No Overnight Crisis

Harsh Mander’s article in The Indian Express aptly lays down the deep analysis of how India descended into the current catastrophe.To think that the mass graves and lakhs of burning pyres are just the result of an uncontrollable virus mutant, is nothing but your own blindness.The systemic undermining and suppression of powers of countervailing institutions which serve to keep a check on the powers of the ruling elite is what has brought us here. Our indifference and many a times the celebration of the repression of people has been a dagger in the front for this country.

Even after a whole year of Covid ravaging the world, the Government paid no heed to scientific and expert advices to ramp up the number of hospital beds, ventilators and oxygen supply in the country before a second wave strikes. The government on the other hand declared the war won over the virus and feigned their superiority.Nothing was done to boost the overwhelmed healthcare infrastructure in urban cities let aside the rural areas which because of non existent infrastructure are today reporting alarming mortalities.

“A democracy is built on the idea of a multiplicity of assertions that would prevent the runaway hubris, callousness, incompetence and corruption of the elected executive. These alternate centres of power include the political opposition, higher judiciary, higher civil service, media, university, trade unions and other collectives of working people, and peaceful resistance of the people themselves. These are the oxygen of any democracy.”

For long now , we have seen the shoots of majoritarianism in the country that left unchecked and not significantly opposed have now developed into thick vegetations.Those who profited by this new emerging power kept silent fuelling the politics of hate speeches and lynchings of innocent Muslims and Dalits.

“History tells us that the majority in a democracy can turn dangerously majoritarian and ultimately fascistic if institutions of democracy do not hold accountable the executive and actively defend the rights of minorities. In India the political opposition has been increasingly timid in fighting authoritarianism and hate politics. Large sections of the media, civil services, academia, and ultimately the middle classes have celebrated executive authoritarianism and the decimation of rights of minorities and the poor. The Supreme Court in recent years has disappointed with its inaction on petitions to curb excesses of executive power, and the abridging of minority rights.”

The executive power left no stone unturned to tarnish the legitimacy and peace of the protests that arose in aftermath of the Citizenship Amendment Act that saw hundreds of young students and women from low income families holding national flags, singing national anthem and trying their best to keep their democracy breathing.

“We watched impassively as many young people were jailed indefinitely on trumped-up charges, and the spectre of similar incarceration still stands over the heads of many senior academics and activists.”

“A democracy is not given as a gift. It is constantly claimed, reclaimed, and nourished by the people. If today we outrage as we and our loved ones are uncertain if we will even access a hospital bed, oxygen or vaccines, we need to recognise that these are the wages of an unaccountable executive bereft of both competence and compassion.”

For decades, the poor in India have been dying due to insufficient access to healthcare and its near broken structure in villages but today when majority of the privileged are being threatened, our voices are suddenly amplified.Our constitution grants equality to all citizens of this country and the discrimination on the basis of being poor or a Muslim or a Dalit is nothing short of a slap on its face.

Harsh Mander is actually right in saying that we shouldn’t be surprised where our “elected autocrats” have brought us. This is the India we all played our part in building with discriminations, indifferences,silences and celebrations of the unjust repressions.

 “As long as we consent to dividing people into the privileged “us” and the “other” — the Muslim, working poor, “low-caste”, slum dweller — and celebrate authoritarian governments that ostensibly protect “us” against the “other”, we consent to and participate in the dilution and the undermining of democracy itself.”

Reference:

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/covid-crisis-hateful-forces-government-coronavirus-death-7306317/

MOTHER’S DAY

For the last one week , I have been quite inactive in blogging primarily because I was trying to make sense of both my internal as well as external world.So now that I feel I have been significantly successful in organising and shelving my thoughts, I am back on this active sphere.

May 9th this year was celebrated as Mother’s Day. Dedicated to all those who give us birth and nurture us into beings with their hearts and souls , and also those who might not have produced us from their wombs but love as as a part of themselves and provide for us selflessly.I wrote this piece as a tribute to these people. Hope you love reading this!!!!

Note: It was after I shared this among my circle of friends that I suddenly realised, I had committed a blunder.Though this piece has she/her as the dominant pronouns and was conceived for a woman’s life changes in general, I strongly believe that “Motherhood, a feeling so pure , can never be gender specific or species specific.”Apologies for this mistake and I hope you, the readers do not commit the same.

Book Review: MOUSTACHE

Moustache by S. Hareesh, translated from Malayalam(Meesha)by Jayasree Kalathil is in my mind nothing short of a magical masterpiece in literature. Winner of 2020 JCB prize in literature, this novel since its publish has received both rave acclaims as well as widespread criticism.It’s bold depiction of the reality of horrifying caste system and power and class hierarchies encompassing women’s rights, Dalit rights, constantly shifting ecological balance;is what makes this novel both a complex as well as brutally refined read.

