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What Is It Like To Be Part Of A ‘Cultural’ Society In A ‘Technical’ College?

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The term ‘extra-curricular’ is not quite popular in the Indian education system and has always faced ignorance. If it hadn’t, half of us wouldn’t be pursuing the careers we are today. Instances of our interests and resonating with our career choices are not common. It’s almost like our mindset and thinking was structured this way while growing up. Our conventional thinking is used to limiting music, theatrics, sports, etc. to our resume and not engage in it.

When I decided to pursue engineering, I took admission in the National Institute of Technology (NIT) at Bhopal, and there were various working societies in our college – technical societies, dramatics society, literary societies, and one cultural society covering all sorts of extra-curricular activities and events. And rightly so; these societies should be an integral part of our college lives as they aid in our personality development. Here, we learn what textbooks can’t teach us.

I have a special fondness for music and I play some instruments as well, and was naturally drawn towards the cultural society. There comes a time in the second semester, when most of these societies recruit. I went for the auditions, and luckily, got selected for the cultural society, but to my surprise, so did 150 other people from my batch. And soon, I got to know about the actual condition of this particular society. I learnt how nobody was serious about it and not giving it the due attention needed and deserved – neither the administration, nor the students supposedly running it.

And the students who weren’t a part of it? They were just there to make a mockery out of it. That killed my overall excitement. I was expecting exposure and an improvement in my skills, but there were hardly any events or society meetings. There weren’t even funds allotted to us from college; so, in short, it was a dead society and that’s what we called it.

It used to frustrate me and keep me at unrest. I was part of only one society, and that too an inactive one! The passiveness of this society had been assumed and remained undisputed, with every batch coming and going, barely bothered about it. I decided to change this once and for all.

Eventually, in my fifth semester, I came to a position where I could make decisions for the society (as if there was any sort of work happening before this). There were hardly any members left, most of my batch mates had left it or were highly inactive. So, along with two of my friends who were also members, I decided to transform this society.

We personally approached our batch mates and juniors and formed a group of 20 people – 20 music enthusiasts to be specific, and started performing monthly gigs in the campus. Initially, we faced backlash, but slowly the gigs delivered and were impactful in catching the attention of the students. People started liking and attending them, we even started getting the attention of the local media and started receiving offers for holding such shows. More people started reaching out to us to join the society. We became extremely active on social media as well and started creating online content. The society and its efforts, finally, started being appreciated.

This was like a breath of fresh air, amidst the gruelling academic schedule. And, that is also why our ideology suddenly started resonating with the members of the society. We were able to revive a dead society and what we felt was a mixture of elation, accomplishment and contentment.

But all of this didn’t happen overnight. It took months of planning, hard work and execution. The team of 20 that we started with is now a team of 200. We’ve accommodated every aspect of culture and art in the society, right from dance, vocal arts, painting, writing, poetry; everything that we believe needed exposure. And we believe it was necessary.

After all, if you don’t nourish and explore your talents during college, when else will you do it, right? It’s a part of your personality development, it gives you the right amount of confidence and, is also appreciated and highlighted during campus placements (if that’s why you’re doing it, yes, it delivers better than just academics).

The administration has also come around and supports the society now. We receive funds and recognition. Within a year, we were able to establish it as a notable society in our college, facilitating a variety of extra-curricular activities.

Many colleges in India, especially the IITs (Indian Institute of Technology), have vibrant cultural societies in place, but the NITs have been lagging behind for a while now. I believe, even at the end of our graduation, we should mention of the same on our report cards – our extra-curricular activities during this four year tenure. We should move forward from reducing these activities to words like ‘trivial’ and just an ‘extra.’

However, as students, we felt as if we had done something extraordinary, and contributed towards betterment and creating something important. And this is what in a way, sums up my college life. I became an asset to the college, and did something that’ll stay there for years. And more importantly, we left behind a team that works harder than we did.

It taught me the value of hard work and also, to never lose hope and and have a vision for innovation. When everyone says ‘this is impossible,’ the only way you’ll stand out and hold your ground is by proving them wrong.

Image source: Roobaroo, NIT Bhopal/Facebook
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