Some four months ago, Jamia Millia Islamia decided to finally open in the offline mode after being online for more than two years. This became a reality after a lot of protests from students who thought that their college experience was being diminished because of Google Meets and the suffocating familiarity of their hometowns. However, today it is continuous struggle to adjust to the life in the capital city for students who have come from all over the country. Alia Bhatt from ‘Raazi’ crying and saying “Mujhe ghar jaana hai!” has become a frustrating reality for many.
Online mode did come with a lot of conveniences. Open Book Exams were a cakewalk, which is exactly why most of us are struggling with our ongoing offline exams. Previously, students could be sleeping through classes, totally dependent on their friends for calling them just before attendance. What crazy times!
With dreams in our eyes and suitcases full of existence, we boarded flights and trains and buses and soon we were in Delhi, a city plagued by the August humidity. Navigating this city of almost 3 crores is not easy at all. Finding the difference between the steps of the magenta, violet and pink metro lines made people realize how small their world used to be. Finding a place to live was the first speck of adulting for most of us with having to adjust to nosey landlords, sexist curfew timings or strangers as roommates. It was anything but easy.
Living alone is so less about hook-ups, night-outs, or being “apni marzi ka maalik”. It is about making the decision every single night between horrible mess food and expensive Zomato orders. It is about having to do your own laundry, dishes and cleaning. It is about eating your dinner all alone and having to buy the groceries yourself. It is about failing to manage the money that you get from home. It is about the constant struggling between reality and escapism.
It is also about Antara from TVF’s Sisters ranting to Mahi, “Yahan pe koi nahin hai. Bill khud bharo, khana khud banao, light chali jaaye toh electrician ko bulao, paani kat jaaye toh balti khud bharke rakho, mutual funds mein invest karo, taxes bharo, dusting karo aur yeh sab kuch karne ke baad bhi somehow sink mein koi naa koi bartan reh jaata hai.” It makes you think of the stinking dishes in the sink that your flatmate was supposed to wash.
Some of us have the privilege of having our hometowns a few hours away and going there once in every few weeks to rejuvenate our souls, upset stomachs and get our laundry done. But the rest wait for winter vacations (that are being eaten up by end-semester exams).
Delhi is a strange place. At times and localities, it feels like the most unbothered city out there but then you feel judgemental and perverted gazes piercing through your slightly “revealing” outfit in the metro and it starts feeling like a really huge small town. You start wondering if the Bangalore colleges that you turned down for Jamia were any better.
Fatima from Kashmir says, “Honestly to me, it’s like you can’t belong here. You miss the fresh and sympathetic ethos of your motherland.” Delhi as a city feels cold, both literally and figuratively. Hamia from Odisha has not gone to their home since august. Very poetically, they say, “You try so hard to fit in but there’s something in the back of your mind telling you that you are the other, the new, the thing that doesn’t fit, and after all you realize the home you fought so hard to move out of is the only one inviting you back in.”
Adulting is egalitarian: it does not discriminate, but there are certain minorities that find it much tougher to settle in and have harsher battles to fight, every single day. Casteism, Islamophobia, misogyny, sexism and queerphobia loom large over the supposedly progressive world of young citizens. Online and offline harassment haunt female students like a nightmare. What happens to the young queers whose existence is up for discussion and debate and the possibility of hate crime? Who talks about the flexible morals that only hurt the marginalized? Jamia considers ragging a non-excusable offence but how do minorities deal with the hatred they see on the Instagram stories of their classmates? These are questions that should give sleepless nights to all of us so that there is way we can make our university a safe space for people of all backgrounds and identities.
“A regular, non-distance college program is supposed to be offline,” was one of the prime arguments given in favour of reopening our University during the student protests. Truth be told, no matter how cold, we have to make do with Delhi. We have to headstrongly face the challenges this city throws at us but most importantly, we have to make sure to be kinder and more accepting to each other. This is no civil war: students cannot be one another’s enemies. Away from home, we are home to one another.
Sarthak Parashar is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Zaina Shahid Khan