Welcome to college! A world of procrastination, deadlines, endless society meetings, and friendships that will last a lifetime. High school was our comfort zone, a safety net that guaranteed that we would be supported every time we fell but college is an entirely different world and I’m sure you’ll agree. Suddenly we are making decisions like an adult (trying at least). We learn important life lessons like whether spending your last hundred rupees on that quick food run is a wise decision or not and maybe something we collectively haven’t mastered is time management (this is your sign to finish your homework before the last hour). Students all over the globe share a similar life but let me tell you how being a student in New Delhi has its own charm.
In this city of lovers, risk-takers, and hot-blooded but kind people, you can’t go around without hearing the phrase “Dillwalon ki Dilli” loosely translated to “Delhi of the Daring and the Lovers” coming out of our mouth whenever someone asks our opinion about Delhi. The center of food, literature, and growth, being a student in this city has its own rush to it. If you take a look into the life of college students before COVID-19, you’d see masses of students crowding metros and pushing their way to the women’s section, shoving through the crowds only to hail an auto-rickshaw in time. My mornings, however, started a bit late with me hitting the snooze button as many times as I could before running late for an 8 am class. Coming out of Race Course metro station to be crowded by auto drivers yelling, “Jesus and Mary College or Maiteryi College?” I can almost hear the cacophony as I type. I miss breathing in that slightly polluted air as we rushed past the Embassy area while admiring the gorgeous campus, wishing the guard good morning and profusely apologizing to the professor as I almost always failed to sneak in from the back door and finally making lunch plans with my friends during the 4th hour instead of taking notes.
As I sit on my bed writing this article at 2 am, I reminisce the days when my group used to be collectively broke, and out came the tiffin boxes. I have outstation friends who came to Delhi from all over India and stayed in hostels, so I made sure to pack some extra food for them. Oh, how I miss the different delicacies everyone used to bring and how we pushed together benches to make a large table and sat around it with buzzing minds and salivating mouths. Food brings me to the next extremely important part of college life – the fest season. Colleges in Delhi are notoriously known to throw the best fests with that period of our lives completely devoted to dressing cute, eating tasty but rather expensive food, and hours of concerts that you just can’t miss.
Weekend plans with best friends to the Nehru Planetarium or dates to Qutub Minar and Lodhi Garden are only a few of the best spots in Delhi. Living in this beautiful city as a student, I have found so many hidden gems in the past three years. From the luncheons at Champa Gali to picnic dates in Sunder Nursery, we Delhiites are not known for cliché dates. This city caters to every taste there is from at galleries, rock climbing, to arcades. However, now life starts and ends at Google Meet, Zoom calls, and those cursed Google Classrooms where the assignments just never stop coming. COVID-19 hitting us out of nowhere really put a stop to the best days of our lives. The only thing that my pre-pandemic college life and post one has in common is hitting the snooze button over and over. Now, instead of rolling out of bed to run for the bus to the metro station, I stay nestled inside my blankets and make my presence known briefly in online classes. Gone are the days of begging my friends to put proxy, now I better unmute and say, “Present” if I don’t want to lose my precious attendance. Somehow, society work is still coming in and though the pandemic has brought with it several restrictions, I’ve had the opportunity to attend seminars held by famous authors and celebrities all over the globe because students have found ways to contact them. This just shows that students (or just Delhiites in particular) are so driven that even in the worst situations, we are able to find ways to try and be the best version of ourselves. That’s what makes us special, I guess!
The pandemic has allowed us to explore the world of online internships, but for us final year students it has managed to keep so many friends apart, physically of course. Hours of video calls and movie nights are the only way to cope with all the time we spend at home. Though there is some relaxation in the lockdown, if you have outstation friends like me, it’s been over a year since anyone has met. The only hope now is that when the reunion finally happens, it would have been worth the wait. Until I meet my outstation friends, most of my evenings now are spent on the roof with my other friends (my best friend lives next door, yes, I’m living the dream) watching sunsets and stargazing until I have to go home to see what ‘gourmet’ food my mother has made after watching her favorite YouTuber.
Human beings are incredible at adapting to their surroundings. Yet, I feel like I’m missing out on making some amazing memories on my college campus that I could have if things were different. Everything shifted online and though I can’t complain, things just aren’t the same. The easy access to information over the internet cannot compete with walking around the library, hands running over the books, and staying late completing college work. Society meetings were always better when everyone was sitting in the field with tea being passed around and let’s be honest, naps on those hard benches just hit different. I miss those spontaneous plans to hop onto the metro to go to Chandni Chowk to have the famous parathas or rush to Khan Market for their celebrated rolls. The life of a student in Delhi is always better when the laptops are shut. There is a reason this place is called “Dillwalon ki Dilli” after all.