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“Moustache” traces the story of Vavachan,a man of the Pulayan Dalit community of Kuttanad in Kerala, where choices ranging from food, clothes to the women you sleep with, is dependent upon the said caste powers. Vavachan plays a small role of a policeman with a big moustache in a play in the village but this changes the live of this Pulayan forever. Even after the play ends,he refuses to shave off his huge moustache ,which was considered a marker of caste identity and so was spotted only by men from higher castes.This defiance of caste norms by Vavachan earns him the name of Moustache in the entire region and thus he is placed on a sort of pedestal of a magical, mythical figure about whom stories are told( no one bothers if they are true),poems are written and folklore is created and the traditional songs are distorted and morphed into sonnets about the moustache and his dense black moustache. All wrongdoings in the village are blamed on him and he acquires a status that makes some people scared and terrified at his shadow while some revere him as a God.Thus this living man is reduced to stories and comes alive in their various tales.

But this book has a speciality which makes it a little difficult read. “Moustache” might primarily reveal about Vavachan’s story but his story is not the central narrative in the book, in fact there is no central narrative in the book.This book is like a flowing river, an amalgamation of umpteen characters. Each character in this book is actually self-contained.To describe one character on the way, the entire backstory of that character’s community and their history is traced.Inlaid with numerous portrayals of ecology and environment ,ranging from the below sea level farming in Kuttanad, the varieties of fish, oysters, eels, crocodiles, this book gets deep in storey even to describe a coconut tree. A magical story is attached to each living as well as inanimate objects that are even remotely linked with Vavachan’s life.In fact, Vavachan’s story runs parallel to the ecological changes in the region.

Sometimes with this book, I got so lost with the heavy descriptions of the rivers and aquatic life that for a moment, it felt like reading a book on environment.In fact, this happens many times , for lengths ,the story goes on without the mention of the central character , so much so that the reader might have felt lost if the words and the magic wouldn’t have bound it together. This is not really an easy read but is definitely an extremely urgent and important one. If you love books on ecology, then this is definitely for you but not just that this book is a synthesis of many more important topics like caste and gender which make their presence quite heavily felt in mundane stories of people.

FEAR and LOSS

Two words whose meaning need not be explained to any Indian today, are: Fear and Loss. If someone asked me what my fears before April 10 th 2021, I would have named the somewhat usual stuff :deep water,high speed and failures. But not today :today I fear HUMANS.

In the last twenty days (min) ,We in India have seen hell. I’m not just talking about the pictures the world is seeing of us but the picture that’s forever imprinted in the hearts and minds of each and every person living in India and if this continues beyond the threshold capacity of human tolerance, perhaps even their Soul.

For the past few weeks, I wake up fingers crossed every morning. When I see my parents with a phone in their hands and their heads down, signing, I run back to my room and lie on the bed staring blankly at the ceiling fan. At that moment, even the irritating humming sound of the fan seems to have been muted from my existence.

The fear of the virus has become so intense that every household in India today wakes up to the news of the death of their loved one,either family or friends or colleagues;discussions about arranging oxygen cylinders and hospital beds have become the subjects of family meals. It’s as if now slowly and steadily, people are becoming numb and mostly mechanical to this state.

For the past few days, I’m stunned at how indifferent I have become to such news. It’s as though I hear about it, go blank for a few minutes and return back to my work as though nothing wrong is happening .I avoid seeing too much of news clips about hospitals online and make myself believe that everything is slowly coming back to normal. Though now, I have stopped using the word”normal”. Nothing will ever come back to normal, NEVER.

Children of 4 years have lost their grandparents, some even one of their parents and a few both of their parents.There is a whole new generation in India that will grow up without their grandparents and in some cases their parents.What sort of normalcy can now erase these memories from their hearts which were meant to be filled with memories of curling up alongside their grandparents and going on an adventure through the age old stories at nightime. Hearts which should have ideally nurtured memories of their fathers taking them to parks and to school on their motorbikes, with their tiny hands wrapped around their fathers waist will no more germinate ,everything will remain in place except that father who is now gone forever.There are children seeing their mothers rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night gasping for breath.How do we explain the current world to our children, what do we tell them when they ask us :When will all this end?They are seeing more than there age normally holds, “death” a word which is not even understood by adults has become a hard to forget part of their childhood vocabulary.

