For our final TGG for the year, we have Upasana Bhattacharjee! Upasana graduated with an MA in Development Studies during a pandemic. She is currently working on her PhD proposal at Technische Universitat Berlin while having an existential crisis about academia. She enjoys taking long walks, occasionally with people. She spends most of her free time spreading rumours about potatoes.
What follows is a set of facts that I think you should know. These are mostly irrelevant to my goggles as a graduate but I would like you to know these before you decide to spend 3-7 minutes reading this.
- I love peanuts. Some people would call it a problem. I am not some people.
- I lived a relatively uneventful insti life.
- Once I tried to light fresh fruits on fire. I was neither as young nor as drunk as you are currently estimating me to be — I was just an idiot. No, I will not be taking any questions about this.
- It’s all downhill from here. This essay for sure, life, I don’t think so?
- Point four could also be taken as a tl;dr. I am going to give you advice only twice. This is the first: take this tl;dr and run.
- No. Fresh fruits don’t catch fire.
- Yes, I know we know each other in person. No, I am still not going to answer your questions.
I’m finally writing this as I listen to Mac Miller’s last album, after weeks of knowing that I need to write this eventually.
I anticipated that writing this would be difficult because processing five years in insti is difficult.
But actually starting work on this has been difficult not because insti was so great and I don’t have the words for it but because it was not any of that and I’m still unable to find the words for it. Understand that even on my best day this is unlikely to be a love letter to insti. This is where I reiterate that I am listening to Mac’s last album Circles as I write this — this is definitely not my best day.
(THE) GENTLE TRUTHS!!!!
As a freshie in insti, obscure indie music was my thing (yes, I was that person). That was the only genre of music I understood (and let’s be honest here, pop punk obviously). By the time I graduated, I listened to a lot of hip hop. I never would have guessed that I could like hip hop because I detested it as an 18 year old, which, in hindsight, I find both rigid and sad. But this is to say that over five relatively uneventful years, insti changed me in ways I couldn’t imagine, and it’s a useless but sometimes entertaining exercise to wonder whether those two versions of me would get along at all.
Useless but sometimes entertaining is actually a nice phrase to sum up my opinion of PoRs. People tend to talk/write a lot about them but clubs and PoRs have only ever meant people to me.
Honestly, I think we can all collectively agree that they’re fairly useless, apart from the friendships and the networks they grant you (the latter is more important than I thought and definitely more important than I want to believe).
When I think back to the last five years, and believe me I went year by year to dig up uneventful histories, there are a few things that I think of fondly. The first are my friends, of course: my kind and brilliant wing that spelt both comfort and home to me, the few friends I made outside that one corridor through theatre or my one year as a part of the ProShows team or through the department conference.
Of course we had fun, but what I miss more were our routines: the long walks, the boredom of “NEED TO DO SOMETHING THRILLING” amounting to a Zaitoon dinner, unfortunate walks under the hot sun to IR/Mummy Daddy for lunch with friends, getting juice and walking around OAT, running into people at dept Usha, and play practices, of course.
I don’t have pictures of all of you, but you know who you are and to you I offer the only bit of sincerity I have towards insti: thank you, you have my heart.
I often think of the familiar comforts of insti, both with people and places, but rarely do I want more time. I think of all the trees I named, how pretty the SAC road can look, coffee and sorry excuses for meals at Usha, and the DCF in my department. I think of insti as something that shaped me, yes, but not as something I want more of. To say that I did not feel like I belonged in insti would be wrong, because clearly, I found a way to fit into the cultural fabric of the place. But no, most often I was unable to identify a home in the overall culture of insti. What it did offer, despite that, was that insti was big enough to find my niche and stick to it if I did not wish to interact with anyone/anything else. I did not always want to and that’s on me, but I don’t regret that.
A boring yet not-out-of-character thing I think of fondly is my MAP. I thoroughly enjoyed working on my Master’s thesis.
The third and fourth years were horrible for me and I struggled with my mental health but the MAP redeemed things. Sometimes there’s a possibility to find excitement and joy in work, of all things, and I valued that a lot.
THE BITTER(sweet?) TRUTHS
Having said that, one of the more important realisations I have had since I graduated (the flammability of fruits aside, which holds rank #1) is that the world is overwhelmingly precarious. That is social science jargon for lack of stability/security in economic and political terms.
What this means is that there is one generation every century that graduates into a pandemic and a recession and what an adventure that is.
But that is a systemic fault and one that I cannot repair by doing more work or getting more experience or adding more lines to my CV. I just need to live with it. This is very difficult and I still have to explain this to myself every day.
But this feeling is not new to me, this was built in insti. Insti is a terribly ambitious and competitive place and while some people would consider them to be healthy/necessary, almost everyone would agree that it’s quite toxic, especially in insti. This is probably why the best part of my five years was actually getting to know Chennai. I found ways to be a person outside the campus; the city and its public transport often gave me more comfort than the campus did.
If you know me in person, you know that I am annoyingly in love with Chennai.
It’s taken a lot of restrain on my part to not spend the entirety of this essay discussing my favourite bus routes, the feeling of taking an empty MRTS on a hot weekday afternoon to any station that wasn’t home (but most often lighthouse), how stunning I find the architecture in Georgetown to be and sitting alone by the sea at least once a week at Bessy. But I couldn’t help myself, so here was one last paragraph about the things I do wish I had a little more time with.
ANBUDAN but I actually say bye now 🙂
It took me a few drafts to actually get all of this out of my system and I’ve sat on an abrupt ending (yes, this one) for quite some time. Frankly, I don’t know what else to say or how to end this well; this is where I reiterate that I asked you in the beginning to stop reading this article. There are often excellent observations and good advice in TGGs, this, however, cannot boast of that feat.
I am not very good with endings or finishing things and 2020 has not helped. But I am writing this ending on a different day and I am listening to Peter Cat Recording Co right now. I would wish for better endings or comfort, but this is a fitting ending to receive from someone who graduated in 2020. Anyway, if you have been paying attention (why?) you’ve realised that I haven’t given you the second piece of advice that I said I would. But understand that this one is important. I am serious, so much so that I will, for a change, follow my own advice now:
Take a nap. Sleep is wonderful.
You can find Upasana on her Instagram.
Editor’s Note: You can also read the other articles from the TGG series here.