Picture this: In the counselling hall for engineering admissions, which is the place where you are allotted the engineering college of "your" choice, I chose an Engineering college in old Mahabalipuram road with a lot of reluctance ( I did not want to move out of Madras). It was reputed to be a very strict college. Usually parents who wanted their daughters to study engineering but still get an education in a strict environment -- would choose a college like this one. My conversations with a 3rd year girl student in that college taught me that there is no "life" possible in that place ( She had ofcourse given a beaming, exaggerated and positive view of that wretched place and I had to read between the lines to find out that the college was for a completely different set of people. Infact although she was praising the college -- my conversation with her was the best source of info about that place among the many sources I had ).
The first day in that college, we found out that we have to pay Rs. 12,500 / year, more to the college ( Although the government guarantees you that since you are merit based "free seat" student - your fees will be only Rs 6500 a year). The split up is 2500 - Bus, 2500 for books 2500 - food 5000 - computer course ( the quality of the course and the real intention of offering such a expensive mandatory superflous course when you are already enrolled in an engineering school is too crass to mention). All these items are mandatory and you have no choice but cough it up.
Added to this pain was my experience on the first day. My father ( parents were invited to visit college on the first day) spotted the 3rd year girl ( the one I mentioned a few paras b4) and walked towards her to say "hi". Suddenly someone tapped him on his shoulders from behind. We turned around and we saw the head honcho ( "The Correspondent" which is equalant of The Dean ) of the college standing behind us. He told my dad " please do not talk to girls within this campus. Inside the campus girls are not allowed to talk to boys"." What the .... My first thought even at that age and time was no different from what I feel now - " Is there a legal system that allows the practice of this policy". Later I found out ( apart from the Dean's one-hour horrible speech on the girls-boys topic -- in a language that can only be described as a murder of the english language) that there were chains in the college bus dividing the seats into the girls section and the boys section. My dad ofcourse went home by car and I had to go by bus the first day.. The 50% of the bus where girls were supposed to sit was nearly empty and the boys section was so overcrowded that students were standing atop each other. The conditions then resembled something that i read about in Thihar jail. I also learned that there was a mini-jail within college premises where students who "misbehaved" ( read as "developed friendship") with girls were incarcerated for a day or so. ( The college students must confirm if this this true even today) T-Shirts were not allowed. You only had to wear shirts with collars. The mandatory food, it seems, got worse over time.
I was so freakin' annoyed that I came back home threw the drafter that is used for engineering drawing ( i was given this stupid instrument on the first day itself) on the floor and let out a tanrum so loud that my neighbors rushed out of their houses. My theory was that - I'd sit out of college for a year and try to get into a better college the next year. I tell you what - in my days discontinuing college because it did not suit your lifestyle was pretty rare. Nevertheless, I didn't care a rats ass about it. I stopped going to college and that was it. My father ofcourse was shattered by my stand ( he too was pissed off that he had to fork out extra Rs 12500). I hadn't gone to college for a week. So, he went and appealed to the directorate of technical education that we couldn't afford such an expensive education and got me transferred to a better ( a much better college rankwise too). Crescent engineering college was and still is the best thing that happened to me. They did not even ask us a single penny for group allotment ( the "bribe" money in the form of donation you have to pay in other colleges to get into Electronics and Computer science groups).
Anyway coming back to the topic -- my peeve is - whats with this crap about " you cannot talk to girls within campus". What right do these administrative quacks have to tell us whom we should talk to and what we should wear. Even in my college, I remember this girl-boy issue to be a sensitive thing. I remember my class Advisor and a Math teacher made 2 girls stand up during class hours and insult them in public. All because they were seen with 2 other boys oustide of campus. Rather than getting emotional, my only problem with this issue is logic. A math teacher has no business intervening in the private lives of students. How can a legal system in a democratic country, not punish such individuals.
In the present day -- a popular college in the heart of the city called is perpetrating this insane offense in a big way. A popular arts college that it was before now flaunts an engineering school too ( it previously had only an arts and sciences school). Students who are into college things now know very well about the tempermental, eccentric and often idiosyncratic behavior of this arts college principal. Now the engineering college principal ( her sister) is no different either. Girl students are abused in public if there has been a slight rumor that they have developed friendship with a boy. Girls and boys are not allowed to talk to each other inside the campus. Whats more the parents are called in and abused in such a way that a casual bystander would think the girl was into prostitution. And it seems the language used by teachers is so crass that students are picking up new swear words from teachers.
This does not mean that all the colleeges in this city are this way. My question is can you even tolerate 1% (the real number could be 20% of the colleges) of all colleges following such practices? What can you do if you dont wan't to tolerate? Nothing. The unfortunate thing is - nobody can rebel against the system. Because you will be failed in your Lab exams if you are seen as a rebel. A slight provocation would lead to a dismissal based on disciplinary grounds. Nobody can do anything becuase once you are dismissed you are a loser -- and nobody wants to talk to a loser. Complaints to Higher authorities that the college children are made to sweep and clean the college premises becauses corporate recruiters had scheduled a visit was of no avail. As everybody who has anything to do with colleges knows -- the administration can put up an "act" when investigating authorities are in town. Even if they get caught, a suitcase full of money should take care of things.!
Ofcourse! what I have detailed is specific to only a few places in South India (and few in the north). In my travels I have seen equally offensive things happening all over India ( there is a topic on Bangalore schools that burning inside me but I'll blog about that later). The bottom line is all this nonsense about 'logic', 'freedom' and 'democracy' could really be a farce when you get down to the details. What India probably needs is more and more lawyers who will sue anything and everything. I suspect even that will not help.
Edit 1: I really wanted to mention names. But then decided against it. Its really not a big thing, the names of the colleges should be obvious anyway.
Edit 2: The funny thing is that when we went on our fourth year excursion to North India - Shimla, Kulu Manali and the likes - in the train to Delhi we had The electronics group and Electrical group from my college and 3 groups - electronics, electrical and mecanical group from the "strict" college. The way the girls and boys from that college were "making out" in the train and in Kulu-Manali was almost amusing ( entertaining but still amusing). The students from those colleges behaved as if they discovered a new sexual freedom and were indiscriminately making out behind rocks in Kulu manali.