The government:of the people, for the people and by the people, is what the tenets of democracy state. Today in India, it is government:of the elites, against the commons and by the emotionless.Arundhati Roy in her brilliant article for the Guardian , aptly termed the current state as “a crime against humanity.” Our beloved Prime minister and his allies declared fight won over the virus, started exporting vaccines before vaccinating even 50 percent of their own and left no opportunity to further their nationalistic agendas through the election rallies.I have absolutely no will to explore their policies but the carnage that has unfolded before the eyes of every Indian in the last 20 days has made them realise that it’s humans for humans now and probably in every crisis hence because their political leaders and representatives are like snails :quick to recoil in their shells at the slightest disturbance.

In such a crisis when the Government stands forgotten by the people and the people and their pain have disappeared for the Government, it’s the heroes of the country who in spite of never having got their proper due in history ,have been relentlessly fighting till the last breath of a patient. The doctors and nurses who are for the first time breaking down seeing their patients, the ambulance drivers who are working round the clock, the truck drivers transporting oxygen across hospitals in the country who never thought their work would become this important one day,the cremation workers who going by their accounts had never seen so many bodies in their life compared to what they are seeing in just about a week now: are the hopes and the very Government of this nation now. This second wave could have hit any nation and that was never a secret but it’s a serious topic of discussion when people lose their lives at this alarming rate due to brainless policies and poor management and regard for science by the central power.

I know this post could have opened the wounds you are trying very hard to sew but my objective was in no way to create more despair. There are a few things I want all of us to remember: firstly,we know this wave will subside, when, no idea but it certainly will. The question is what after that:those of us who have not lost anyone too close( doubt there will be any left by the end of this)will probably forget it quite easily but the ones who have seen their people succumb before their eyes will forever carry the the burden of these memories. Yes, we need to hang on, much more today than ever. All of our mental health have gone for a toss now but we have to make sure to not become an agent of more problems in the current scenario. Secondly, we need to realise the importance of a human being and grant the dignity and self respect to them:if not for these selfless distributing free oxygen cylinders and offering free medicines and ambulance services, we all would have lost the fight as a country long back.

Article:

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2021/apr/28/crime-against-humanity-arundhati-roy-india-covid-catastrophe

What I read in April 2021 (Part II)

A Stranger Truth: Lessons in Love, Leadership and Courage from India’s Sex Workers by Ashok Alexander

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Ashok Alexander left his well paying job at McKinsey & Co. in 2003 upon the invitation of Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to lead the fight against HIV/AIDS in India. “Project Avahan” meaning ” a call to action” led the fight against the highly infectious disease AIDS which was nothing short of an epidemic in India then. The constant denial of the government in power made matters all the worse.

Avahan under Ashok Alexander and his team fought the virus from the grassroots in the highest prevalence states in India:Nagaland, Manipur, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra,Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka.From meeting sex workers of all communities and teaching them about the concept of safe sex using condoms and distributing condoms on a wide scale to providing testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases in all sex workers, Avahan gave a role of responsibility and power to these otherwise stigmatised sex workers because it worked in a unique way by involving sex workers on the ground to disseminate information.This book has an amazing collection of stories about the program as well as stories of sex workers and both their plight and courage. and how their leadership shines through it all.

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

A Room of One's Own eBook by Virginia Woolf - 1230001927160 | Rakuten Kobo  United States

I feel like the last person on this Earth to get my hands on this book , but better late than never. This extended essay collection of Virginia Woolf revolves around the title of “Women and Fiction”. Woolf doesn’t mince her words in writing. She says that if a woman is to create poetry or fiction or art she needs a fixed sum of money and a room of her own with a lock on it.This society thrusts upon women the responsibilities of managing a home, cooking, children, all which leave no peace and time for her to pick her pen and create something for which she can have an independent identity and money.Giving us an example of Shakespeare’s fictional sister, she shows how a woman’s talents and creativity are captured and mocked at by men in the society which leads them to either morph their writing patterns according to those men or leave writing and art altogether.Woolf also takes us through the “brief” history of women writers and their anonymity in writing.

This book pierces your heart. Though published in the early 20th century, each and every explanation and example in the book speaks to us even today. I can possibly not emphasize enough on Wool’s vision and geniusness ever.

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

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Arthur Less -the hero of the novel is a minor novelist, a white gay man whose heart has been broken in love twice.About to turn 50, Less accepts some writerly invitations that takes him on a short world trip across Mexico, Germany, France, Italy, Morocco and India.The book is set on his experiences in these places , some, where he almost falls in love again, the other where he’s fallen so sick,he’s sure to die and at others weird, otherworldly experiences, all to run away from the wedding invitation of his ex boyfriend.

Though the writing of the novel is realistic with splatters of humour, I felt like there were loose ends at many places. Less is quite a relatable writer of current times battling heartbreaks, publishers rejecting his books, people never taking him seriously and a constant fear of growing old all alone. It’s great for a light hearted one time read though.

