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“My Only Hope Is That I Get To Enter My College Campus Before I Graduate”

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

One year and four months ago, I wrote my last board exam.

Euphoria dominated my psyche because all the stress associated with examinations had come to an end. Little did I know, or the whole student community for that matter, that in a few days a nationwide lockdown would be imposed and the trajectory of our lives would change forever.

Board Exams And The Rising Covid-19 Cases

Most of us in our preparatory leave before the board exams were actively following updates of Covid-19 cases and the news of the tragic deaths worldwide. I remember being particularly worried when I read about the first Covid-19 case in India. There was an atmosphere of tension due to the upcoming exams that were heightened by the news of exponentially increasing cases worldwide.

However, Delhi (where I live) was free from the clutches of this virus so it seemed that everything would be normal soon. But things were about to change, for the worse.

Representational Image. Photo: Scroll.in

My exams started on February 27 of 2020. I had English and when I entered the examination centre, everything seemed to be moving the regular way. No one had any masks on and there wasn’t anything pushing us to even consider the thought of social distancing.

For us, Covid-19 was a faraway phenomenon.  But with subsequent exams, I started noticing the change in the attitude of my batchmates. The environment around me transformed from “no one wearing masks, no one having sanitisers, no one observing social distancing” to “everyone wearing masks, everyone carrying sanitisers, and most observing social distancing.”

In fact, on the day of my last exam, we were allotted alternate seats and a row in between was left empty. I remember looking at these empty seats and having poignant thoughts about the impending isolation. However, I was never able to anticipate that such a long period of loneliness was about to follow.

Period Of Loneliness And Anxiety

Life seemed to proceed dully and a general lassitude prevailed for four months. On July 13, when our Board results were announced, the monotony was disrupted. I was happy to have done well, but now I had to wait with bated breath for the Delhi University cut-offs to be announced. There was deep anxiety because the good overall performance of the students would push the cutoffs higher. The stress finally ended when I met the cut-off for my preferred course in a reputed Delhi University college.

With the end of anxiety, a new desire to reconnect with my school friends emerged. I became closer to some more than I had been before and this bonding gave a strong boost to my mental health. Finally, when my college started on November 18, I was in a placid and content state.

online learning
Representational image.

College Life Begins

It was a refreshing experience to meet (virtually, of course) a diverse set of young, bright girls from all over India. At first, I was hesitant to open up because the days of “confinement” had transformed me into a somewhat reserved person, which was completely antithetical to my former extroverted self. However, I pushed myself to embrace this “new normal” and the changing environment.

For the first time, I experienced online learning with all its pros and cons.

The best aspect of learning new topics in school (in the physical mode) had been the ease with which we could engage in conversations and debates with our teachers and classmates, but the nature of the online mode has transformed the whole learning process into a monologue of sorts. Cross-interactions have become limited and the effectiveness of learning has been adversely affected.

The online mode necessitates the adoption of innovative modes of teaching and evaluation; however, in most cases, the traditional modes of assessment are being followed. This, in turn, creates a huge gap between what is being taught by the professors and what is being retained by the students.

Nevertheless, after eight months into college, I can positively say that the professors have started exploring new ways of teaching and made the learning process more comfortable for the students.

When The Second Wave Hit

The times have not been easy, however.

When the second wave of Covid-19 hit India, most of us went through severe physical and mental trauma. Many of the students and teachers tested positive and had to deal with the loss of loved ones. I personally saw my father suffer from intense physical and emotional pain when he was diagnosed with Guillain Barre syndrome as a post-Covid effect.

All these factors took a toll on me and I am sure many others have experienced worse. Given this context, it was a prudent decision of Delhi University to cancel our second-semester exams and evaluate us based on our internal assignments.

 

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Misguided Optimism

Now that the second wave has subsided and the vaccination rate is showing a positive trend, we are optimistic that our college may reopen in a few months. Yet, it is an unfortunate fact that our hopes have been shattered multiple times owing to the uncertainty of the Covid-19 situation.

Gargi College: the campus that I am yet to visit.

Many of us are missing out on the independence and the “newfound sense of adulthood” that comes with college life. With mass restrictions on social gatherings, hanging out with friends has become a virtual phenomenon. The only way left for most of us to relish our college life is to imagine how our college life “could have been” under normal circumstances.

Personally, I often picture myself touching the red brick walls of Gargi, savouring Italian food at ‘Diggin Cafe,’ and looking at my professors’ facial expressions when we blurt out wrong answers for easy questions.

Considering the obscurity of the times ahead, my only hope, for now, is that I get to enter my college campus before I graduate.

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You must be to comment.
  1. Ravindra Kumawat

    Dear Paribha, You shared lot about yourself and your struggles during pandemic. I like the way in which you have mentioned each and every incidents happened with you. I totally agree with your feelings about visiting the campus. Doing things online are partially impractical. I too missing the joy and fun with friends in campus life. I hope everything will be normal soon. Thank you so much for sharing such kind of moments.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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