Love, MPP Batch of 2022
This piece has been written by Janhavi Shah and Samragni Dasgupta (MPP Batch of 2022) based on a survey conducted within their batch. The accompanying artwork is by Akshit Singla (Batch of 2024).
Dear Seniors (and other readers),
2020 has been quite a ride. Global pandemics, political upheavals, unconstitutional bills being passed in parliament, murder hornets, several deaths of icons and so so much more. When we first heard that we’d gotten into NLSIU, we believed that this would be the light at the end of the tunnel. We hoped that we would finally have a place where we could breathe and live like 20 something-year-olds, where we would learn and grow together as peers in the community. Honestly, it’s been hard. We chose NLSIU, not only because of the institution’s brand value and the course structure, but also because of the famous campus life and community. We knew that if we joined this course, not only would we be receiving a world-class education, but we’d be entering into a community that had our back through thick and thin. Perhaps that is what endeared us most, considering the whole situation that existed (and is currently existing) in the world. While we definitely (hopefully/ perhaps) found our community within our class, we couldn’t with others from the campus and that has made a huge difference.
We came in as bright-eyed students, eager to learn and grow as individuals. The stories we heard from all of you during our introduction week, the small conversations we’ve had with those who’ve graduated have all played such an important role in building our imaginations, in creating the pictures we long to live in. We would be wrong to say that that brightness has not reduced, that the state of the world and thus our education has not impacted us in any manner. We feel the absence of a residential campus where late-night talks at Chetta’s and staying up together in the library is the norm. We miss hugging one another and crying together when all submissions are clubbed together in one week. We now know what it’s like to not really know your professors, to go through trimesters without actually ever meeting them. There’s no time for post-dinner sessions with Professor Babu Mathew, or intense conversations with Professor Basu and Professor Sony well into their office hours. While the online medium has been beautiful in a way, it has also been depriving. We feel these absences and in turn, these absences have played a huge role in our experience at the University. And even though waking up in the mornings of this winter and still staying in bed in the warm blankets while logging into our 8 am lectures, half asleep, has been a bliss unparalleled, it does not beat coming half asleep to classrooms on early winter mornings, getting hot tea and coffee to wake ourselves up to listen to “constructivist epistemology” and the likes. The closest thing to campus is the screens we stare into while trying to find some connection on the other side of those. It is hard, but not impossible. In the grim days of this unfortunate global pandemic we see ourselves turning to the few connections we could find, the people we could reach out to. Social media has been the only link between us and the world, our university, our peers and it hasn’t been all bad. For some of us, the socially anxious ones, it has given us a chance to not be that, while expressing whatever we feel through awkward texts and unexpectedly long conversations with hitherto strangers. These people whom we have never met, seem closer than just faces off the screen; they feel familiar now. With game nights and secret Santa parties, we try to keep that familiarity and connection alive, longing to meet each other soon.
While some of us have come in fresh from our undergraduate colleges, bringing along with us the nostalgia of bright and bustling campus spaces, the sounds of students bickering around, the rush of running to early morning classes, the taste of canteen food and the smell of fresh grass and old trees. Some others from our very versatile batch of students have come from concrete jungles of corporates wanting to get back to a vibrant campus, sit in the library and study from hardcovers instead of e-books on kindle, sit in classrooms and pretend to listen to the professor teaching and get back to a student life they had so dearly missed all these years. NLS campus and the city of Bangalore was something each of us was looking forward to. Going online is not just compromising on the possible interactions on campus but also letting go of a very significant part of the MPP program: the field-work and client-led projects that form a major part of our credit courses at NLS have been modified to be implemented remotely, from home. And although this is the best possible way to engage students with different organisations while the entire world suffers from this unfortunate pandemic, it is deeply unsatisfying to not be closer to the realities that exist far away from academia. Missing out on ground-work has been frustrating for most of us, especially after hearing your stories from the field, looking at your pictures in the Indian hinterlands, among the people we aim to work for. At this point, we can only hope that we get to have similar experiences on as well as off-field in the coming year.
Our experiences with the Administration and faculty have been mixed to varying degrees. For some of us, our email conversations (and sometimes phone calls) have been cathartic. We have finally felt as if we’re on campus, being able to talk to our professors in person. However, for some of us, the relationship we have had with our professors and the administration has been non-existent. Either we’re too shy in class to speak up, or we’ve never really needed to have a conversation with anyone outside of class. Or, our relationship with everyone outside of the student community has been filled with anger and frustration. We’ve sometimes lost sight of the fact that they are people too in the end, and that this pandemic has probably affected them as much as it has affected us. Perhaps they too miss the noisy bustling sounds of a living campus, perhaps they too miss the more intense conversations. Professors in general have tried to help us. They too, to an extent, understand what we’re going through but the rules and regulations that are prevalent in the institution bind them. Creating relationships with people outside of our class has been terribly hard and this has played a direct role in our interactions with the administration and the faculty. But whatever little bridges we have built, they have been beautiful to look at and to experience.
This long year keeps getting longer, it keeps getting harder and uglier somehow. While not every home has been comfortable, or every family supportive, it is only such comforts and luxuries that have kept us going so far and the connections we have made in our collective misery of not being on campus. And even though we have all never met, not the professors or the admin or our batchmates, the screen has made us more empathetic. We know that the other side of it may not always be as happy as it looks and that makes all the difference. With this year ending, we are taking back lots of anecdotes, lots of memories (over the screen) and a deep longing to have all of this in Bangalore soon.
MPP Batch of 2022