I have lived in Mumbai all my life and after completing my undergrads in English Literature from my dream college here, I was clueless about what my next step would be. I was conflicted between further studies and taking up a job. My parents preferred the former and to some extent so did I because I didn’t know what job I really wanted to take up.
During my final year board exams, the newspapers were filled with the blunders that the esteemed Mumbai University committed on a regular basis regarding, well almost everything. Seeing the state of utter chaos in my city’s university which was the only place where I could pursue my masters in English (apart from SNDT of course), I was completely discouraged to continue studying in Mumbai.
But then another conundrum stymied me-if not Mumbai then where? I had never studied anywhere else and with good quality education in my city itself, I had never thought of going out for studies. Until I finished graduation after which I didn’t know where I could pursue good masters’ education. Abroad wasn’t an option at all looking at the phenomenal tuition fees of each college (Though I must admit they had excellent courses and specialisations in English Literature). So I confined my search for good universities to India itself. I applied to JNU, Delhi University (DU), and thought of applying to Pune and Jadavpur University as well but missed the deadlines for some reason or the other.
I still was never serious about moving to any other city for studies and still kept the option of applying in Mumbai University open. Since I wasn’t serious at all, I never studied much for the JNU entrance exam which is tough to crack anyway and the univ has few seats for which tons of students apply. As expected, I didn’t clear the exam although it was fun to write the paper because since I hadn’t studied, I could unleash my creativity in my answers and nothing is more joyful for a student than to make up stuff.
Then came the DU entrance which was easier. It has two parts-an objective and a subjective part. Having cleared the exam with a decent rank, I got through in the first merit list itself. Finally, it started to sink in that maybe, that perhaps I will finally move out and study in another city.
Brimming with excitement (and sweating to the bone because it was painfully hot in July then), I was ready to take admission in the one of Delhi University’s prestigious colleges. DU seemed like an utopia back then thanks to the bumbling Mumbai University. However, all my excitement was drowned with the pain of running around in circles trying to get admission into the department and college that had no system in place for proper admission of masters’ course. What was even more disappointing was that one of the colleges that I wanted admission to had many of its employees on a strike demanding from the principle to increase wages, better working condition and whatnot. I felt cheated then because they held us poor students’ hostage to further their grievances. Granted what they were demanding was reasonable but what wasn’t reasonable was their way of suspending all work and leaving the students in a lurch. After a lot of begging and pleading, we somehow got our admission done and I gave a huge sigh of relief. It was quite a harrowing experience and what was more, being an outstation student, I know there was more running around to do because I had to look for hostels and pgs. Yet, I knew that I had crossed one big hurdle in my path for further education and could cross over this one as well.
That experience completely shattered all the hoopla that media created around DU that tags it as one of the best in India. It really isn’t. It has its own host of problems-bureaucratic red tapes, dirty politics, lack of proper administrative mechanism, unenthusiastic and indifferent teachers, inadequate hostel facilities etc. The English department itself there is in shambles with not even enough benches to accommodate the 200 plus students that come and study there. Moreover, it is the Bachelor’s degree which is given more importance there which is why we see such extensive coverage of the undergrad admission process on TV channels that sensationally proclaim the high cut-offs of the colleges. But Master’s degree is somehow not such a big deal, and is a much muted affair.
While I bitterly realized that there is nothing utopian in DU and that I could have done fine in Mumbai University as well, I still look back and think that the whole process was an experience. It may not be cherished but it opened my eyes about the problems that institutions proffering higher studies are riddled with. I don’t regret my decision at all. In fact it is one of my best ones I think. At the end of the day, the system (or a lack of it) shouldn’t get you down. You should make the best of it and enjoy however much you can out of it because these student days are never going to come back again.
So my sincerest advice to aspiring students who wish to leave home and study is this: just go for it, don’t think a lot over it. It will be an adventure of a lifetime and in the process you will learn a lot about yourself and perhaps about how the world functions.
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