If you have been following my blog since the very beginning, you’d find multiple posts where I have made snide remarks about my college. College was traumatic, to say the least and when a lot of people describe it as the best time of their lives, I feel a tinge of envy. Despite all the subtly placed commentary on my college life in my posts, I never spoke about why I hated it. Perhaps I should. Perhaps it would be a catharsis of sorts. Or perhaps it would be an utter disaster. I don’t know which. Why am I talking about it now? Because someone recently remarked that it’s about time I put it all behind and move on. That I let go of all the anger inside.
I don’t want this post to be a rant fest, but if I am to do it right, I should probably start at the beginning – I studied in a wonderful school right before college. I have studied at various schools in the country and have been a part of various friends’ circles, but Sreepuram, Kannur was the only school that made me cry on the last day. Our class was more wonderful than you can imagine – we were united like India before a cricket match, and strangely, got along like a house on fire even with most of our teachers (even when they were angry at us about the sorry state of our test scores).
College on the other hand taught me one thing in the four years that I was there – trust no one.
School was the age of innocence – however crude our jokes were, however depressing we thought our problems were, however tough that integration problem seemed to be – it was still the age of innocence. College was a rude eye-opener. I don’t know what it was but I was always on the wrong side of the wrong place at the bloody wrong time. I had merely walked through the tall wrought-iron gates and it just seemed like everyone had an opinion on me. I walked in, unfortunately, wearing one of those Kareena Kapoor-esque 3/4th kurtas and bell-bottom pants that were a rage during those times, but rather unheard of in the sleepy town where my college was situated (the natives call it a “pure land” but you know, whatever) and suddenly I went from Sreesha, one of the class toppers to “that slutty bimbo in first year.” Yep. All for a kurta that some moustached seniors couldn’t handle.
Oh wait, did I say seniors? Then I missed one important character in this story – an ancient chemistry teacher who looked at me once (just once) and said, “Soo… You are here to flirt with boys?”
With all due respect for your age, Asshole, I just got here.
Now, as someone who was never “accused” of “flirting with boys” (hell, the boys at school thought I was one of them!) I was pretty shaken. Insulted on the very first day with a rather unfounded statement. Before we go any further, let me just tell you, this man should have been booked for harassment. He could not speak to a single girl student (and on one occasion, to my mom) without literally coming so close to her, that their noses almost touched. Conversations with him looked like the Bharat Matrimony logo, only more creepy. But like I said, I had just come from the land of innocence to this, and in any case, I doubt that that college had any sort of harassment policy in place.
This man made this statement in the presence of students from four first year divisions, and I am not sure how many seniors. Regardless of whether there was anyone present or not, as a professor of a known, some might even say reputed, college he had no right to say that. No right. There’s no other way I can be delicate about – he had simply no right to say it.
Now the corollary of the above statement – regardless of what my professor said, my seniors had already formed opinions about me. For the same reasons – they couldn’t handle the attire that, to their eyes, was alien. One might think it was the male students who looked at me like “I was easy.” It wasn’t. Yes, they were definitely looking at me like that, but it was the female seniors who behaved way, way worse. We live in a world where there are protests when a lawyer blames a rape victim’s clothes. These protests are lead by women who say clothes must never be a reason to rape someone. And I agree. But in my college, it was the female students who said (my batch as well as seniors) “Look at her clothes! The slut! She’s asking for it!” Asking for what? What are you claiming I am asking for?
Baseless accusations of the kind often have a terrible impact on a seventeen year old, who has never seen anything in this world but sugar, spice, and everything nice. And to be labeled a slut because someone felt my attire (presentable, acceptable and even welcomed in every other college in every part of the world) was improper is the most soul-crushing thing that can happen to anyone. I withdrew into a shell I did not know I had, and the previously chirpy little girl vanished into a desperate shadow created to keep everyone’s attentions off. My mobile number was passed around in chits all over the state of Kerala. I had to change my phone number every six months because I was simply tired of having random guys calling me up on my phone asking me if I was “available” and tired is not a word that can do justice to what I felt.
Needless to say, this affected my studies. I went from being class topper (in school) to someone who barely made it. It did not seem to matter. Nothing did. I just wanted to leave, go home, bury myself under a rock and not ever come back. I knew how everyone was looking at me, what everyone’s opinions of me were. There was nothing I could do to defend myself, and if I did, I am sure that it would have been rather pointless.
A few years later, I went through a phase of depression. I do believe that the seeds of it were sown right there in that college. Most people love college to such an extent that they cannot imagine how it was for me to bow my head and walk, for fear of someone seeing me, or to not laugh at anyone’s jokes, because someone might hear me. And then point and say, “Hey look who it is! It is that girl. With the 3/4th kurta. *wink**wink*”
When I went through my phase of depression, I could trace everything back to me joining that college. I just kept pouring piles of regret on an already mountain-high pile. If I had not gone to that college, I would have devoted more time to write. If I had not gone to that college, I could have secured a better job. If I had not gone to that college, people who have never met me or spoken to me wouldn’t call me a cheap, slutty, seductress, only because they had heard of me from an acquaintance of theirs who had heard of me from one of theirs. If I had not gone to that college…
“If” is a very small word. “If” is a big, loud, mind-shattering word.
With all those lines of regret converging to the point where I chose which college I would study in, all I wanted was to turn back time to that one moment and instead of saying, “This is where I want to study,” I would have chosen a college closer home (forgot to mention – this college was 6 hours away from my hometown). I know that if I had that one option of turning back time, then everything would be different. I don’t know whether it would be for good or bad, but from where I am standing, and from the lens I am looking through, the grass is greener on the right side of the right place at the right time!!!
If I could talk to my seventeen year old self, I would tell her, “Sweetie, the world is a shitty place, but there are less shitty ways of learning that than dragging your name through mud for eternity for crimes you did not commit.”
I know this is not a conventional blog post. I know I am just inviting a lot more shit by “putting up all that drama on social media.” But I needed to let this out.
I have to forgive myself for all the years of regret.
I have to let the ghosts of Adi Shankara Institute Of Engineering & Technology be laid to rest.
Edition 66, Indispire: Have you ever wished there was an undo button in real life?