Our Freedoms (edited) by Nilanjana S. Roy

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Collection of 24 essays and short stories on the different meanings of freedom, this book features magnificent essays by authors, journalists, musicians,historians and many more eminent personalities and thinkers and activists. “What does freedom in India mean today?”: is the poignant and important question on which essays by literaries like Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Raghu Karnad, Aanchal Malhotra, Annie Zaidi,Romila Thapar, Priyanka Dubey and many more such luminaries are collected at one roof in this book. A mind opening read which will sure make you question your definition of freedom.Personally I love such essays which lays facts and reasoning in such bare words before you.

Em and the big Hoom by Jerry Pinto

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Dealing with topics like depression and mental health,this book is a breakthrough in understanding the impact of sensitivities on real life. The poignancy and truth in the portrayal of each character tugs at your heart and is all over your mind by the time you complete the book.Check out a detailed review of the book here: https://humanamongecons.wordpress.com/2021/04/18/em-and-the-big-hoom/

What I read in April 2021 (Part I)

This month for anyone in India can be best summarised in two words:fear and loss.I started April on quite a high note and managed to go on sort of a mini readathon in the first two weeks but from the mid of April as India started seeing an unimagined Covid surge, fear and horror clouded my brain. Plus my final semester uni exams are in 15 days and I just feel so detached.Besides , I am well aware of my privilege and basically that is why I can just sit back at home and read and try to distract my mind(if nothing else). Some of the books I read this month were an absolute genius; thrillers, non fiction,political essays, romantics were some of the dominant ones.

Cognitive Fitness by Anil Rajput

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A book about how you can use the pain in your life to your advantage, this is quite a heavy non fiction read but profoundly interesting. I have summarised all the important points of in my two part review of the book. https://humanamongecons.wordpress.com/2021/04/04/cognitive-fitness-part-i/ https://humanamongecons.wordpress.com/2021/04/05/cognitive-fitness-part-ii/

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line: Amazon.in: Anappara, Deepa: Books

A coming of age novel set in the slums of an unnamed Indian city,this detective cum social commentary book is a spine chilling reality that takes us through the harsh realities of life for the poor and the destitute of India, who are crippled by not just poverty but various other social problems . Nine year old Jai lives in a slum with his parents and older sister. He is among the somewhat privileged lot who has a small TV in his room on which he loves watching Indian detective crime shows. So, when the children of his basti start disappearing suddenly, he sets out along with his friends from the basti, Pari and Faiz into trying to solve this mystery. But what will this child of nine know about the evil djinns of the society!!

A marvellously written book which will keep you hooked till the last page. You will have guessed the culprit before Jai but don’t want to believe that because the reality is that horrendous. The social,political,religious and economic sub themes underlying the novel make us aware how systematically we isolate children like Jai and their families from a country’s social narrative.

Women ,Dreaming by Salma (translated by Meena Kandasamy)

Women, Dreaming eBook: Salma, Kandasamy, Meena: Amazon.in: Kindle Store

Set in an orthodox Muslim family in rural Tamil Nadu, this books showcases the lives of three generations of women.Mehar has undergone numerous abortions because her extremely misogynistic and orthodox husband refused to use contraceptives, which he says is forbidden in Islam.Mehar takes a bold step of leaving him when he brings in a second wife. Her daughter Sajida has to navigate her life between her mother’s pain and her father’s patriarchy and misogyny which curtails her dream of becoming a doctor.Parveen is disgraced and humiliated in order to hide her husband’s impotence. Subaida was widowed at 14 when a woman she was married to turned out to be a gay and whose suicide’s blame was put on her.

The breathtaking manner in which the lives of all these women are interwoven will make you aware of how a woman’s life is supposed to be forever controlled by a Man, first buy her father, then her husband and then her son. I never knew about Salma and her writing but after this one book, I can vouch for her boldness in the leagues of Chugtai, Amrita pritam. The way she explores the topics of marriage, traditions, religion, sex,children,masturbation, is a silent masterpiece.

Sometimes Ivory, Sometimes Sand by Mahek Jangda

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Mahek’s Jangda’s debut novel is set in a fictional underdeveloped nation where women have no rights. The birth of a woman is considered a bad luck and her marriage is the only solution to rid the family of any shame. In such a world, a seventeen year old Jasmine stays in one of the backward areas with a brother who tortures and beats her while a submissive mother who puts her son’s needs before her daughter which is why Jasmine has never learnt what it means to have a voice of her own.Twenty year old Laila Jagir is the daughter of the richest councilman of Rahat, the most developed places in the nation.She wears modern clothes, takes part in rallies with her father but she is mocked and abused for being too outspoken for a woman.Laila and Jasmine’s lives get intertwined when Jasmine runs from her house to find her missing father and Laila gets married to a sexual abuser in a political trade off.

