Part II (Part I is here, in case you missed it)
Dear Diary, college life is NOT all fun and games. The customs are strange here and so is the concept of punctuality. Elders must be respected, but don’t expect any ounce of respect back from them. My future is pretty much dependent on how strong my memory is and that’s a bit freaky.
I walked into my college and I did not see a single white person around, contrary to what their brochures and website had shown me. I took in my surroundings as I stood in a long line waiting for the administration department to open. I took in the plain white walls without any poster or paint, chalk-boards peeking out from inside classrooms and the smell of wet mud and chai in the air. I peeked inside the tiny window behind the grill; large files scattered on the dusty desks and old monitors stared back at me. I felt like I had gone back in time.
After the first day, this was my 2nd day of college, a whole friggin’ month later. Why? Because that’s how long Pune University took to get my admission done. I am of Indian origin, both my parents are Indian, and I am born and brought up in Morocco – the definition of an NRI – Non-Resident Indian, no? Well, not for Pune University. According to them all NRI’s hail from the Gulf, and if you’re an Indian brought up elsewhere, sorry, you’re a foreigner! So it took me a month to get new documents couriered every week all the way from Morocco with stamps, signatures and attestations. My final file was the size of a dissertation!
I had my roll number – finally! After completing my formalities at the office, I ran up the stairs to the third floor and frantically searched for my classroom. There were no signs and not a soul around to ask for directions. I finally found my classroom and panting, knocked on the door. I slowly opened the door as my sari-clad professor stared down at me like an angry eagle. I cleared my throat and introduced myself quietly. “IS THIS A TIME TO COME?! HALF THE CLASS IS OVER! COME BACK TOMORROW!” she bellowed back.
I reached super early. I sat in an empty classroom with wooden benches and tables, under a fan that looked like it was living its last breath. One by one the students filed in, speaking loudly until the classroom was full. I sat at the back not wanting to take someone else’s place but little did I know that my choice of seat would automatically flag me as a ‘back-bencher’ – someone who doesn’t like to study and is a rebel. The teacher finally shuffled in about 15 minutes late and everybody stood up at once to collectively announce “Good Morning Ma’am”. I just sat there.
A different sari-clad professor had asked a question and was pointing right at me. Clueless, I informed her that it was my second day and though I would catch up in no time, at the moment I had no answer for her. “DO YOU HAVE NO RESPECT FOR YOUR TEACHERS?” I stared back at her utterly confused. The girl next to me quietly nudged me to stand up when being spoken to as a sign of respect. Well, I wasn’t going to be popular among the teachers, but at least I made a friend.
It didn’t take much time to realise that things were going to be different here. The rest of the college days went by in an insignificant blur. Every day was the same; the same classroom, same routine, the same grumpy teachers reading out from their textbooks with occasional drawings on the board. So we continued our routine too, napping on desks, passing notes and doodling while the professors’ voices drawled on. Maybe ‘college life’ is fun, but college in Pune? Not so much.
More soon, dear Diary.