phone numbers. I realised later that this is how student politics worked, especially in Khalsa, where there are a lot of independent candidates apart from the student organisations affiliated to mainstream political parties.
I entered the building and then into the lobby. The lobby looked like a railway station complex without an announcement board. Students were sitting on the floor outside the Principal’s office. I asked them the way to Room Number 102. I had collected the timetable from the admission convenor of my department in an attempt to appear studious and sincere. You do not get a permanent classroom at Khalsa provided you’re not into your final year or from the Department of Commerce or Economics. I went upstairs after following the instructions and found my room.
After being sincere about lectures in the initial days, things underwent change. Me and my friends loved procrastinating at Jannat. It is an open courtyard behind the old college building with trees and benches. Sitting there, we would discuss the rural lifestyle of my friends, plan a mass bunk or trips to other college canteens, fests or Hudson Café. One of the primary reasons we’d undertake such trips was because of our horrendous canteen. We regularly ran out of food and it made us look for alternatives. After experimenting with many places, we found solace at Mansarovar and International Student Hostel (ISH).There were postgraduate student hostels for boys in front of the college. We found more students from Khalsa than hostelers there. The hostel administration didn’t really care. After all, we were adding to their coffers.
Apart from good canteens, we were also deprived of occasional visits by film stars and bollywood singers. We did not have late night college fests either. Yes, Khalsa fests happen during the day.It was February of this year. Outside the Vishwavidyalaya Metro Station, I saw posters of Salim-Sulaiman performing at Hindu College’s Mecca later that week. A 20 minute discussion with friends at Jannat and we started looking for ways to get hold of passes for the event. Time passed and the duo were to perform the next day. Adamant to attend Mecca, we reached the Hindu college campus two hours prior, hoping to sneak in somehow. The front gate was heavily crowded. Perhaps with people like us. That’s when I found someone whom I hadn’t met for ages. He was my senior at Middle School and turned out to be a Hindu Hosteler. After a formal interaction, I asked for his help. He immediately called up his friend: a volunteer at the fest and managed to get us in without any pass! And that is how we managed to attend one of the most prestigious college fests in India without any passes.
One fest after another followed suit, and gate crashing became usual. Gradually,I perfected the art to such an extent that I could sneak in anytime and anywhere that too without any contacts but smart excuses, call it jugadh or successful adaptation to the ecosystem. By now, we were experts at it.
However, deep down I wish we didn’t have to do all this. I wish we had better cultural societies and a Students’ Union that is not being governed by subordinate allies of a political party. Things would’ve been different then.
Despite all this, I managed to survive one year at college. I did fairly well in my first year, securing 69 %. I’m officially a sophomore now, looking forward to another year of exploration and fun.