The Ashokan Backbencher

(Disclaimer: this is not advice on how to not pay attention in class. It would be very reckless and absurd to even think of this article as a legitimate suggestion about how to spend your time in Foundation Courses)

Us Indians are quite familiar with the concept of backbenchers in school and college, and Ashokans are no exception. The backbencher culture is very much alive on campus, and is especially common in Foundation Courses (FCS) these days. Not that 50-seater FCs stopped anyone, but with 100-seater courses available now, it’s a breeding ground for bored students from every year to find basically everything on earth more interesting than the class itself. The junior students (especially new ones) are more likely to occupy the first three rows and actually pay attention. As for the senior students, they are only there to complete their graduation requirements--the back row is their territory.

Every person in the last row (barring the TA) is hidden by their laptops, doing so much work that anyone would be proud...except that none of it is for the class they’re in at the moment. Club emails, articles, assignments for other courses, CV editing...the list is endless. Sometimes, they straight up don’t even bother with work, choosing to scroll through other sites or watch videos (on mute, of course, we’re not stupid). Phones are often whipped out too, or just used the whole time behind laptops or under the desk (depending on the professor).

One of the most convenient ways to do something and avoid the searching eyes of the TA is to open a word document. Notes? Check. Assignment? You can do it there. Write a novel? Perfect. Email? Draft them all here. Nobody is any the wiser, especially if you’re sitting right in front of the TA.

Occasionally, the professor knows only too well what’s going on, and that’s when you need to plan strategies to escape. There are times when the professor makes the last row sit in front, or makes each person seated at the back participate in class. To save the back row, a few people sometimes answer questions or respond. Since class participation forms a huge part of grades, even in FCs, doing your own thing becomes tricky. But people have their own ways of managing the situation, and most of their (our) classmates get influenced too, so by the end of the term, even people sitting in the first couple of rows become like backbenchers.

And yet, us backbenchers somehow make it through the course. We speak in class while writing poetry on our laptop. We clear our assignments despite not knowing what the topics are until a few days before they’re due. We pass with pretty good grades, unsure exactly how we did it, but proud all the same. We resolve to work harder in the next FC, pay attention and speak in class...and then we become backbenchers all over again next semester.

Edited by Gauri Jhangiani