A thriller which weaves both romance as well as a woman’s rights into its fray, this novel offers a beautiful read with some 90’s romance and plots.I loved this novel so much , it could have been like watching a movie!!!!

Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

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Set in colonial India of 1920’s , this book is primarily about the story of Olivia, the wife of an important English civil servant in India. A bored and socially constrained Olivia finds solace in the Nawab of a minor province nearby who is notorious for raids and many criminal acts. She later gets pregnant and unsure about the child’s paternity, she elopes with The nawab. This novel is written by the granddaughter of Douglas(Olivia’s civil servant husband) who returns to India in the 1970’s to dig out the history of the scandal relating to the first wife of his grandfather.

Honestly, I didn’t enjoy this a bit(how did it win the Booker’s?) This is quite an obscure novel.Events seem unrelated, in one moment you are dealing with Olivia’s pregnancy, next minute the author’s pregnancy. I really wanted to make sense of this but was quite unsatisfied and dismayed.

Mother of 1084 by Mahasweta Devi

Mother of 1084 by Mahasweta Devi

A novel by the magnificent Mahasweta Devi, this novel deals with :a mother’s love, a woman’s position in the society but most of all the 1970’s Bengal and the questions of equality and dissent.

Check out a detailed review of the book here: https://humanamongecons.wordpress.com/2021/04/12/mother-of-1084/

COLLEGE SERIES : CONCLUSION

This post is going to bring down the curtains on my undergrad college experiences which in every way turned out to be unexpected.In this post I’m briefly going to share the lessons/learnings in college and also some of the disappointments on a personal level from my college and also from higher education in India at large.

LEARNINGS and GENERAL TIPS

  • You are mistaken to think that the rat race ends once you get out of school. In reality, it amplifies in college.It’s crazy how the focus is on getting ahead of the others. People compare the number of internships they have done like it’s some sort of an achievement when most of them are just social media marketing.
  • The most knowledgeable and intellectual student is the one who is not proving that at the top of their voice.(Remember that person who always has an answer to a question asked in the class and never fails to show that.)
  • You can go through the entire three years of undergrad(especially in India)without learning skills that are important in the job market or even in life in general.(SADLY THIS DOESN’T SEEM TO BE CHANGING)
  • Don’t ever think of having a 100 percent attendance in college.That’s the most foolish thing you could ever do.Bunk as many classes as required to attend the fests in different colleges or to hang out with friends in Daryaganj or Sarojini.This is the one of the regrets I’ll forever bear. I wish i had not said no to my friends or cancelled travel plans.
  • The four walls of classroom should be meant for discussions. Prioritise the subjects/papers in which you feel excited about being in a class and either skip at times or do something else sitting in classes where you don’t feel enthusiastic about(only if that teacher does not care enough).The reason I was able to read more was because of this. Safely be seated at the second or third last benches (not the last bench mind you)and read a book(will be more productive than the class itself).
  • Try to spend as much as time possible in the library exploring all it’s sections.
  • Try to be regular in your classes as in know what’s being taught or what the syllabus is(don’t be completely lost)and submit your assignments and tests on time but there’s no need to pressurize yourself to study everyday. If you’ve been even 60 percent regular, you can successfully manage during the exams.
  • Unless you have come with the objective of being a gold medallist or topper of some kind in the college,there’s no need to aim for highest marks. But you should definitely maintain a decent GPA and trust me when I say this the toppers of our batch are the ones who are more active out of the class!!!
  • Participate in every competition that interests you even if you’re not the best in it. It will boost your confidence to another level.
  • You don’t learn leadership by studying it, you learn by practising it . Take up responsibilities even if it’s that of helping in the decorations for an event in college.
  • Know the admin and its workings well.That will help you sail through all paperworks when required.
  • Volunteer and intern with societies or initiatives you really care about and not just for the sake of you bloody CV. Take from me, I regret not being that active on this front, the lost opportunities keep on haunting me still.
  • Perhaps the most important one will probably be to be socially active and no,that doesn’t mean social media.Connect with as many alumni as possible and discover what it is that you’re genuinely passionate about and want to pursue after college.Attend seminars that have great panels.They will help you much much better than a career counselor.
  • Particularly in respect of online classes currently, don’t bother so much about attending each of them.It’s not just tiring for your eyes but the time saved could be used in other productive pursuits that you have always wanted to learn but where time played a constraint.

