Editor’s Note: This month, that is August 2020, FII’s #MoodOfTheMonth is Campus Experiences, where we invite various articles to highlight the diverse range of encounters we often confront when we are a part of any educational institution or space for learning be it schools, universities, colleges, tuitions and home. If you’d like to share your article, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Akshay Kumar
Campuses are evident to all kinds of ‘love’ one can ever think of. Those walls and corners have seen more of us than our closest friends. My dream of getting into Delhi University (DU) flunked years ago landing into a small teacher training college. Those wishes of going to Shahrukh’s college never came true.
Missing those popular fancy campus spots of DU, here I was – in a college space where if you speak English, you’re automatically labelled as ‘meetha’ and even made fun of. It was that bad.
Sounds ridiculous right?
It did not to me at that time since it was one of those triggers that only demotivated me towards my closeted self. I never felt a sense of belonging to this space since my English (the only subject I was interested in) and other skills were only getting worse, where my friends used to attempt at sexually molesting me. Most of the professors were the opposite of what they used to teach us to be. Instead of growing, I was rather unlearning whatever I had learned in school and was only feeling exploited on physical and emotional levels.
It all just made that DU campus dream of a filmy college life into a nightmare I never even thought of. I was also doing an undergraduate course from SOL (School of Open Learning) just to be in touch with that ‘campus vibe’ along with my regular teaching course. Being so exhausting, those rounds to SOL office building gave me enough time to ‘breathe’ and ‘hope’ to get into a regular college one day. You must be wondering what is so special about it—the ‘speciality’ is yet to reveal.
The course got over in two years and finally, I came into a proper university space of Ambedkar University in Delhi. Prayers, fasts and regular temple visits seemed to have worked. Being such an introvert, I was surprised to see so many people speaking such fluent English straight in the first week. I left the course from SOL since I got into this regular mode—the missing ‘touch’ with those imaginary (now realistic) corners and walls eventually came true. However, my kind of ‘love’ was missing though.
Do not pre assume that I met a guy and we lived happily in college. Nothing of that sort happened, even when I wished it to happen. I had hardly heard from any college student about the mental health support in their colleges back then. But in AUD, I came across their clinic – ‘Ehsaas’ and got myself enrolled for sessions just to find out why people from my earlier college experience eventually left me and why I felt used. I never thought that it will become all about my self and sexuality.
Therapy helped me developing the peace I was craving since childhood—about the part I was uncomfortable with thinking of it as abnormal. I remember asking god to cure my sexuality since adolescence. No one knew about this side of me or about my therapy sessions. The walls saw everything. I made some really good friends and majorly felt no quieter. I started feeling confident from my second year of college and thought of coming out to my parents.
I could stay silent murmuring only one line – ‘Mom, Dad! I think I like women but men too.’ All they asked me was to focus on academics. AUD opened me up so much that I gave most of my course presentations around LGBTQ+ related topics and my professors were so comfortable with it (more than anyone on the campus). One of my professors even suggested me to work on a gay novel in her course—that’s how amazing and empowering the campus environment was, all about being yourself and being happy, thinking critically of whatever you do.
It was a good dream as compared to the nightmare I was into before this campus. On one hand, I was getting familiar with my sexuality and even made a boyfriend who used to surprise me in the campus through his visits. On the other side, I was learning more, and even tried to spread awareness around LGBTQ+ issues in the sessions I used to take as a language mentor with the juniors.
I clearly can recall how in one of our debate-sessions, one of my mentees expressed how he used to feel scared and strange about gay people. That debate made him ‘think’ how normal these people are just like heterosexuals. One of my own classmates after my presentation on the same gay novel – Maurice, came up to me telling how she too initially felt uncomfortable around the idea of sexuality and after this presentation, she felt motivated to explore and read more about it. This campus gave me many such moments to feel glad and more than enough opportunities to flourish.
The campus’ walls and corners saw many surprise visits by my boyfriend. I, for the first time, made out in the campus washroom, which was yet another filmy fantasy like everyone else. It seems to be absurd in the first go, but the excitement and rush is symbolic to how most gay people feel. They are always wondering to have space away from the public eye but within the public spaces. These campus experiences shaped me in unexpected ways and rather made me the most talkative guy on the campus.
The Special Day
This was the day I thought of taking yet another big step of coming out to my parents and friends. My friends looked happier than me since they understood how hard it is for one to accept such parts of ‘self’. I think everyone out there is struggling with their battles and all we need is empowering people who elevate our energies. I know you already have heard and felt this line but how much of it did you imply—that is my concern. The ‘special’ is not only the acceptance of my friends, that you must have already guessed.
Adding more icing to your dessert, Made in Heaven (a popular web series) was something that had fueled my inner fire of coming out to my parents too (once again) and had left me completely stirred. I had plans of coming out to them after becoming financially stable so that even if they ask me to leave, I will have someplace to go to. Unlike my friends, a great deal of drama happened, as expected. Again, in denial, I was asked to focus on academics to get a good job later—the most classic excuse most of us get.
At least my chest felt lighter and I could feel a new kind of rush. Another major ‘special thing’ was that one of my friends tweeted about me coming out and the writer of Made in Heaven, Alankrita Srivastava, retweeted it pouring strength and wishes to me. Later on, even the web series’ twitter handle also sent me hugs by retweeting this wonderful picture from their content. The tweets below just made me feel as I have won some war. I guess I did.
The whole environment of the same campus from the next day felt like it got some festive vibes added to it. This was just a wonderful day for me where I finally felt truly happy and felt a sense of belonging to that space, people and everything around it. And we reached into the final semester of our undergraduate course. The time was all about the worries of getting into master’s program, and even more about landing into a campus that will give us wings of freedom. I also broke up; this too happened in this campus, on those very stairs of my favorite classroom. That was the day when I thought about my journey into this campus, about all the experiences of exploring self, sexuality, people around along with many unforgettable things.
It all felt to me like a beautiful narrative from a dramatic novel. So real, yet fictional. Dreamt, yet lived.
Presently, I am in yet another beautiful campus space in a new city but still the first thing I do whenever I land back in Delhi, is to run to the ‘Tapri’ and AUD to meet my friends and the campus (which remains like a living entity). I hope the coming batches will have campus experiences worth remembering, like a memoir which one would like to ‘read’ and ‘smile’, sipping their tea during the rains. Also, realising that it’s all in those ‘small things’ as they say, which create big impressions to the lives of many.
Akshay Kumar is currently pursuing his master’s in English Language Teaching from The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. He is dominantly interested in digging up the unheard and unseen exploring the ‘subaltern’ elements in nearly everything he comes across to. He wishes to eventually make short films around LGBTQ+ issues and language politics & identities, teach in a good university space and spend his weekends in the hills writing Urdu poetry sipping tea over coke studio songs. You can find him on Instagram and Facebook.