Having come from the small town of Gangtok in Sikkim which has far lesser opportunities, I must have lowered my expectations from my college, Lady Shri Ram College for Women. There were a myriad ways in which I was reassured of a space connoting the ‘magic of LSR’ that would accommodate me to acquire ‘knowledge that would lead to liberation’, as the college motto suggests. Knowledge, as an abstract concept, cannot be necessarily restricted to academic orientation; it is much more than that. In colleges, extracurricular activities often become an objective synonym of a ‘happy space’. But, the question is, how far-fetched or inclusive are these societies, going by their accessibility?
Accessibility is a complex issue. This has to be kept in mind, given that the parameter would be of possessing a cultural background. This background can again be intrinsically linked to caste and class privileges. Societies across Delhi University provide many opportunities for students to facilitate teamwork woven through various art forms – music, dance, art and craft, etc. In the process, it also helps create great bonds and friendships. However, in my college, like many others in DU, this space is being restricted to only a few. This happens due to a set criteria, which is being used to judge someone’s ability to meet the required commitments.
Now, this idea is very problematic, at least for me. How do you have a set criteria to judge someone’s writing, when creative writing is ultimately a subjective understanding – or with feminism as an ideology, where ideas, contexts and life experiences become subjective to individual interests? The fact that the Women’s Development Cell (WDC) in LSR limits the space of learning to a very few ‘potential’ students, shortlisted according to the applications we submit, is not fair. Does that mean the inability to articulate my thoughts complements my understanding of the concept of gender equality or of accessing a learning space at all?
The system needs to be questioned. Also, it is interesting that many first-years don’t make it to the WDC, because they’re probably not acclimatised with the nuances to fit the criteria. When I auditioned for dramatics last year and could not get through, the de-motivation was not bereft of a feeling of insecurity and vulnerability against the intimidating space that LSR can be. Even with performative societies, there is a hierarchy and regression at times. The passion for winning the competition becomes a priority – and of course, there’s no harm in that – but they could be more inclusive.
I’ve also observed that the entire energy of a society is exhausted in catering to the expectations of a grand, commercial ‘cultural’ fest – thus the massive hullabaloo created in the search for sponsors to accredit events with fancy prizes, by being considerate of the ‘reputation’ at stake. The question is, what is this ‘reputation’ and what is the society actually for? Do these concerns precede the mental exhaustion of these students or even the issue of the intensification of the transition of a fun space to something else?
Logistical concerns have been the major reason why societies are constricted to put caps, but does that even suffice as an interesting answer, when even the lawns groomed in LSR are restricted for use during the season of the Green Cup competition in DU? There is a need for the student body and the faculty to initiate dialogue and deliberation around it, and see how measures can be worked out to render the societies more fluid.
For me, this disillusionment has loomed large and affected my thinking about college. I think it should be more than a space where schools of thought just remain limited to the fine red bricks that spread the exclusive ‘magic of LSR’.