DISAPPOINTMENTS FROM COLLEGE LIFE

  • If I specifically talk about Delhi and Miranda, I i’ll admit that the prevalence of a sort of elitism is what used to make me cringe every time. Dominant talks and conversations about summer and winter fashion, trip to this restaurant or that place sometimes makes it very uncomfortable for people coming from outside Delhi to adjust(you might want to refer to it as “class hierarchy” and well, that’s exactly what it is sadly).
  • Students coming from remote parts of the country or those that cannot converse properly in either Hindi or English are quite left out initially.
  • Many a times people actually don’t care that they’ve hit you or hurt you but the fake sorry and thank you is portrayed as a sort of civility and politeness , when actually it’s anything but that.Cynicism is quite dominant at times, but I know that’s a general human trait.
  • If I say I expected more from the classes, it would be foolish. It’s useless to blame one college for it when the entire education system of India unfortunately after New Education policies even, is hinged on marks and rote learning as its main axes.Passive learning in colleges takes away the interest from a subject.
  • While I will admit Miranda was comfortable for the differently-abled students but there are umpteen times when the institution fails to consider policies in their interests.Having QR codes to guide them to classes is a remarkable step but their inclusion within the classroom matters much more.

COLLEGE SERIES : YEAR III

The third and the last year of college(from home) was anything but adventurous. If someone told me back in 2018 that a day would come when I would officially be enrolled in the best college of the country in Delhi but would be taking classes from my home in Ranchi, I would have mocked that person without stop. I mean how foolish that would have sounded in 2018(clairvoyant for sure, though). But today in 2021 when a maximum of 20 days are left for my undergrad to get over, I can confirm one thing :Life is everything but in your control.

In August 2020, on the first day of online classes of the fifth semester, a reality shook me:”It’s over.” The last time I attended a class in college was on March 6, 2020, after that I have honestly no remembrance or rather I don’t want to remember.🤐🤐

Picture credits: Roshni Yadav

After attending a day of classes in August,I realised why people attribute college life to all the dramatic changes in your personality. It’s not the 9-5 lectures that transform you(NEVER). Those nonsensical talks in canteens and lawns ,the exploitation of break between one class and the next, bunking classes to attend a fest in the nearby college or just hanging out with friends and classmates over a cup of coffee followed by serious conversations on elections, dystopia,politics to gushing over Swift, Pink Floyd, K-pop ;is what all of us remember even years after passing out from college🧡🧡

Picture credits: Roshni

I did attend classes online(of course never more than 2 in a day and never the 8:30 ones)and I did submit all assignments and tests and even wrote online exams but nothing seemed exciting or even a little interesting to say the least.It all felt like a mandated responsibility to earn a piece of paper(you are free to interpret what that means) at the end.😪😪

There are days when I wake up and cry silently because imagining how things could have been different makes it difficult to accept what is happening. Relatives and neighbours trying to partake in my silent sorrow doesn’t help at all.There was a time after the first wave sort of normalised when every second person coming home over snacks was more concerned about my lost year than about the virus itself!!!

But that poses a very big question : how big and bad is my loss of a year exactly?? Is it as bad as my distant 6 year old cousin who lost her father to COVID a week back?Is it as bad as the people whose loved ones are writhing in pain and losing their lives in front of hospitals with empty oxygen cylinders?Or is it even comparable to the pain of a mother who comes back from hospital after braving the virus to find her 22 year old succumbed to the same virus?

To the Class of 2021

All of us around the world have lost something or the other and I don’t know if comparing one person’s loss with the other is justified or not. But I can tell you one thing if you’re reading this : you are ALIVE , you have your family (in the best case scenario), you are privileged to stay home and read and binge watch or eat to distract yourself .You are one of the luckiest people on this planet as of now if you check the above.

You are grieving , I know you are, but is there a bigger grief for human race than death???

Personally,my heart wants to roam through the lost and found corridors of Miranda once again with the same adrenaline rush it experienced the first time in 2018, it wants to sublime in the darkness of the unexplored nooks and corners, it wants to stand in the lawns and scream ,for the colleges miles away to hear but what it wants most is probably to say that last goodbye with tears of love and gratitude.💔💔💔

Picture credits: Roshni

I can probably never put into words how much of a dramatic transformation Miranda has brought in me, so much so that I don’t recognise that under confident and scared girl at 18. Thank you Miranda House for all that you have given me, for all the friendships and the myriad experiences that I’ll treasure like a lost diamond!!!

Picture credits: Roshni

Signing off, (only on papers, never in my heart)

Surabhi Sharma

Miranda House , 2018-2021

This post brings us to the end of the third and last year of my undergrad experiences.A huge thanks again to all my friends who sent in such breathtaking pictures of Miranda.Also I have not yet said that this is the last post of the college series!!! So wait for it!! Take care everyone.

