Cocooned amongst foreign embassies greeting students every morning on their way to college lies the tall, dark and handsome building of Jesus and Mary College, one of the most underrated colleges under the Delhi University ‘brand’. With its construction in the 1960s, the architects ensured that its distinct aesthetics guaranteed that its presence would be felt in the vicinity. Unfortunately, the pandemic-induced replacement of on-campus social interaction with remote exchanges via digital screens has assured that students have tasted the essence of conventional college life only through pictures and the lived experiences of others. This article results from the author clenching onto the iota of hope for the reopening of the college campus this year. While it is essentially a guide to life on campus, its experiential nature shall take you through a fresher’s tryst with the highs and lows of campus life even from the comforts of your beds.
I call my college “the calm amidst the chaos” for once you enter through the tiny black gate in the corner, you can find the space to float in the energy fueled by cool breezes co-existing with the light beams of the sun, flowers of all colors housed by swarms of harmless insects, unification of the dogs and dog lovers, and most importantly students marching down the decorated interiors of a place where every day witnesses a new celebration.
While I paint this glossy picture of campus life, I’m reminded of my first day on campus, horrifying enough to invoke anxiety in a person who fears unfamiliar situations. Even as I went through the process of getting myself admitted to college, a part of my mind diligently focused on counting the number of staircases on campus with whatever meager understanding of mathematics I had. Today, I still don’t have a number but with my six-month experience of traversing through those corridors, I find it safe to say that I wouldn’t get lost now. So, here’s a piece of information for every fresher and the second year who will be going to college soon, the corridors are dimly lit but the staircases situated at distances of only a few meters woll help you navigate. If they don’t, jump onto the prohibited spaces of lifts. Even if you’re caught by teachers, the thrill of pursuing what isn’t allowed would be completely worth the danger.
Subsequently, after the irking first day, things will get better. Upon entering, you will first find the life-saving photocopy shop ahead of which stands the most confusing L-Building, having only a few classrooms and seminar rooms. Reaching these through the staircase will deepen your patience, strengthen your stamina and take you through a real-life newspaper puzzle. Outside this is the L-Park and outdoor gym that will invite you in a language you won’t have command over and before you realise, you will have bunked half of your morning classes climbing the monkey bar or sneaking into the mountainous area across the Convent.
Having lost some valuable ‘study time’, you will rush to the library, standing atop the common room, opposite to the juncture of the field and amphitheater, attracting book lovers and non-lovers alike. Its entrance is tall enough to give the illusion of stepping into a real book. Take my tip and enter the library with a strong head only. For even before you reach the rack labelled with the name of your discipline, a row of magazines sitting on a brown shelf will distract you. Once you persevere through this difficult choice it will not take you long to find your course books or perch onto the floor and catch up on some much-needed sleep in the midst of comforting bookshelves.
Beyond the walls of the library, one will find the areas that have stood testimony to the outpour of profuse human emotions through the years. The common room, amphitheater, field, Thevenet Hall ,and the canteen together form the nucleus of celebrations and within these places, major events are held and friendships are forged. In that sense, these places, all located in close proximity to one another are reflective of hard work, perseverance, solidarity, strength, laughter and so much that cannot be explained using 26 alphabets. As I miss these venues while at home, their memories inspire me to be respectful of the power of human touch and in-person interaction, the future of which still seems hazy.
Needless to say, the college building doesn’t stand in a vacuum. As magnificent as it is, it derives its gleam from the people who occupy its spaces. Once you’ve spent your first few days in college, ask yourself a few questions. Would you still feel welcomed if guard bhaiya’s warm smile doesn’t take you in? Will the photocopy shop still dilute your panic if Ashok bhaiya’s face isn’t seen there? Will the common room feel complete without Kahkasha’s high-pitched chatter? Will you still be drawn to the canteen in the absence of Reji uncle’s flavourful, love-injected food? Will the classrooms still chisel and shape your future without the animated lectures of your teachers? As cliché as it sounds, the answer indeed would be a no.
Hence, if you ever lose your direction -spot the faces that are symbolic, the different areas ,and on-campus and seek help. In their warm replies, you’ll find your home.