For our next Through the Goggles of a Graduate, we have Rohitha Naraharisetty. Rohitha graduated in 2020 from the HSS department. She is currently taking a gap year to figure out, once and for all, what postmodernism really means and how to use this information in the real world. She hopes to also put theory to ‘praxis’ eventually, because that’s what she is apparently supposed to do according to her many course titles. In the meantime, she is involved with research and writing projects which don’t involve any of these terms. As a former T5E Exec Ed with baggage the size of a house, she is writing here one last time to dump some of it on you, the readers. She is sorry.
Now that you have opened this article, I want you to do something for me before you proceed.
Sit up straight. Notice the tension in your neck and shoulders.
Stop slouching over wherever you’re slouching. I know you’re doing this. I know you did this in classrooms during 8AMs that had you dangling a toothbrush off your mouth while you ran half-dressed to class. I know you did this in the 1PMs which had you struggling with multitasking – digesting whatever you crammed down during lunch and paying attention simultaneously. Yes, digesting that oil-soaked vendaka is a task. I also know you did this in the library where, let’s be honest, you were catching up on Breaking Bad or whatever else is referenced on Saarang-Shaastra T-shirts instead of studying. I know you treated your head like it was attached to a spring instead of a spine while you were preoccupied with all this. Take a minute to gently (GENTLY) give your neck some exercise in turning in normal ways. Go ahead, I’ll wait, I’m write here (sorry).
I know you didn’t do it. Why would you? Who am I to lecture you on your spinal health and what does any of this have to do with insti? The short answer is: everything.
The long answer? Let me tell you the story of how insti has crept into my shoulders and neck and tensed the muscles there so much, it actually changed the shape of my spine. I’m not kidding, I have the scans to prove it. Not proof that insti was the one which caused this, because the 8 AM siren and the sounds of monkeys fighting it out to the death, gladiator style, and graded answer scripts and deadlines and What Others Think and FOMO don’t really show up in a scan. Stop here if you’re looking for nostalgia and warm cozy feelings because you aren’t about to find that here. I have my group chat with my wing for that, thank you very much. The ode I have to write for them would take a whole book.
What Does The
Fox Bug Say?
This story begins with a certain insect we all know too well. When I think of insti, the first thing that comes to mind is the ubiquitous conjoined little red bugs. That’s because I spent a lot of my time looking at them. And that’s because I spent a lot of my time looking down.
And that’s because I spent a lot of my time OverthinkingTM and Being SadTM. My head was so full of thoughts and feelings it was only natural that it drooped from the weight of them swirling around in there. But try as I might to recall what they were about, I can’t remember much except for a few generic things that nearly everyone goes through but which make you feel, in that moment, as if you are the only person in the world to be going through them. I thought a lot about what I was even doing here. I had my heart broken. Twice. I wondered what the point of anything was. I felt overwhelmed by a PoR which quickly birthed all my insecurities and fears about myself into the world (it rhymes with ‘swift gestate’ (yes that was the point of the awkward birth metaphor)).
I felt like I didn’t belong here.
Let me pause here to let you know that I have nothing to offer by way of tangible advice on, like, resumes and career planning and the dos and don’ts of PoRs and apping because I have not done much to be an authority on these things. But you probably clicked on this article either knowing who I am (hello and welcome to the ~ 3 people in this category), or not knowing who I am, and in both cases knew already that this isn’t a person likely to have practical advice based on their achievements. But for what it’s worth, I’m going to try and explain why I don’t feel like I have failed for still not being sure what the three “peaks” on my CV are supposed to look like. Or even the exact difference between a CV and a resume.
Not a Creep Nor a Weirdo [We All Belong Here]
The point is, I felt a lot of things. I’m willing to bet that you, too, have felt most if not all of these things. And just like that, I belong – and you belong too. Because we all belong here, in this place in our heads, weighing us down and making us acquainted with the strange red bugs (which, by the way, I was never able to determine if they were actually conjoined or doing a lil birds and bees dance – email me if you find out please).
On an unrelated note, here is something I’ve noticed – it smells really good in the SAC road at this very particular spot, somewhere near the barricades. Someone told me it’s the smell of snakeskin. Do with that information what you will.
While you’re at it, please talk to the security guards at the gate and tell them I said hi. As a day-scholar in everything but name they were a part of my routine everyday and they are actually quite sweet. Do also talk to the lady guards and the hostel guards. If you’ve ever been bothered by vigilance raids, please don’t blame them. Blame the system, always blame the system (*cue Rage Against the Machine BGM*).
Speaking of systems, have those god awful biometric fingerprint systems been done away with yet? I hope they have been because they’ve never managed to keep out the gravest security threat of all in insti – the holy trifecta of panic, stress, and overwhelming loneliness. It happens more often than people talk about. It happens so much that people lose themselves to it.
Help! I Need Somebody!
If you take anything away from this agony aunt column at all, let it be this: seek. help. If you’re confused about whether you need it, chances are that you do.
Also, sunlight and a change of surroundings help. I know it’s difficult to leave the room sometimes. Or even leave the bed. I know. But you have to try – figure out where to go later. It doesn’t matter how many deadlines you have because you are no closer to getting them done while staring at the ceiling than when you’re taking a walk outside. Preferably with a friend. Who can then help you through this bout of wet-blanket-ness – if you only ask. Here is another thing: getting help can look like many things. It can be dialling the number on the hostel room doors. It can be asking your friend to make the call for you. It can be asking someone to sit with you while you try to do the thing you need to do, telling someone you feel bad, that you need their help to catch up with missed acads. There are lots of different options; all you have to do is take that one little baby step.