COLLEGE SERIES : YEAR II

This is the second post in the college series which is going to reflect on my experiences in the second year of college.What started in March 2020 and is growing more than exponentially today deserves a special mention (even if mentioned with detestation), so the second year will cover July 2019-mid March 2020 year (because things never came back to “normal after that!!!!) and the second half from mid March 2020 to the end of the second year.

July 2019-March 14,2020

On the first day of classes in the second year, our teachers very happily let us know that the second year of undergraduate course in economics is the toughest ever and if we resorted to our old ways of last minute tactics then…………………..but let me tell you I very much resorted to this same old tactic😎😎.

I won’t refute that second year was beyond hectic in all other ways. Handling a society work especially if you have a “hard nut to crack” supervisor , trying to somehow keep your eyes open(no asking, the mind is off to sleep after lunch)from 8:30 am to 5 pm for the classes :is no mean feat, but things don’t end here:there are seminars to attend, admin work to be dealt with,tutorials to attend and also being mentally prepared for any “emergency”(read:extra classes) that can spring up from your teacher’s brain at any time.

Despite being all drained and flushed by the time you get back to the hostel, I certainly never wanted to trade any of this for an easy year. The feeling of being worn out yet exhilarated by the end of the day, is the best in the world.The feeling of having attended an eye opening seminar, having participated in a highly competitive quiz(in which you have lost badly) or having organised a two day long fest in which you are literally jumping on one leg for ensuring that it becomes a success: is indescribable.

Come March 7, almost all of the residents of the hostel were off to their homes for the Holi break(mid semester breaks).I had decided against going because Delhi to Ranchi in train takes a toll while the flight tickets are quite expensive. Little did I know that “something” would force me take a 12 hour journey to get home.

On March 13, 2020,we got an official notice to vacate our hostels. I don’t think anything struck me then except a little joy because I was getting quite bored in the hostel room all by myself and the initially announced 15 day holiday just seemed like a perfect retreat and also because I had 4 consecutive tests lined up from 20 and holidays meant their cancellation!! Doesn’t this look like a perfect luck a person could have😶. So I packed my bags with the least amount of clothes possible and carried just 3 books😑😑and left my wet towel on the bed(this red wet towel haunted me in the dreams for months initially).

March 15,2020-July 2020

On March 15 , I reached home(the station tragedy a day prior has been very intentionally avoided to not make a fool out of myself).Everything felt perfect the first few days, no exam stress , no classes, no tasteless hostel food, just read, eat,sleep and repeat.

I think majority students will agree with me when I say that initially the online mode of classes seemed nothing less than a blessing. No tension of missing the morning classes or memorizing huge passages and equations, might have seemed like a miracle.Even the best dreamers wouldn’t have dreamt of a virus that would lead 4 year olds to get ready in their school uniforms and sit with a laptop or phones to take their classes(for those fortunate and privileged enough to do so).

In India unfortunately, the stress on taking down notes and writing exams and getting highest scores,both in schools and colleges, is so deeply rooted that this pandemic which offered a chance to revamp(initially) was woefully lost. Particularly for college students, this online mode could have focussed on actual learning than threatening about possible offline exams!!!!! So you might have guessed by the rant, there’s nothing I hated more than online classes as it progressed!!!!

Every third day in 2020, I would yearn so badly :to wake up in my hostel room,to talk endlessly with my friends and classmates,to sit in the canteen whiling away the afternoon, to watch Miranda’s cats squatting before every person for pets,above all to stand in my balcony at night and absorb the yellow shade of light bathing the lawns.

My loss of a year of college life might be the most important and dear loss to me as of now, but I’m so well aware that it doesn’t even have the audacity to compare with the grief of the families who lost their loved ones in 2020 and are seeing the others helplessly wither in pain again in 2021.

(One question I frequently ask myself these days is: when did I realise something very wrong was happening: on March 24,2020 when the strictest lockdown was announced in India or today when the cost of human life is equated to lakhs of rupees equal to the cost of an oxygen cylinder or medicines or injections in the black markets.)

COLLEGE SERIES : YEAR I

College Life Memories Quotes - Quotes about Life

When I started my undergraduate degree in Miranda House back in July 2018, I had never even dreamt that this quote would take on a different meaning after a year and nine months from then. Just that freshers feels like yesterday and farewell, well , we’ll never have it so it’s best forgotten.

On 22nd May 2021, when I write my last exam of the semester, my undergraduate college life will forever have come to an abrupt end but I don’t think I’m ready to let the memories slide off so soon ,so I thought of putting together the three year experience in a blog.

Back in July 2018, when an under confident and scared 18 year old me started what was supposed to be my first taste of freedom and self-dependency, I remember crying profusely when my parents were bidding their adieu from Delhi. I was very sure I couldn’t even survive the next day in Delhi, leave aside studying and making friends, that seemed even more daunting than the MME syllabus!!!!

