Monthly Archives: May 2010

One last time.

So I’m in the train now, headed home. One last time. And the feeling has yet to sink in.

These last few days have been very weird, trying to cram in everything on my bucket list, doing all the things I’ve always wanted to do. Friends met, we drank, talked and made merry as if there was no tomorrow. But there sadly is a tomorrow. A tomorrow where our days do not start at 12 noon, when days and nights will no longer melt into one for submissions, where maggi will not be available 24 hours a day at different parts of the campus, where you cant always find company to get high and bitch about profs, girls, friends, enemies, life, the universe, and everything. There will be no more asking rickshawallas to let you ride the rickshaw just so you can act macho (in the outside world that is enough to get you labeled a weirdo. Sucks 😐 ), no more fighting with the Vegies Dada when he gives you 8 eclairs instead of 8 rupees change, no more midnight 2.2s, no more drunken nights on Lallu top, no more tempo shouts in Netaji, at TSC, the basketball court, or just about anywhere, no more GC madness, no more dereg heart attacks, no more chai-sutta at Bhasky, no more sunrises at Shankarpur, no more.

Today life as I have known for the past five years, and probably the best phase of my existence so far, comes to an end. There is of course the faint hope that I will go back, and relive some of these moments once more, but that prospect is too far in the future for it to have any bearing on what I feel now.

KGP has been very forgiving to all of us who slogged through JEE 05 (the last REAL JEE :P, yeah F U 4th years 😛 ), and cursed their luck the moment they stepped off the train and onto the erstwhile longest platform in the world. All we were told about life inside those gates was that we should, theoretically, be involved in academic activities. Now we know how wrong that was. Life on campus has changed all of us, more than we would have believed possible. All of us have made mistakes here, some of us really really, f-ed up. But here, in these secluded environs, we have been given second, and third, and fourth chances. Maybe its just that we _are_ sort of stuck in a time warp here. But we can be sure of one thing, life outside Puri gate is a bitch. There will be no more second and third chances, and the knowledge that we have already screwed up more over here than we could have imagined, is a big part of what we take away from KGP.

To all those who I have not said this: I will miss KGP and all of you. I can only hope that our paths cross sometime in the future, and the 10 hours that we talk about our years here, turn out to be too less to express what we feel about KGP. It is not a five years easily forgotten.

“Dada, station jaana hai”. One last time.

The Right Thing?

Living sequestered in a campus such as ours, it is easy for us here to forget that there is a world outside, where everything is not as easy as we have it here. Indeed that has been one of the things that had caught my attention ever since I came to college. Situated right in the middle of nowhere, 200 kms from Kolkata, IIT Kharagpur is the perfect atmosphere for academia. We students always find time to involve ourselves in all the myriad activities that throng the campus calendar. But as I mentioned, we find it too easy to pass off the signs of underdevelopment as close as a kilometre outside the campus gates. Tribals living off scraps, children working in the eateries on campus, broken roads, the lot. Years of communist people have done nothing for this state.

Perhaps the most in-your-face aspect is the child labour. Children work on all the eateries on campus, including the late night eateries inside the halls of residence. I talked to Bimal, about 14 years old, who was working in one of those eateries, and one of the few who knew Hindi. He seemed happy, said that the owner treated him well. And he went to school as well.

The law of course does not permit him to work, but he seemed better off with the job. And here the moral question arises. Do we have the right to enforce the law and get the child away from the work? Are we not robbing him of what he was earning for his family?

I went and met them. Bimal lived in a small chawl just outside campus (distinct from an urban chawl, where the houses are much closer together). All the houses were kuccha, made from mud and thatch, needless to say there was no running water or electricity. This was one of the many small settlements that dot the land around our campus. Most of the manual labor for work in the campus was drawn from here. I met his mother and sister, and with Bimal translating, talked to them. As was expected they had nothing good to say of the administration, the only good things they have are because of the IIT (the campus Rural Development Center works with these settlements to help them in irrigation, cultivation, and new techniques which help them to be self sufficient). I asked his mother if they voted, and they said no. When asked why, they said they had lost faith in the system years ago. It wasnt hard to see why Lalgarh only a 100 km away is Naxal hotbed. I also figured out that his parents thought Bimal was old enough to work, and that since he was attending school as well, he was doing the right thing for the family. I realized that this was a matter of pride for Bimal, even at such a young age.

The question I had to ask myself is what is the right thing to do? What would I achieve if I took the job away from the child and sent him to have a “normal” childhood? How far would the State’s child support machinery support him? Would he be able to get three square meals a day? What about the income that the family lost? We might argue that it is not a child’s place to work and earn money, but you also have to look at the fact that we live in a far from ideal society, where you couldnt guarantee a childs future just because the State was bound to take care of him. Wouldn’t it be better if  I just let him be? I am sure our lawmakers would have deliberated at length on this aspect, but I do not see a simple answer. One of the deficiencies in our system seems to be the lack of guarantee of support to rescued children. Although NGOs in big cities seem to be making inroads into this aspect, out here Bimal is just another statistic.