I took this step sometime around my fourth year, and noticed for the first time how much tension I’d been holding. It is hard work, exhaling, when you’ve accumulated so much and don’t know when to stop. There is always one more assignment to do. There is always a placement season ahead. There are always brilliant people you can never be like, all around you.
There will always be a missed milestone, a missed deadline, an endsem so bad you say a silent prayer for the trees that were felled for your trash attempts at passing on the answer sheets. But there comes a time when you have to let all of it go. A lot depends on it.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Insti (Spoiler: There Isn’t One)
You may even miss attendance. Let me tell you, if I had a coin for every time I stressed about not making the attendance requirement, I would… have a lot of coins. You may be sitting up at 1 AM before a quiz staring at an impossible mountain of a syllabus and feel so scared, so panic-stricken and so ashamed that you promptly open Instagram and doomscroll another hour away. This happens. You may spend a whole semester stuffing your face with pastries from Usha cafe instead of eating proper breakfast or lunch and start to feel tired and sick all the time. That is also a thing. And hey, if you’re going down a Youtube/Reddit conspiracy theory rabbit-hole instead of getting a good night’s sleep, I’m not one to judge. I’d advise against all of this, sure, but if you’re here already, it’s understandable. It’s never too late to turn things around. It took me some painfully expensive therapy to realise some very fundamental things (here’s some syllabus you’ve actually read in advance if you find yourself at a therapist’s waiting room, eh?) – you must forgive yourself for messing up, and your worth is not measured in how much you participate in and do things.
It is easy to give yourself up in the pursuit to compare yourself with the best. I know all too well what it’s like to be a mute spectator, feeling inadequate watching others dazzle with their talents and people skills. I know how uncomfortable it made me, once I gave up and stepped into the shadows, to grasp the extent of the woods beyond the lit spaces on campus.
Which is to say, insti can be a pretty dark place, in more ways than one. It is, after all, a literal forest.
The wilderness lends itself very easily to romanticisation but sometimes but when your goggles aren’t rose-tinted, it can look like a blaze of life and energy that you are excluded from. If you were ever alone in your room during proshows or hostel nights, listening to the pounding bass from the OAT, the whooping and the cheering in the near distance, feeling the immense, crushing density of the 600 something acre campus teeming with vitality around you, you know what I’m talking about. This TGG is for you, okay? I cannot, in good faith, say that all that matters to me, all that I have taken away are the nice bits. This is what insti was like, for some people, and this is not only okay, it is perfectly natural. I’m here on the other side, and I finally know that insti is a bit of a shapeshifter. It defies structure.
Skeletal Structure: The Only Structure Worth Keeping
I wouldn’t be an HS student without the structures and capitalism and patriarchy rigmarole so bear with me: there is no structure to your experience here either.
There isn’t a roadmap or a set of experiences to cross off. You cannot chart the course of your time here, you cannot schedule the breakdowns, you can’t plan for the highs, you will never be able to engineer your way through this mess.
This is because life gets in the way; larger structures close in on you. If you’re a woman on campus like I was, for instance, your peace of mind may be disrupted by a stalker. Your goals and ambitions get sabotaged by the crippling anxiety and the forest suddenly looks full of hiding places – you’re not sure if they are meant for you to escape an unwanted gaze or for the unwanted gaze to follow you unseen. If you have confronted the ugly side of insti’s politics even a little bit, you know that classes are no longer a place for acads; you think obsessively about your own values, wondering whether you’re cut out for any of this, feeling suffocated by the toxic dumpster fire where healthy discourse goes to die. There will necessarily be a lot of things beyond your control holding you back. And like a good Protestant ethic worker, you feel the clock ticking away as your tasks go unfinished and your days melt into your nights. You start to feel unproductive; the inertia settles in your very marrow, making it difficult to even move. Then, you start to atrophy on the inside, because you cannot imagine success or fulfilment outside of these parameters that have been set for you. And this, finally, is when you find yourself alone in the hostel room while all the seemingly quintessential insti experiences happen around you rather than to you or with you.
For someone who has learned about binaries in theory for so long, it took me a ridiculously long while to unlearn them in real life.
The people I’ve met, the relationships I’ve formed, the kindness I’ve received, the help that was offered, the hands that were held out to me, the hearts that have confided in me, the conversations that nourished me, the laughs that were shared with me, the new love that I found for the ones I lost – these are things that cannot be boxed in as success or failure. They are amorphous; they slip through the cracks in the structures.
Which brings me to my final preachy point – always, in everything, root yourself, your words, your actions, your hands, your feet, your nose, your elbow, your fingernails, your earlobes, your big toe – you get the drift – everything, in empathy. It is the only thing which matters once the structures are dissolved. It is the source of joy and courage and growth. Insti is the perfect place to step outside yourself because it is filled with so many different types of people who come from so many different places (and not just the geographical kind), and the most visible of people are not the only kind there are.
I lied about my last preachy thing because here is another – understand, recognise, and respect difference, because then you’ll know that it is impossible to abide by anything telling us how to be, whom to know, where to go, when to start or stop.
Wait, sorry, I have one more. Try and become friendly with the cats and dogs on campus. They can save you, if you let them.
There is also a turtle on SAC road but please don’t disturb him too much, he’s shy.
*some lamentations about the semester ending early and not getting to say goodbye and missing my friends etc etc.*
If you’ve stuck with me this far, I’ll leave you with this TL’DR: there is more to insti than what makes it to the newspapers and the NIRF rankings (we get it already). In other words, there is you. You make insti. We all do. It’s all of us, irrespective of our resumes and LinkedIn profiles. We’re shiny and cool as we are. So please, take notice of the way your neck and shoulders feel. And sit up. And stretch. And look around you. And let go. And breathe. There is a whole world above the little red bugs.
Editor’s Note: You can also read the other articles from this series here.