First time in an unknown place , without the parental shade we all have been brought up with, feels quite intimidating and lost. Today when I look back I think I shouldn’t have been that hard on myself for not socialising soon enough. The first time in a batch of 96 students ( out of which almost 70% belonged to Delhi) gives you chills because almost everyone there is a topper of their respective state and district and you are bound to feel like a cat among tigers, the only similarity being both belonging to the feline family!!!The only exciting thing this period is all those societies introduction and what a fool freshers are to believe that they can handle three societies plus their classes😂😂

What probably helped me not just settle down but also open up in a manner I had never known before, has to be my friends and a few classmates. Starting with my roommate ,Titixa Sharma,who has spoiled my habit so much that now wherever i go hence ,i will always want a roommate like her which will be next to impossible.In habits and routines, we both couldn’t have been any more different. She,a basketball champion and an easy going person while me a perfect nerd; it’s hard to delineate a single reason of our close bonding so I’ll leave that to Physics: “Opposites attract.” While my friends used to sit and crib about their roommates in the first year, Iwas silently grateful that I didn’t have to face another adjustment issue.

But if there’s something for which I will forever be obliged to Miranda, is my three musketeers: my three all weather besties:Vibhu, Chhavi and Neeharika. I would have described each of them in detail but I just can’t do that without getting teary eyed. Friends for me is a very big term and I can’t include every other person in it. But these three probably know me better than I know myself.

Our late night walks in the lawns, “what to order” for dinner on birthdays, “not so surprising” surprise birthday parties, weird dance moves, sitting in a corner on hostel nights and scrutinising the multitude of boyfriends in the party,ranting without an end about our teachers and good for nothing classmates : and such countless memories which are etched in my heart but refuse to show up in my mind right now, are the reasons I smile like a lunatic in these days of hopelessness.

(If you think I’m going to write about studying, i’m sorry that content is deleted from my brain 😶😶. )I have just one particular recollection of studies in the first year and that’s the MME 2 exam day and nothing else(nightmare!!!) Though on the sly, I can definitely describe my Daryaganj book hauls in detail😎😎

The best is saved for the last. On 19th June, 2018, I was standing in the vicinity of three top colleges of the country. I won’t deny that what pulled me towards Miranda was the comfort that an all girls environment provides a restless young girl’s soul. Having studied in a convent school for almost 12 years and forged the best of friendships there, this seemed like a default option. But contrary to the hype, I entered Miranda with no expectations. I was like a football ready to be kicked in whatever direction was needed for a goal but today I can say confidently that this technique worked wonders(replicate only if you have courage to be kicked)

Miranda House, the best college for liberal arts and science in India, is not just special because it’s the oldest standing college in the country or because it’s foundation stone was laid by Lady Edwina Mountbatten ,but because the environment it gives its students is irreplaceable.

It is easy to teach young girls to conform but very difficult to teach these girls to unlearn and question everything in life. When you have girls from almost all parts of India in a place, it’s then these girls of 18 realise why representation matters, why is it important to not shrink yourself to fit in a box and why you have to fight harder than anyone else.

I can possibly go on and on about Miranda’s aesthetics ,which make it so much more easier to bear Delhi’s ridiculous climate.The beautiful hostel lawns which easily surpass the grand Mughal gardens in February, the 1948 hostel mess which could have easily resembled the Hogwarts Great Hall only if there had been candles and more chaos, the classrooms which make students quite resilient because they have to endure both the class as well as the temperature. A general tip:If you want to escape the heat, clock in as many cold coffee with chocolates as your budget allows and if you feel cold enough just ramp up the consumption of hot chocolates!!!!

The first year experiences will be incomplete if I don’t mention the impact Delhi has on a person new to the capital. The history and significance of “Dilli” is very hard to grasp but when you come face to face with lost monument, graves,abandoned buildings on a hike, you do feel the city coming alive to you in its ancient form.I don’t think I explored even 1o% of Delhi in the first year( and that’s a regret I’ll carry to my grave)!!! but an intangible aspect of wading your way through Delhi is learning to be confident and bold because no matter how smart you are , you are bound to get lost while finding even a bookstore for the first time( no one better than myself and Vibhu will understand this!!!). And speaking about Delhi metros and the various colours of life they show us !!! Fun fact :these Delhi metro lines can perfectly be termed as “Blinding Lights”. You realise on the next stop that you are on the wrong metro but it takes you three stoppages to figure out the right one.

The first year of the college was only a teaser of the “famed college life” ,only I had not imagined that the film would never be complete!!!!!

This is the first part in a three part college series starting today in which my college undergrad experience will be written about particularly.

Also huge thanks to all my friends who sent me such lovely pictures of Miranda.

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