“Why would an ordinary undergraduate’s story be relevant to anyone?”, I wondered as I sat to write about my experiences in college, applying to Campus Watch in 2016. I left the questioning aside, for nothing was more important than relevant work experience onto my CV back then.
A college senior informed me about the writing programme at Campus Watch, Youth Ki Awaaz. At that time, I had dismissed several movements and campaigns that I witnessed at the Delhi University (DU) campus as political gimmicks. She (my senior) believed that YKA would ideally provide me with the platform to engage and understand those occurrences better. Following an email application, I was called for an interview at the office. And after two attempts at writing, I got through to Campus Watch.
My first story was on SGTB Khalsa College’s acclaimed theatre society. This was the first-ever interview of my life. Not only that, I fetched contacts on my own and negotiated to get the society President to speak to me. Never did I feel so equipped before. Nevertheless, it took me five days, and six reprimands from the Editor-in-Chief to submit the story. The feedback at college and elsewhere was very satisfying. Moreover, a byline on YKA!
One story after another, different people, but recording their experiences every time brought me closer to the campus. They were all different people, they had different stories, but they all endeavoured for a better and fair campus. At some point, I too felt like an integral part of their movement, a closet activist. But effectively, my editors pulled me back before I could acquire a sense of uncompromising solidarity. Balancing my newly-acquired convictions for a comprehensive narrative was challenging, nevertheless, a great learning experience.
While I was writing during the Ramjas College-incident, I was raging with fury. Directly or indirectly, the incident had affected all of us at the campus. I wanted to write and outrage. But that wasn’t the case with my editors. They demanded objectivity. I was assigned an article with a one-hour deadline. Keeping all the emotions aside, I spoke to both the parties to confirm facts and put out the story. Correctly-mentioned facts strengthen the narrative. I had to keep a strict check on my emotions. I have no idea how I managed to pull it off in the instigating climate back then.
The tone of an article is crucial. Sensitively addressing concerns is imperative. It was precisely at Campus Watch that I was made aware of the ‘elitism’ in my writings. Multiple interactions with the editors and a series of stories later, things did improve. All this while, never was I divested from doing crucial stories.
Campus Watch made me realise that there are people who listen and wish to engage. Mainstream media does not enable enough scope for the same. Subscribing to a distinct writing style, with first-person narratives, the interviewee or the writer was often the storyteller. More importantly, the protagonist was not vested with expectations. Precisely the reason I never focussed on being ‘politically correct’ – good or ugly, the picture was presented unaltered.
The last few months were noteworthy. Students around me were looking forward to engaging with the platform. The impact of student-based journalism is unprecedented. Perhaps, having been with Campus Watch since its inception, somehow, I too have contributed to this change of information-based growth. It has made a lot of us self-reliant because of an alternative outlet that challenged the monopoly of mainstream media’s reportage of student grievances. The campus was never this relevant before.
Writing my last paragraph on the platform, I shall miss all the challenges and moments of accomplishment. Learning while writing and engaging has made me an efficient manager and a writer with unmovable convictions. The writing programme shall have an everlasting impression on my life. Hope to write here again soon!