“It’s like flinging a duckling into an ocean and hoping it’ll swim”:

9

 A reflection on life as a first year student in IIT Delhi

The title of this piece was a senior’s description of learning to cope with life at IIT Delhi that I heard on my first day as a freshman. So here’s a list of observations, some mundane and some peculiar, that I made while staying afloat as a fresher at IITD.

 

A Novel Ecosystem: In many ways, you now have a blank slate. You’ve finished one race to find yourself at the starting point of another. I recall a conversation with another freshman who’d changed cities several times in the past; she said each time afforded her the opportunity to be someone new, to wear a new face. I realize, being a Delhiite, I was largely buffered from the change in cities and yet, for someone who’s spent 14 years in the same school this sense of ‘having a new face’ and not knowing your place in the ecosystem is both exhilarating and overwhelmingly new.

Entropy in an Isolated System: Although we’re in the heart of Delhi with the politically charged JNU campus a mere stone’s throw away from us; we might as well be in another world. There is a sense of being so perennially busy and engaged with our own day-to-day affairs, that you feel rather cocooned from what’s happening outside of our 320 acre-patch in Hauz Khas. For those not aware of this, there aren’t any politically affiliated student bodies here; the only poltu (IITD jargon for politics) involves fierce rivalries between hostels for the coveted positions of the heads of different boards. Right from the campus jargon to a radically different biological clock, you often feel a fundamental disconnect with the outside world. Fests can feel plain weird with the sudden mélange of the two worlds and hordes of people on hitherto sparsely populated streets. The days following fests are just as strange: with empty spaces where just yesterday, Subway stalls and kiosks blaring loud music stood.

 


The Gender Gap:
2 girls’ hostels; 11 boys’ hostels. Sure, the girls’ hostels are a tad larger than some of those for guys, but we’re still outnumbered by a large margin. Now is this imbalance something that you’re always conscious of? Honestly, nope. I’ve never really felt this disparity manifest itself in the manner in which people treat you and your male counterparts. I admit my opinion may well be restricted to my own anecdotal experiences (that also applies to pretty much everything in this piece) and I have heard a few tales to the contrary. But in stark contrast to the tales we’ve heard of women’s hostels in other colleges, we don’t have any curfews—I can leave and walk into my hostel at any time of the day or night, and pull an all-nighter in the library without being questioned. And here’s a shout-out to our system (as well as other campuses with the same policy) for hopefully, paving the way for other institutions to follow. The amenities front though, is an entirely different story—the boys’ hostels have multiple food joints and ATMs around while we have none. But, they’re also more than twice as far from the academic area as we are.

The Proximity: It’s strange how I’ve grown closer to hostel-mates with no classes in common over a course of just a year than to school friends who sat beside me for nearly half a decade. Yet this proximity can have startling downsides too—it’s all too easy to blindly follow what everyone else is doing and can, at times, be inhumanely hard to do your own thing. You may subconsciously start appropriating biases and opinions that weren’t your own to start off with. You start wanting things because others want them. You start doing things that others are because they must be the right things to do, because those opinions must be founded in fact—merely by virtue of the number of people who believe and do the same things. You start questioning your own goals, especially if they don’t seem quite aligned with those of others.

But here’s the brighter side—this process of questioning gives you a deeper insight into what you truly want and enables you to emerge with a greater sense of clarity about yourself.

The Hourglass: There was another thing we were told by professors on the first day of college, “These will be the best days of your life.” And indeed, barring the lethargy of the first few weeks, the semesters seem to race by, and what haunts me the most is the nagging feeling that in spite of the stress and the worries and the occasional tears, these are indeed my best days and the sand is slipping through the hourglass faster than I can find the diamonds in it.

 

 

Nayantara Mudur is an Engineering Physics sophomore at IIT Delhi. She likes reading both fiction and non-fiction books, is an X-Files buff and enjoys learning new things spanning a range of topics.  

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