Virtually Nobody (K)new

Design: Shaurya Rawat

Editor: Siddharth D P

As we face the prospect of a semester that is going to be unlike any other before, with it likely being entirely online amongst other things, I’ll just take a moment to be a ray of sunshine and pop in: This could also be a semester without freshies. No nervous, hopeful faces crowding around SAC and hostels, no fussy parents pushing their way through Prime Mart, getting bucket-loads (literally) of everything from mattresses to razors. 

The Path Ahead

As of the report[1] submitted on June 15th by a panel of six IIT directors, a ‘minimum common strategy’ for all IITs includes compression of all two-year postgraduate programmes into 18 months. And for the undergrad batch of 2020, the tentative plan is to push the first semester to December 2020 or January 2021.

No student (current or new) will be forced to return to campus. Since JEE Main has been rescheduled and is likely to get rescheduled again, the situation will be reviewed again in October 2020. Hopefully, the entrances take place when risk is minimal so that exam attendees do not get infected in the race to get into their dream college. The option of an at-home exam is, of course, not very feasible considering not only the possibilities to cheat but also the network issues that many are likely to face.

The Nostalgia

In light of these developments, perhaps we can take a moment to reminisce.

That first day of orientation when the new batch pours in with their suitcases and backpacks, stuffed with all the things they’ll never use. The parents who are just excited, if not more, about sending off their progeny to the land of IITians. The tag-along siblings, cousins, long-lost aunt who crowd around the Himalaya Food Court.

More than anything, the students themselves, losing their way and constantly asking for directions, marvelling at the place the rest of us have started to call home, screaming at monkeys, taking it all in, equal parts nervous and curious. 

The blow might be the worst for the next set of sophomores, all ready with their tips and tricks on surviving insti life after having received innumerable fundaes from their seniors.

There’s no new batch to pass on a year’s worth of their profound knowledge about tackling monkeys and operating washing machines. Who are they going to scare with tales of strict and nasty grading schemes? To lure into the ever-growing list of clubs and activities, with the standard line of ‘bas enthu chahiye’?

Because without freshies, the number one absence is going to be just that. Enthusiasm and optimism and their ability to attend 8am classes without face-planting onto the nearest desk. 

Even for those who have been around for longer, first-years bring about a refreshing change, because at the very least, there are new faces walking through the same old corridors. First years are a definite addition to insti culture, considering how most events in the odd semester are almost exclusively dependent on the new batch’s participation. With club weekenders and department freshie nights representing some of the most talented and quirkiest performances, freshies get a chance to meet and network with a whole range of seniors, not to mention the fact that seniors get to vet freshies and identify the talented ones for all their club activities.

Odd semesters carry several opportunities to interact with an entirely new set of people which can be a relief for those who have become quite entrenched in their ways, and have forgotten that deer and monkeys are not a normal part of life. In a way, freshies make insti seem new and exciting and full of possibilities again. 

Batches out of sync?

So, what would a semester (or even a year, in worst case scenario) without freshies entail? For starters, current first years will not be able to outgrow the freshie tag since they’d remain the youngest. There would be no handing down of department traditions and insti rituals. No new batch to pester with the nameless-and-shameless custom. Nowhere to put away the textbooks you’d expected to hand down, since the new batch having had printed textbooks back in school, wouldn’t be used to online reading. A significant lack of participation in the virtual events that various clubs are bound to come up with is also expected. Without a new batch, orientations, freshie nights, NSO/NCA/NSS, and fundae sessions are no longer relevant.

Mainly, freshies keep insti from becoming old and cynical in our ways.

With each new batch, there’s a gradual but definite generational shift and as we enter the GenZ era, it is our youngest batches that keep the rest of insti from stagnating and becoming stuck in our mindsets and practices.

Each new batch brings with it their new perspectives, and in a way makes insti better and more inclusive. 

But in some ways perhaps this is better. Because freshies do make the rest of us feel old too. And maybe, with all that’s going on with the world right now, we’d all like some more time to stay young.

Another year for the current first-years to perhaps reclaim some of the freshie experiences they missed out on; some more time for us to reacquaint ourselves with our beloved campus before sharing it with a new batch.


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