It’s that time of the year again!
If you have just entered college, this post is written for you. If you are excited to finally have juniors, you might find this useful. And if you’re about to finish college, read because you still have a life to live.
Entering college means a lot of things, and let prejudice not be a part of it. Coming from a privileged background, my first month of college was spent hanging out with other privileged kids, mostly mistaking our privilege for merit.
But now that I’m out of that delusion, here’s my tribute to higher education. A 4-step guide to stop ignorance from hitting you in the first place, and having an amazing first month in college!
Step I – Knowing The Students:
If you are a man.
If you are cis-gendered.
If you belong to the majority religion.
If you are fair.
If your ancestors weren’t forced to practice a specific caste-based occupation.
If you have a regular pocket-money.
If you speak Hindi.
If you ‘look’ Indian (read: North Indian).
If you are any of these categories, stop. Stop thinking of anyone else as undeserving.
You weren’t asked to prove your nationality because you were wearing a symbol of your religion. You weren’t asked “Which country are you from?” because people don’t know that your native place is a part of India.
While you had an overall development by participating in the sport you love, someone had their need for development questioned at every step. While you had the mental satisfaction of having a healthy social life, some were not allowed to go out for the sake of family honour.
if you are a privileged person, Stop thinking of anyone else as undeserving.
While you read your supplementary books in your school’s air-conditioned library, some classrooms did not have enough lighting to read textbooks, and some could not even afford them.
You weren’t deemed useless because of your skin colour. And certainly, you weren’t declared mentally unstable when you told your friends who your crush was.
Once you acknowledge that the world is easier for you, you might just gain massive respect for those who made it, fighting against all hindrances, and sitting next to you. And there is no better way of meeting a person for the first time.
Step II – Knowing The Teachers:
Once you’re done knowing your fellows, it is time for the people who will be imparting knowledge, who will answer all your questions, who will inspire you to love humanity. But after all, they too are a part of this capitalist patriarchal hegemony, and this can be your chance to make your presence felt! Or even better, to put yourself at the service of the humanity your professor taught you to love.
Point out their sexism when they categorize authors into ‘authors’ and ‘female authors’.
Let them know that designating a nickname for your North-Eastern classmate is actually an act of racism, not bonding.
And don’t forget to make them realize the shortcomings on their part as an educator for not having fluency in the language spoken by the majority, non-elite population. No professor, no one needs to “cope up with the world” except you.
And perhaps, try explaining them about mansplaining when you see your male lecturer speaking over his female colleague during the department meetings.
The purpose of university is to engage in discussion, debate, and push the boundaries of conventionality. Don’t let factors like age or qualifications stop you from putting forward you point, and let it be a place of learning for everyone.
Step III – Knowing That You Don’t Know Everything (The Most Helpful)
Now that you’ve conquered the classroom, it is time to step out and embrace the freedom college life brings with it. Freedom to take charge of your day, freedom to only study the subjects you’re interested in, freedom to explore the world. Everything except the freedom to trample someone else’s freedom with yours.
The best way to feel comfortable in college is by making other people feel comfortable around you. Don’t mistake it with the trending, “Let people be themselves”. No, you are in no position to ‘let’ others be whatever. However, you are in the position to grab the incredible opportunity of respecting other people’s choices.
Know that wearing salwar-kameez or not accepting your party invites doesn’t make her “the boring behenji”, nor does wearing shorts or smoking is a welcome board for slut-shaming. Know that people’s appearances are to reflect their personality, not your opinion of what is attractive.
The best way to feel comfortable in college is by making other people feel comfortable around you.
Those spending most of their time in labs and libraries, talk about their intelligent inquisitiveness about the world instead of a convenient ‘geek’. Those participating in every protest and constantly checking political correctness, talk about their passion to make real change instead of a conveniently labelling them a ‘JNU type’.
Typecasting people isn’t only an utter waste of your time, but also a very incorrect way to perceive the world. Instead, try to meet and speak to as many different people as possible, and learn about the power of perspective. Stepping out of your privileged comfort zone allows you to become more aware of the struggles of other people, and this is essential to becoming a more sensitive and feminist human being.
Step IV – Knowing Your Swearwords:
Speaking of words, here’s the last step for every ‘cool-person-to-be’. Swearing is a habit that many tend pick up to express their frustration (read: to fit in). And a good way to go about it is to know your abuses before using them. For example, the infamous ‘Bhangi’ or ‘Chamar’ used casually by Delhiites is one of the many reasons they are considered the most casteist people. These words have their origins in the names of oppressed castes that have been stigmatized and discriminated against, and using their identity for the purpose of humiliation further reinforces casteist oppression.
Similarly, stop dragging a female relative’s virginity to everything that pisses you off. If you think threatening to inflict sexual violence on another person’s mother/sister is a good defence in any random argument, you are again justifying the absurd system of patriarchy where women are equivalent to an owned property and contributing to rape culture.
Keep absurdity at bay, and check your swearwords.
Stepping out of your privileged comfort zone allows you to become more aware of other people’s struggles.
This is just the first month; you have tons of things to learn in the coming years. College will shape you in many significant ways, and make sure you do justice to the opportunity of pursuing higher education.