“Am I audible”, “Is this clear”, apparently these are the only sounds that reverberate through my ears when someone enquires about my college life. That’s not solely my story though. In fact, that’s exactly the experience of approximately a few lakh students who have entered college without actually stepping within the threshold of the campus.
Honestly, I don’t know what to put forth to my fellow batchmates who have undergone this unimaginable paradigm shift without moving a single step physically from our cocooned atmospheres at home.
Independent self-driven lives, vibrant college fests, crazy discussions over movies and politics and a diversified environment to expose ourselves and build our skills for the professional sphere, that’s exactly what we are conditioned to fantasize college life about. And that’s exactly how we, the batch of 2020, had expected to enter the new phase of our academic career too.
I know how it feels to do the unimaginable, to be haunted by the unexpected when you least expect it to unfold, to enter college but not the campus.
The complete distortion of the academic calendar and the admission process for various colleges with some of the boards getting cancelled, entrance tests being conducted online or alternative mechanisms adopted for it drained us completely of our mental sanity and kept us on tenterhooks throughout the entire process.
After almost 3 months of enduring the stress and sheer mental agony of the uncertainty in the admission process, I know what it feels like to be able to secure a seat in your dream colleges, yet, not experiencing its coveted campus life.
It’s okay to take a break for yourself to figure out what lies ahead. It’s okay not to rush yourself under the burdening clamour of your expecting families. You deserve the time to recuperate from what all seems not to be seeping in so easily and deliberate on your own choices in retrospection.
The pandemic has had its own share of repercussions on all of our lives. I know it’s been far more difficult for you at this juncture to stand apart and take the leap of faith of holding on. What if you fail to get through in your coveted streams this year? What if the entrance examinations are put back on hold again? How will your relatives respond to your “incongruity”?
Well, honestly, it doesn’t matter as long as you have made peace with what you are doing and pride yourself in where you are right now. All of us need time to decipher the uncharted course of the future and you are among the few who had the courage to take up time for this crucial decision amidst the ripples of the pandemic and I am so proud that you did. Things will fall into place sooner or later. Just hang on.
A toast to all those who slogged and endured, fell and rose, shattered yet struggled harder to get into what they had aspired for. The journey has been far too undulating, challenging and enervating to say the least. It parched your soul to its breath, it mutilated and clamped down on your self-worth stripping it down in pieces that no longer fit themselves in, yet you held yourself together.
The world seemed to be falling apart but you persevered amidst the wailing cries of your near kin, amidst the threat of job losses and financial insecurity, amidst the very claustrophobic atmosphere that you were living through. Yet, you made it.
I feel you because I too have been through all this. It now appears all too hollow and unfulfilling to sit behind the 14-inch screen for 15 hours a day, to be so very mindful of being “muted” all through the time, to press the end call button instead of rambling down the college corridors with our full-throated voices.
I know it’s inhuman, undeserving, unsettling, but it’ll pass, someday soon. All of us deserve a little better days, a little kinder tomorrows that’ll be within our reach soon.
It’s been 8 months into my “college life” and the only remembrances that I have makes me obliterate the boundaries between the virtual and the real. The innumerable voice calls and random video meets, the unaccounted WhatsApp groups representing our membership in societies, the “futile” chats and the unique stickers that all of us treasure and flaunt. That’s all we have of our “college life”.
Is it intimidating? Yes. Is it fatiguing? Yes. Is it replicating the real? No.
The virtual space, indeed, can never replicate the real orchestration and exuberance of a campus, the quirky jokes that we might have cracked on the green lawns of the college, the uncountable times we would have rushed into a metro for our first class after the whistle had blown and all these tiny, puny, moments, neither captured nor concealed, but just adding on little pieces effortlessly to the plethora of “college life”.
I know now, it’s but a lost game to amplify the urge to open campuses, but still, our hearts weave the utopia of being on campus soon. Maybe till then we can embrace “virtuality” as some messenger of a long-lost love, delve into it with a little more empathy and a lot more life. But surely, the batch of 2020 will bequeath slender marks on the pages of the history of “entering college life beyond campus”.
Oblivion. That’s the least I can say at present. If I am really compelled to put it in words as one among the batch of 2020 who has changed cities, yet not places, swapped languages, yet not miles, all with the click of a button within the past one year, I would put it as more ominous than my unseen comprehension passage, more ephemeral than the last streak of light that flashed across my face last night from a crevice near my window, more vague and enigmatic than the last word of a crossword puzzle.
Still, it would be beyond my capacity to put in quantifiable numbers and qualitative adjectives. But presently, if I am given to make a choice to be a batch of any other, I would unambiguously say no, because somewhere, deep within, beneath the strata of fatigue, it makes me feel that we are a generation, scripting history in our own stupor.