Educating a fresher

Maisnam Bomcha *

MSAD Annual Fresher's Meet at University of Delhi (North Campus) in September 2012
MSAD Annual Fresher's Meet at University of Delhi (North Campus) in September 2012

"I do not consider a college as a place where greatness in people is given birth to. I cannot recollect a single example of a great scientist or writer who became what they are because of their academic excellence"

The naughty and smiling face said, "You will meet all on Freshers' Meet". After more than three decades the face and voice both are faded and faltered in memory by the sands of time. Recalling something I read only days back made me remember those first days in college which I spent more in the corridors of the Arts section and the two green lawns; inside and behind the confines of the college buildings. Time inside my huge science classroom was rare and far in between during days when I used to take a sabbatical; tired from my activities outside, other than academics.

During the time when we used to enter college straight after matriculation, Freshers' Meet was the most awaited fixture every year of college life. It used to come soon after the college elections. It was an occasion (it should still be) when all students of the college 'meet' amid the gaiety of the celebrations. Naturally since no classes are held on that day, even all those classroom types are also in the open, mixing and in circulation; a liberation from the daily rigmarole.

For many of us, it was much more than that. The day loomed as if we went to college for that day. Particularly in case of yours truly who entered college equipped with pre-college knowledge of my own notions of the bright side of college life, the day was more awaited and assumed more significance than the Independence Day.

Independence was what we used to cherish most during the days in college. Independent to a considerable extent from the regulations at home, independent from the fear of restrictions and punishments by teachers. By a strange convergence of nature, in matters of taking things into own hands, one gets to hears advice and receive tips one wants to hear.

Before attending the first class of my life in a college, I got to hear those melodious tidings that a college class was like public place which you enter and exit at will.

Many of us thought that what could be learnt from the geriatric teachers can be self-taught easily by reading the text books. So free and high were the spirits that instead of feeling any semblance of guilt or pangs of missing a physics or English lesson; my confidence, high on the height of my convenience, made me so smug in the belief that I can outdo an Einstein or a Shakespeare when I wish to. It's a different matter though; that wish and will to accomplish something academically never came till the race was already run.

Toward that end of accomplishment during one's college time in a college, two things stood out for me. College is one of best places where one meets friends and embarks on enduring and meaningful relationships. Friendship is, above all its values, one boon which grows better with time with the only investment being care and trust.

Secondly, it's a place where one starts to seriously consider his choice of a means of livelihood. I do not consider a college as a place where greatness in people is given birth to. I cannot recollect a single example of a great scientist or writer who became what they are because of their academic excellence.

Time spent in a college certainly contributes to the success of a person and he gets a very conducive environment and means to hone his skills. Those defining moments of discovering what one wants of life rarely comes during those sophomore years and greatness is definitely not imbibed in a place of study. Personally, the best thing that happened was my friends and my wife.

Cherishing a good memory is not about judging the merits of one's past acts. Foolish things done in childish sense of bravado can be equally endearing and bring smiles with a glint of self-mocking naughtiness. On the day of the college elections during the first year in college, a friend and I went to the college to cast our votes after consuming half a pint of Indian made foreign liquor.

Nothing is unusual in that except for a most unusual thing we did: we not only carried the empty bottle along but also made efforts to show to all and sundry that we drank; we drank classy stuff! To teens who were yet to be sixteen, attending college and who thought they cannot be wrong, that was a painstaking effort to impress others.

In retrospect, judged from the point of view of the intent of the perceived chivalry, nothing could have been worse than that to woo those who we didn't find in the college corridors and who we hoped to impress on Freshers' Meet. The group of self-appointed idealists and radicals who were not even old enough to cast votes didn't make much progress in our dreams of furthering the cause of the society.

We discussed issues endlessly and thought we will do wonders together. But all went their separate ways. But while it lasted it was happiness which bound us together. I owned, maybe just a pair of shirts and a pair of worn out shoes. But discomfort to the feet and taxing the legs were never an issue to bother when the gang used to walk all the way sometimes to PC Jain's in Thangal Bazar to pick up an issue of the Statesman or the Telegraph, later.

Other than happiness in large measures a starry eyed fresher didn't carry much in terms of things to write home about when that good thing called college came to a close. But not even once came a time to repent for not having burnt the late night oil.

Happiness is after all better than goodness in many ways and it singularly compensated for many wanting while facing an uncertain future. Pink Floyd is right: we all are just another brick in the Wall. Only difference is our individual choice of how to stay happy.

* Maisnam Bomcha wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao as part of "Different People,Different Places,Different Times" column
This article was posted on August 01, 2013

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